Music Doc About the Legendary Apollo Theater Shortlisted for Oscar for Documentary Feature

Among the many music docs that did not advance to the shortlist: ‘Echo in the Canyon,’ ‘Pavarotti’ and ‘Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice.’

Of the many music documentaries that were entered in the Documentary Feature category for the 92nd Academy Awards, just one is still in the running — The Apollo, a look at the legendary Harlem theater. It was on the shortlist of 15 films that are still in contention for that award that was released yesterday (Dec. 16) by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Roger Ross Williams directed the film, which features such stars as Angela Bassett, Jamie Foxx, Patti LaBelle, Smokey Robinson and Pharrell Williams, as well as archival footage from such greats as James Brown, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Redd Foxx, Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Billie Holiday, Eartha Kitt, Gladys Knight, Moms Mabley and all three original members of the Supremes — as well as such political figures as Shirley Chisholm, Malcom X and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.

The 14 other films that are shortlisted in that category are Advocate, American Factory, Apollo 11, Aquarela, The Biggest Little Farm, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For Sama, The Great Hack, Honeyland, Knock Down the House, Maiden, Midnight Family and One Child Nation.

Among the many music docs that were entered, the following did not advance to the shortlist: Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes; David Crosby: Remember My Name; Echo in the Canyon; Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles; Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool; Pavarotti; Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese; The Boy Band Con: The Lou Pearlman Story; Fiddlin'; Gay Chorus Deep South; The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash; Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice; Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound; Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love (about the relationship between the late Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse Marianne Ihlen); 16 Bars (featuring singer Speech from Atlanta hip-hop act Arrested Development); A Tuba to Cuba (about New Orleans' famed Preservation Hall Jazz Band); Western Stars (starring Bruce Springsteen) and Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation.

The Black Godfather, a documentary about legendary music executive Clarence Avant, also failed to make the shortlist, but a song from the film, "Letter to My Godfather," co-written by Williams and Chad Hugo, made the shortlist in the best original song category.

Numerous music docs have won in this category in the past, including Arthur Rubinstein – The Love of Life (1969), Woodstock (1970), From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China (1980), Artie Shaw: Time Is All You've Got (1986), In the Shadow of the Stars (1991), Searching for Sugar Man (2012), 20 Feet from Stardom (2013) and Amy (about Amy Winehouse, 2015).

A total of 159 documentaries were submitted in this category. Members of the Documentary Branch voted to determine the shortlist and will also vote to determine the nominees. The full membership of the academy votes to determine the winners.

Nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards will be announced on Jan. 13, 2020.

The Oscars will be held on Feb. 9, 2020 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.