'Collective' Leads the 2021 Oscar Nominations for Documentaries

We highlight this year's nonfiction film Oscar nominees and where to watch them now.

Collective Oscar nominations 2021
Magnolia Pictures

Last year, Honeyland made history as the first documentary to be Oscar-nominated in both the Best Documentary Feature and Best International Feature categories (including the latter’s previous incarnation as the Best Foreign Language Film category). That doc may have started a trend because, with today’s announcement of the 2021 Oscar nominations, another documentary earned Academy recognition in the same two categories: Collective.

Alexander Nanau‘s stunning Romanian feature (which also place high in our poll results for the best films of 2020) is the only documentary to receive a nod outside the two designated nonfiction film categories. None of the shortlisted doc contenders for Best Original Song nor the history-making shortlisted doc in the Best Visual Effects race continued as semi-finalists for the Oscars. And Collective‘s fellow doc shortlisted for Best International Feature, The Mole Agent, did not make it further in that category.

“It’s an honor to have been among such an extraordinary range of remarkable films on the shortlist, and we are truly grateful to the Academy and to the Documentary Branch. For a Latin American female-led team, this type of dream seems impossible, but this year has taught us to see life from a different angle. This nomination signifies to every elder that the world still sees them and values them and helps us remember that it’s not just important to increase life expectancy, but the desire to live. This year, after so many losses, we took a look at our seniors again and understood that they were living in a pandemic prior to COVID — ‘the pandemic of loneliness’ — and we are very proud to see how The Mole Agent has helped families reconnect with their elders.” – Maite Alberdi

The Mole Agent did make the Best Documentary Feature category, however, along with four other excellent films, two of which are available to stream on Netflix. Another is available on Amazon Prime, and The Mole Agent is on Hulu. Collective is available digitally, as well, but on PVOD rental and purchase platforms only. All of the filmmakers in the category are first-time nominees, and one is the director’s first feature. Crip Camp marks the second doc in a row produced by the Obamas to be nominated, though.

Sadly, once again the winner of the Critics Choice Documentary Award for Best Documentary Feature was shut out of the Oscar nominations. Apologies to the shortlisted Dick Johnson is Dead for that tradition (I can’t call it a curse for obvious reasons but also just see critics and Academy members as somehow having differently tuned tastes). Three of the feature nominees, Crip Camp, My Octopus Teacher, and Time, were all nominated there at least, with My Octopus Teacher winning two awards. The short doc Oscar nominee Hunger Ward was also nominated there but did not win.

Speaking of the short documentaries, you can learn all about the five nominees from our guide to the shortlist. Only one of them is made by a previous nominee: Hunger Ward, whose director, Skye Fitzgerald, was recognized in the same category two years ago for the short Lifeboat.

“Our team is humbled beyond belief to have Hunger Ward receive an Oscar® nomination today. MTV Documentary Films and I are thrilled that the Academy has honored a film focused on the greatest humanitarian tragedy of our time – a human-caused famine in Yemen and look forward to using this recognition to engage US citizens on how we can collectively end the war in Yemen.” – Skye Fitzgerald

Another one of the nominees, A Concerto Is a Conversation, was executive produced by Ava DuVernay, who was nominated for Best Documentary Feature in 2017 for her film 13th. Also, Do Not Split producer Charlotte Cook is nominated this time around, though she was also a producer on the 2018 Oscar-nominated feature documentary Hale County This Morning, This Evening but not honored there by name.

“In our documentary Do Not Split, we wanted to capture the intensity of the streets in Hong Kong as the young protesters were risking everything in a fight for their future. This uprising started as demonstrations against a proposed extradition bill, which could have allowed people to be sent to Mainland China for trial. Soon it developed into a broader protest campaign for basic human rights, and hopefully, the Oscars nomination can contribute to creating attention around how important it is that these human rights are not suppressed.” – Anders Hammer

Here are the 2021 Oscar nominees for documentary features and shorts across three categories:

Best Documentary Feature
Collective (Stream the film now on Hulu)
Crip Camp
(Stream the film now on Netflix)
The Mole Agent
(Stream the film now on Hulu)
My Octopus Teacher
(Stream the film now on Netflix)
(Stream the film now on Amazon Prime)

Best Documentary Short Subject
Colette (Stream the film now via The Guardian)
A Concerto Is a Conversation
(Stream the film now via Op-Docs on YouTube)
Do Not Split
(Stream the film now via Field of Vision on YouTube)
Hunger Ward
(Stream the film now Pluto TV’s Documentary Channel)
A Love Song for Latasha
(Stream the film now on Netflix)

Best International Feature Film

The 93rd Academy Awards will be held on April 25, 2021. 

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.