ByAllanah Faherty, writer at
Senior staff writer | Twitter: @allanahfaherty | Email: [email protected]
Allanah Faherty

Although we all enjoy films that transport us to another world, often it's documentary films that have the long-lasting effect. This year the Academy Award nominated films seem particularly important, with many being relevant to real-life crises the world is currently facing and telling significant stories.

Take a look below to see all the documentaries nominated for the 89th Academy Awards and to find out where to stream them all:

Best Documentary — Feature

Fire at Sea — Gianfranco Rosi and Donatella Palermo

A still from Fire at Sea [Credit: 01 Distribution]
A still from Fire at Sea [Credit: 01 Distribution]

Where can I watch it?

  • Amazon: The Fire At Sea website has links to watch the film on both Amazon and Amazon Instant Video
  • iTunes: You can watch the film on iTunes via the official Fire At Sea website.
  • Google Play: Find links to watch the documentary on Google Play via the official website.

150 miles south of Sicily, the small island of Lampedusa has found itself the first port of call for thousands upon thousands of African and Middle Eastern refugees seeking a new life in Europe.

Fire At Sea examines the history and culture of Lampedusa and, following the lives of ordinary residents, including 12-year-old local boy Samuele as well as a doctor who treats the migrants who make it through their dangerous journey. The documentary seeks to show audiences the situation that both the islanders and the refugees have found themselves in, with director Gianfranco Rosi's ultimate goal being heightened awareness of the migrant situation.

I Am Not Your Negro — Raoul Peck, Rémi Grellety, and Hébert Peck

[Credit: Magnolia Pictures/Dan Budnik]
[Credit: Magnolia Pictures/Dan Budnik]

Where can I watch it?

  • In cinemas: I Am Not Your Negro is currently playing in cinemas across the US.
  • Amazon: While not available at the moment, I Am Not Your Negro can be pre-ordered for release on June 13, 2017.

Based on James Baldwin's unfinished manuscript Remember the House and narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, I Am Not Your Negro is an examination of race in America. Not only does the documentary explore black history, including the Civil Rights movement, but it also extends to the present Black Lives Matter movement.

Baldwin's original manuscript was intended to be an account of the assassination of his three close friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., which I Am Not Your Negro weaves through as it tells the wider story of black history in America.

Life, Animated — Roger Ross Williams and Julie Goldman

Life, Animated [Credit:]
Life, Animated [Credit:]

Where can I watch it?

  • iTunes: You can buy or rent the whole documentary over in iTunes.
  • Amazon: Over on Amazon you can watch, rent or buy depending on your preference and whether or not you're a Prime member.
  • YouTube: YouTube has the film to both rent and own.

Roger Ross Williams has already won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject, and now he's been nominated in the feature length category with the inspirational story of Owen Suskind in Life, Animated.

After Owen Suskind developed autism when he was 3-years-old, he stopped talking and regressed into a silent, non-communicative world. After years of silence, eventually he and his family found a unique way to communicate using animated films. The movies gave Owen the tools to be able to make sense of the world, and therefore a way to reconnect, giving hope for a future of possibilities.

O.J.: Made in America — Ezra Edelman and Caroline Waterlow

[Credit: ESPN]
[Credit: ESPN]

Where can I watch it?

  • Hulu: If you have a Hulu account the entire documentary is available to watch, and if you don't maybe now is the time to utilize that free trial.
  • WatchESPN: If you have a WatchESPN account you'll find the documentary there in full.
  • DVD/BD Theatrical Box Set available to buy: If you prefer to own the series on disc, the entire box set can be purchased on Amazon.

Despite it being over two decades since the O.J. Simpson murder case, it once again gripped the public in 2016 when ESPN's outstanding documentary O.J.: Made In America was released (as well as Ryan Murphy's American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson).

O.J.: Made in America didn't just tell the story of the case, but also painted a vivid picture of the political and social climate of the time, as well as explaining the celebrity surrounding Simpson himself. The result is a documentary which grips you start to finish — quite the achievement considering that in total O.J.: Made in America is almost eight hours long.

And for those of you interested how the documentary was able to be nominated for an Academy Award even though aired on ESPN as a five-part series, it was thanks to a week-long qualifying theatrical run in both LA and New York prior to the TV screenings, as per the Academy's rules.

13TH — Ava DuVernay, Spencer Averick, and Howard Barish

Angela Davis in 13TH [Credit: Netflix]
Angela Davis in 13TH [Credit: Netflix]

Where can I watch it?

  • Netflix: As 13TH is a Netflix original documentary, you can find the full length film on the streaming service, along with a 36 minute special discussion of the movie between director Ava DuVernay and queen Oprah Winfrey.

A documentary that should probably be mandatory viewing, 13TH refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States."

13TH shows America's long, depressing history of racial inequality and it takes audiences inside the American prison system, revealing that slavery does indeed still seems to be alive and well in the U.S., continued through mass incarceration.

Best Documentary — Short Subject

Extremis — Dan Krauss

Where can I watch it?

  • Netflix: This 24 minute short is a Netflix original and available there in full.

Extremis goes inside the harrowing and heart wrenching world of a hospital ICU where doctors, patients and families are all faced with the ultimate decisions.

4.1 Miles — Daphne Matziaraki

Where can I watch it?

  • New York Times: Watch the documentary in full on the NYT's website
  • Vimeo: The NYT's have also uploaded the full documentary on Vimeo.

Perhaps the perfect accompaniment to Fire at Sea, short documentary 4.1 miles follows a coast guard captain who finds himself charged with saving the lives of thousands of refugees from drowning.

Joe's Violin — Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen

Where can I watch it?

  • The New Yorker: The whole documentary is available on the film's official website thanks to The New Yorker

After a 91-year-old Holocaust survivor donates his violin to an instrument drive, he sparks up an unexpected friendship with its new owner, a 12-year-old schoolgirl from the Bronx.

Watani: My Homeland — Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis

Where can I watch it?

  • In cinemas: Watani: My Homeland is unavailable to be streamed but is in select cinemas

Watani: My Homeland was filmed over three years and tells the story of a family's escape from war-torn Aleppo, Syria to build a new life in small-town Germany.

The White Helmets — Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara

Where can I watch it?

  • Netflix: This 41 minute short is a Netflix original and available there in full.

In the midst of daily air strikes in Syria, a group of first responders risk life and limb to rescue civilians caught in the rubble and midst of this savage war.


Which feature length documentary do you believe should win?


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