By Christa Youngpeter

Documentaries are often forgotten in awards chatter, especially in this Avatar blockbusting day and age and flashbulb-laden entertainment industry. However, even short subject documentaries can offer seriously powerful, ground zero accounts of forgotten disasters and historical events on every level from personal to domestic to global.

For example, who can recount the devastation in China’s Sichuan province in 2008 when poorly constructed schools killed countless children? It may have been a 24 hour blip on CNN, but Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill’s China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of the Sichuan Province takes viewers face to face with the toll an earthquake can have on a rural town and unfamiliar culture where families are pressured to follow a strict one-child policy. With the recent devastation in Haiti, this candidate could either win big or be pushed aside by more recent events. You can see the trailer here.

Nominee The Last Campaign of Governer Booth Gardner is not the first time around the Oscar block for director Daniel Junge who was nominated last year for was nominated last year for his feature-length They Killed Sister Dorothy. Following Washington state’s Parkingson’s-plagued former governor and his battle for legally assisted suicide could certainly prove a worthy domestic candidate of the Oscar this year with it’s taboo subject and political human rights struggle. To see more Booth Gardner (the history, not the film), you can click here.

Another domestic nominee, The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant, offers a plight of a different nature- joblessness in the worst economic climate in decades. Filmed in a bare-bones style, but rife with heart-breaking emotion, Last Truck is a true testament to the hardest working suffering the most as giant corporations fall. America’s heartland is rarely depicted in all of its raw earnest, so Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s documentary could easily draw votes for its blue collar focus in a time where attention is focused seemingly everywhere but the common American. You can see the trailer here.

Music by Prudence, a 30 minute journey through a young, disabled woman’s impossible struggle from birth, is the kind of uplifting message that, let’s be honest, we all need right now. Prudence Mabhena was born in Zimbabwe with unimaginable disability- no legs, twisted arms, but gifted with a hauntingly beautiful voice. Surviving infanticide only to live as an outcast, Prudence winds up excelling thanks to a school for disabled youth. By Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett. You can visit the film’s official site to see more.

And then… there were rabbits. And the Berlin Wall. As odd as the premise may sound, Bartek Konopka and Anna Wydra’s concept could very well lead to an Oscar win for this dark horse (rabbit?) nominee. Juxtaposed with black and white footage of Communist-era barbed wire, machine gun fire and brick and mortar construction, are families of blissfully ignorant rabbits running free. Certainly original, and with the 20th anniversary of the Wall’s demise this past year, don’t count this one out. You can visit the official site for Rabbit a la Berlin for more information.

So in a field on international and local disasters, struggles and Communist oppression, who stands the best chance of bringing home the statue and with it, priceless visibility for funding future projects? Music By Prudence seems to have it all- life-long struggle in a developing nation, hidden talent that overcomes said struggle and ultimately a sincere, uplifting that ending that’s feel-good without being too saccharine-sweet. While the other nominees are strong despite their succinct time frames, Prudence may very well outshine the rest.

Road to the Oscars series:

Podcasts – Kit Bowen, Nate Freiberg, Adam Spunberg, and Phil Wallace

February 4: Live Action Short – Kit Bowen

February 5: Animated Short – Kit Bowen

February 8: Documentary Short Subject – Christa Youngpeter

February 9: Documentary Feature – Nate Freiberg

February 10: Foreign Language Film – Paul Popiel

February 12: Animated Film – Nate Freiberg

February 15: Sound Mixing – Jeremy Martin

February 16: Sound Editing – Jeremy Martin

February 17: Original Song – Adam Spunberg and Savanna New

February 18: Visual Effects – Mallory Pickard

February 19: Original Score – Adam Spunberg

February 22: Makeup – Christa Youngpeter

February 23: Costume – Steve Neumann

February 24: Art Direction – Christa Youngpeter

February 25: Film Editing – Steve Neumann

February 26: Cinematography – Paul Popiel

February 27: Original Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

February 28: Adapted Screenplay – Jeremy Martin

March 1: Supporting Actress – Marla Seidell

March 2: Supporting Actor – Phil Wallace

March 3: Actress – Marla Seidell

March 4: Actor – Kit Bowen

March 5: Director – Adam Spunberg

March 5: Picture – Kit Bowen

March 7: The 82nd Annual Academy Awards!