When it comes to the Best Documentary Feature Oscar, there's no particularly reliable precursor -- that branch of the Academy has a history of doing things their own way, after all. But the Independent Documentary Association (IDA) Award is among the most prestigious documentary prizes on the trail. Last year, they (along with pretty much everyone else) foreshadowed the Oscar win for "Searching for Sugar Man," and also pre-empted the Academy's nomination for "The Invisible War"; the year before, the Academy nominated none of their five chosen features. "Independent" is the operative word, then.

Still, eyebrows will be raised if at least a couple of the Best Feature nominees announced today by the IDA don't wind up on the Academy's shortlist -- this year, they've gone for some of the year's most high-profile docs in the race. Among them are Sarah Polley's highly personal, playful family memoir "Stories We Tell," Joshua Oppenheimer's daringly conceptual "The Act of Killing" and captive killer whale heart-tugger "Blackfish" -- a Sundance hit that was recently broadcast on CNN.

They're joined by two politically conscious docs: black liberation movement study "Let the Fire Burn" and "The Square," a hot-button portrait of Egyptian activism that has been much discussed of late. Both films are also nominated for the Humanitas Award; "Let the Fire Burn" is additionally shortlisted for the Videosource Award, making it the leading nominee. Any of these five could easily find themselves in an Oscar race that, unlike last year, still has no clear frontrunner.

Further down, I'm delighted to see "Vultures of Tibet" -- a short that greatly impressed me at this year's Edinburgh fest -- nominated in the Best Short category. I don't see enough short to feel particularly qualified in assessing them, but that one really jumped out at me.

The IDA Awards will take place in Los Angeles on December 6. The full list of nominees is as follows:

Best Documentary Feature
"The Act of Killing"
"Blackfish"
"Let the Fire Burn"
"The Square"
"Stories We Tell"

Best Documentary Short
"The Education of Muhammad Hussein"
"The Flogsta Roar"
"Nine to Ninety"
"Slomo"
"Vultures of Tibet"

Best Limited Series
"180 Days: A Year Inside An American High School"
"Inside Combat Rescue"
"Inside Man"
"Viewfinder: Latin America"
"Witness"

Best Continuing Series
"Curiosity"
"Independent Lens"
"POV"
"Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel"
"30 for 30"

David L. Wolper Student Documentary Award
"Between Land and Sea"
"Ome: Tales from a Vanishing Homeland"
"My Sister Sarah"
"Sodiq"
"Why We Race"

Humanitas Award
"Anton's Right Here"
"Blood Brother"
"Let the Fire Burn"
"The Square"

Pare Lorentz Award
"A Place at the Table"

ABCNews Videosource Award
"All the President's Men Revisited"
"Free Angela and All Political Prisoners"
"Let the Fire Burn"
"The Trials of Muhammad Ali"
"We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks"