If you would ask Scott Feinberg whether or not he carries a crystal ball for the documentaries category at the Oscars, he would deny it.


But the evidence seems in The Hollywood Reporter’s award pundit’s favor as many of the most recent winners have also screened as part of his curation at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival’s Docs to Watch.


"We work very closely with the festival to make sure that we're not saying these are the ten best (documentaries), but these are ten of the best," he said.


"I think that what you generally find is that these are ones that are likely to be in the race late into the season. And then it's never clear...do we perpetuate that or do we reflect that (these will get nominated)..that's for others to decide.


"But I will say that I think this year's lineup is as strong as any that we've had."


The line-up for this year’s panel includes: "Crip Camp," "The Human Factor," "The Truffle Hunters," "The Way I See It," "Dick Johnson is Dead," "Boys State," "Time," "MLK/FBI," "Welcome to Chechnya," and "The Dissident." As in year’s past, Feinberg and The Hollywood Reporter are sponsoring the program with Feinberg leading a panel discussion on Sunday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. with filmmakers from the selected films.


While the panel has found a strong audience in years past, Feinberg said he’s not concerned about the shift to a visual format as the platform being offered at the festival is top-notch. "I think it's going to actually be a one of the higher end versions of what we've seen so far in terms of not looking like a Zoom," he said.


"(It’ll have) the ability to actually determine, are there three people on the panel sort of having a side conversation (then) we can show each of them, then we can cut to one person's talking, and we'll show the B-roll of the film that they're talking about. It's pretty well produced, as opposed to just automatically showing who's talking."


He said that speaking with these filmmakers is always exciting as it always includes a mix between seasoned vets and new faces, such as Garrett Bradley, director of "Time."


"You've got a lot of just tremendous, really well respected filmmakers, like Kirsten Johnson, who did ‘Dick Johnson is Dead.’ Also, the past Oscar winner for ‘The Dissident,’ Bryan Fogel, which is another one that’s one that I kind of think right now is in the pole position (for the Oscars)," he said.


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"But then maybe the filmmakers (who are) not as well known, like Garrett Bradley for ‘Time,’ that is, I think, as good as any documentary this year. And (Bradley is) somebody who is likely to kind of emerge from this season as a big new person on the scene."


Feinberg said that another driving force for the sparked interest recently in documentaries has been their prominence on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO. Especially during a year marred in a pandemic, where people have been at home engaging with content that is available at their fingertips, it has exposed more of the general public to the work being done in the field and broadened the opportunities for more films.


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"I once interviewed the woman who runs Netflix's documentary program, and she says, I think correctly that when people go out for a date to the movies, sometimes there's just something in the back of their head that you're not necessarily going to a documentary for (the outing). But when you're sitting at home wanting to see a movie, there's just something psychologically where you are thrilled to do that. Maybe it's also a price issue that people are accustomed to not spending at the theater for a documentary, but if you're getting in as part of your subscription service, that's different," he said.


"Like ‘The Truffle Hunters,’ I mean, to see a movie that's about eccentric old guys that are like the Tiger Woods of mushroom hunting. And yet documentaries, again at Savannah, are treated in the same class as any other movie. To have them up there, that's cool."


The Hollywood Reporter’s Docs to Watch panel at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival will be Sunday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. with tickets available to the panel and each of the featured documentaries at filmfest.scad.edu.


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