Oscars 2011: A guide to the Best Documentary Feature race

While this year’s Best Picture race is dominated by high-profile projects (with the possible exception of indie upstart Winter’s Bone), the Best Documentary Feature category has a few titles that are probably unfamiliar to even the most dedicated moviegoers. That’s because most of the nominees never even made it to the multiplexes on account of their low budgets, their envelope-pushing subject matter, and the generally tepid box office prospects for nonfiction films that aren’t made by hell-raising Michiganians. But if you caught yourself scratching your head over this year’s list of contenders, never fear: EW is here with an easy primer to all five movies in the race. Check out their trailers, official sites, and EW reviews (when available) after the jump. Then head to the comments and let us know which one will get your vote on Oscar night.

Exit Through the Gift Shop
A hall-of-mirrors portrait of two figures: The elusive street artist Banksy, and filmmaker Thierry Guetta, who fashions himself into a street artist named Mr. Brainwash.

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Official site

Filmmaker Josh Fox’s examination of the potential consequences of “fracking,” a new natural gas drilling technique that has tapped into a vast wealth of fossil fuel in the continental United States.

Official site

Inside Job
Academy Award-nominated documentarian Charles Ferguson (No End in Sight) sheds light on the roots of the financial crisis in a series of no-holds-barred interviews with economists, lawmakers, and Wall Street power players.

‘Inside Job’ and ‘Waiting for Superman’
Cannes: In the dark documentaries ‘Inside Job’ and ‘Countdown to Zero,’ it’s the end of the world as we know it
Official site

A commentary-free account of a group of American soldiers deployed in Afghanistan’s notorious Korengal Valley, known as “the deadliest place on Earth.”

Movie Review: Restrepo
Official site

Waste Land
Brooklyn-based artist Vik Muniz traveled back to his native Brazil to photograph the people who spend their lives picking through the trash in the Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest garbage dump.

Official site

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Comments (9 total) Add your comment
  • dee

    I hope Restrepo wins.

    • suz

      me too. The more exposure the better, everyone should see what it’s like out there for these 18-22 year olds…

  • Michael

    I loved Exit Through The Gift Shop.

  • MiaS

    Gasland was pretty incredible when they lit TAP WATER coming out of the faucet ON FIRE!

  • Brad

    I’ve seen three of the five so far and of those, Waste Land was my favorite (Exit Through The Gift Shop was also good. Not so fond of Restrepo though). Glad to see Waste Land at least get nominated and hopefully get a larger audience.

  • Marten

    The biggest snub of all this year was Waiting for “Superman” in this category. It’s a real shame the Academy ignored the problems this nation has with it’s school system for more docs about the economy and environment, which get nominated every year.

  • Wes

    I loved Exit Through The Gift Shop, simply because I didn’t know what to make of it by film’s end. I think I would be happy with any of them winning, though.

  • sue horn

    inside job looks like it’s relevant to our current world and hits us more personally so I’d go with that one

  • sue horn

    i’d go with Inside Job. it’s relevant to our current world and unfortunately many of us have been affected

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