Oscars 2021: The Nominees for Best Documentary Feature

April 2, 2021

We know you are one of the millions of people around the world who want to be in the know when the much-anticipated 2021 Oscars awards ceremony take place this year, in what will be - that's for sure - a historic edition.

In this article, we'll take a look at what interests us at Guidedoc: the nominees in the Best Documentary Feature category. 

When will the 2021 Oscars take place?


The 2021 Oscars awards ceremony will take place mainly in Los Angeles, California, this Sunday, April 25. So far, the confirmed venues are the spacious main hall of the iconic Union Station in the city of Los Angeles, and the Dolby Theatre, the usual venue for the ceremony since 2001. 

Historically, the most mediatic night of international cinema would have taken place in mid to late February, but the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020 (just a few days after the Oscars edition of that year) led the organizers to postpone the 2021 edition two months later than usual.

Who are the nominees for Best Documentary Feature at the 2021 Oscars?





Fox Rich, protagonist of the academy-award nominated documentary Time

This documentary was one of the big winners at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, where director Garret Bradley took home the award for best directing in the documentary category.

The film follows Fox Rich, an African-American mother of six who continues to await the release of her husband Rob Richardson, who is serving a 60-year sentence after pleading guilty to an attempted armed bank robbery. Fox, who served as the driver of the car in the robbery, also pleaded guilty and served three years in prison.

Young filmmaker Garret Bradley films Rich’s daily life witnessing how she admirably continues to periodically call the courthouse to request her husband's release. It's something she has done for more than 18 years of waiting, during which time she has documented her family's day-to-day life with home videos that she sends to Rob to keep him updated on their children.

The videos from these cassettes are part of the narrative backbone of this documentary that manages to show the implications of incarceration on African-American families in the United States. 

My Octopus Teacher


Craig Foster with his friend the octopus in the oscar-nominated feature documentary My Octopus Teacher

The first Netflix film nominated for Best Documentary Feature in these Oscars 2021 list has a very curious feature: one of its protagonists is a marine animal.

Filmed entirely off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa, the film recounts the endearing friendship that filmmaker and diver Craig Foster had with a common octopus he met on one of his swims through a beautiful kelp forest in the area.

The story spans a year - the average lifespan of an octopus - from the tentative approaches between them and the beginning of their relationship to the inevitable - and heart-breaking - parting of the two species.

The events are narrated by Foster himself from the quiet of his home while interspersed with great footage he and other cameramen shot deep under the seabed to tell this extraordinary story.

My Octopus Teacher is not only one of the most incredible animal documentaries made recently, it is also a brilliant environmental documentary that reminds us how much we humans still have to learn from the species that inhabit a planet threatened by climate change and other destructive phenomena caused by human activity.

The Mole Agent


Rómulo Aitken acts in the academy-award nominated feature documentary The Mole Agent

In the best style of a non-fiction comedy and a crime documentary at the same time, this film follows an elderly man (Rómulo Aitken) who is hired to infiltrate an old people's home in the city of Santiago, Chile, on a mission to learn about the condition of an enigmatic resident.

This Chilean film – there are two foreign titles nominated for Best Documentary Feature - is an endearing look at old age in one of society's most neglected facilities

In fact, while our polite and circumspect "secret agent" inhabits and wanders around every corner - even the forbidden nooks and crannies - of the old people's home, Chilean director Maite Alberdi's camera shows us a kaleidoscope of unforgettable characters who try to escape loneliness.

Accompanied by the other residents, these characters spend the last years of their lives longing for visits from their relatives and trying to catch smiles in corridors where little happens.

A documentary full of humor and human warmth that cannot be missed.

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution


People with disabilities smile in oscar-nominated documentary feature Crip Camp


Another of the gems that the Oscars usually "steal" from the Sundance Film Festival's roster of winners is this documentary about people with disabilities who in the early 1970s attended an off-the-beaten-path camp in the midst of the Woodstock era. 

Narrated and co-directed by James Lebrecht, the film exposes archival footage of daily life at this camp that served as a space for personal, spiritual and sexual growth for many people with disabilities in California.

The film, directed by Lebrecht and Nicole Newnham, highlights the camp's importance as a breeding ground for leaders who went on to lead the fight for the civil rights of people with disabilities.




A Romanian journalist investigates a case in the Oscar-nominated feature documentary Collective


Following the death of 27 people in a nightclub fire in Romania in 2015, an uproar erupted in public opinion in that country when another 37 victims of the incident mysteriously died in different public hospitals in Bucharest.

This documentary follows a group of journalists who dedicated to investigating the conditions of the Romanian healthcare system, with serious and unexpected findings.

Since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in 2019 and other film festivals like the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, this film directed by Alexander Nanau accumulated great reviews from specialized critics, which not only led it to be one of the nominees in the category of Best Documentary Feature, but also the first film from Romania to be part of the titles competing for the Best Foreign Feature Film at the Oscars 2021.

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