Know Your 2017 Oscar Nominees: Documentary Feature

We’ve gone big for our Oscars coverage this year. Our annual "Know Your Nominee" series once again looks at every category, giving you the information you need to conquer your Oscars pool. Learn more about the nominees for Lead ActorForeign Language FilmCostume DesignersDocumentary ShortEditingLive Action ShortActress in a Supporting RoleMakeup & Hairstyling and Animated Feature. Now we turn our attention to Documentary Feature. Check back with us as we go deep on all the rest. 

In addition to the series, this year we've created a special look at the awards—The Road to the Oscars. Click on the image below to learn more about this year's crop of Oscar nominated films and filmmakers, and the effect their contributions have had on the country at large.

The best documentaries challenge us to reflect on the most pressing issues in our society. Tackling the refugee crisis, troubling race relations in America, and searching for answers about autism, this year’s Oscar nominees for best Documentary Feature seem to grow more profound each day.

Life, Animated, tells the story of a boy silenced by autism who reconnects with the world around him through Disney movies. A reflection on one of the more mysterious disabilities of our time, it is by far the most uplifting of the group. Director Roger Ross Williams already snagged an Academy Award for his 2010 short documentary Music by Prudence.

As the immigration crisis grows more despondent, Fire At Sea portrays the peril refugees face in a desperate plea for a safe haven. The filmmakers share a heartbreaking look at the divide between the peace of home and the horrors of being displaced. Italian director Gianfranco Rosi has a history of taking audiences to uncomfortable places and leaving them to their own thoughts.

The O.J. Simpson trial captivated America for its sensational twists that seemed stranger than fiction, and the racial debate that burst to the forefront of the court proceedings. Although the football star was acquitted of double homicide more than 20 years ago, the iconic case resonated with audiences again this year. Oscar nominee O.J. Made in America and the scripted The People v. O.J. Simpson were both hits, even though nothing new has developed in the case.

Selma director Ava DuVernay exposes the systematic abuse of a broken criminal system that she believes resulted from America’s 13th amendment. 13th resonates profoundly in a year of heightened tensions over police brutality and overcrowded prisons. DuVernay catapulted to the Hollywood A-list and her bravery to tackle one of the most divisive issues in America gives her a definite edge.

Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro takes a deep look at the words of activist James Baldwin with chilling echoes in today’s society. This historic documentary seems tragically relevant more than 50 years after much of the footage was recorded. Haitian director Raoul Peck pulled down his first Oscar nomination for the film. 

Featured image: 13th, courtesy Netflix.


Kelle Long

Kelle has written about film and TV for The Credits since 2016. Follow her on Twitter @molaitdc for interviews with really cool film and TV artists and only occasional outbursts about Broadway, tennis, and country music. Please no talking or texting during the movie. Unless it is a musical, then sing along loudly.