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The Oscar Race for Best Documentary Has Begun

15 films were shortlisted. Five will be nominated.

CitizenFour won the Oscar in 2015. | 2015 Getty Images

A shortlist of the best documentary films of the past year was just announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. On the list are emotive films like He Named Me Malala, about Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani activist and the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate; Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, HBO’s look into the Church of Scientology’s controversial past and present; and Listen to Me Marlon, the documentary about iconic actor Marlon Brando.

The early favorites for the award seem to be Amy, the Amy Winehouse biography, and The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer’s film that follows an Indonesian man who confronts the people responsible for murdering his brother in the Indonesian killings of 1965 and 1966. Of course, we’re pulling for Meru, which chronicles Conrad Anker’s first ascent up the Shark’s Fin feature of Mount Meru with Jimmy Chin and Renan Ozturk. (For more of the backstory on the film, buy Issue #1 of the Gear Patrol magazine, which includes a feature-length story about Anker.)

The 15 films have all advanced to the voting process, according to the Academy’s press release. They will now be voted on by the Academy’s documentary branch to determine the five nominees for the award at the 88th Academy Awards on February 28th. The full list of nominees, and our favorite trailers, are below.

Nominees for 2016 Best Documentary Feature

Amy, On the Corner Films and Universal Music
Best of Enemies, Sandbar
Cartel Land, Our Time Projects and The Documentary Group
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Jigsaw Productions
He Named Me Malala, Parkes-MacDonald and Little Room
Heart of a Dog, Canal Street Communications
The Hunting Ground, Chain Camera Pictures
Listen to Me Marlon, Passion Pictures
The Look of Silence, Final Cut for Real
Meru, Little Monster Films
3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets, The Filmmaker Fund, Motto Pictures, Lakehouse Films, Actual Films, JustFilms, MacArthur Foundation and Bertha BRITDOC
We Come as Friends, Adelante Films
What Happened, Miss Simone?, RadicalMedia and Moxie Firecracker
Where to Invade Next, Dog Eat Dog Productions
Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom, Pray for Ukraine Productions



Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi



Directed by Asif Kapadia

The Look of Silence


Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer

The Hunting Ground


Directed by Kirby Dick

He Named Me Malala


Directed by Davis Guggenheim

Listen to Me Marlon


Directed by Stevan Riley

3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets


Directed by Marc Silver

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