Oscars ’16: Doc feature trailer round-up

Realscreen presents a trailer round-up of this year's Oscar-shortlisted docs, featuring films from Davis Guggenheim, Asif Kapadia, Laurie Anderson, Matthew Heineman and Liz Garbus. (Pictured: He Named Me Malala)
December 11, 2015

Oscar night may still be months away, but the race for the Best Documentary Feature prize is gearing up. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recently unveiled the 15 films shortlisted for the award, and realscreen has rounded up trailers for each of the docs.

Five nominees will be chosen from the batch by doc branch members, and announced from Los Angeles on January 14 at 8:30 a.m. EST. The televised ceremony takes place on February 28 at 8 p.m. EST/PST.

Asif Kapadia, On the Corner Films and Universal Music, website

Incorporating previously unseen archival footage and unheard music, Amy recounts the life and death of British pop singer Amy Winehouse, who died from alcohol poisoning at the age of 27 in 2011.

Best of Enemies
Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon, Sandbar, website

An in-depth account of the political debates, televised on ABC in 1968, between liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley Jr., and their bitter disagreements about politics, God and sex.

Cartel Land
Matthew Heineman, Our Time Projects and The Documentary Group, website

The film follows two different vigilante groups battling Mexican drug cartels on either side of the Mexico-U.S. border. While the Arizona Border Recon monitors a 52-mile desert stretch in the U.S., the civilian-led Autodefensas in Mexico combat the Knights Templar cartel. 

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief
Alex Gibney, Jigsaw Productions, website

Going Clear profiles eight former members of the Church of Scientology, the religion founded by L. Ron Hubbard in 1953. The doc features interviews with former high-ranking church members, who describe the secretive organization’s history, inner workings, practices and relationships with celebrity believers such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise.

He Named Me Malala
Davis Guggenheim, Parkes-MacDonald and Little Room, website

He Named Me Malala examines the life of Nobel Peace Prize winner and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai. At 15 years old, Yousafzai was targeted and attacked by the Taliban for advocating for women’s education. Since her recovery, Yousafzai has led a global campaign for education through The Malala Fund.

Heart of a Dog
Laurie Anderson, Canal Street Communications, website

The doc centers on Laurie Anderson’s late rat terrier Lolabelle and is described as a “personal essay that weaves together childhood memories; video diaries; philosophical musings on data collection, surveillance culture and the Buddhist conception of the afterlife.”

The Hunting Ground
Kirby Dick, Chain Camera Pictures, website

The Hunting Ground provides an examination of rape culture on U.S. university campuses.

Listen to Me Marlon
Stevan Riley, Passion Pictures, website

A showcase of iconic actor Marlon Brando discussing his craft and personal life through previously unheard audio tape recordings.

The Look of Silence
Joshua Oppenheimer, Final Cut for Real, website

The Look of Silence, Joshua Oppenheimer’s companion film to his 2012 doc The Act of Killing, shadows a man as he confronts those responsible for killing his brother during the Indonesian genocide 50 years ago.

Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Little Monster Films, website

The 90-minute Meru sees a trio of mountaineers battle through previous failures, personal hardships and nature’s elements during two separate ascension attempts in 2008 and 2011 to become the first individuals to reach Mount Meru’s summit.

3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets
Marc Silver, The Filmmaker Fund, Motto Pictures, Lakehouse Films, Actual Films, JustFilms, MacArthur Foundation and Bertha BRITDOC, website

3½ Minutes examines the danger of Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense laws by recounting the 2012 murder an unarmed African-American teenager at a Florida gas station.


We Come as Friends
Hubert Sauper, Adelante Films, website

The documentary details the stories to come from the independence and separation of war-ravaged South Sudan from North Sudan and its long-serving, infamous president.

What Happened, Miss Simone?
Liz Garbus, RadicalMedia and Moxie Firecracker, website

Garbus’s doc traces jazz musician Nina Simone’s life from her early days in North Carolina to becoming a leading voice in the U.S. civil rights movement, and ultimately living a secluded life in Liberia and France.

Where to Invade Next
Michael Moore, Dog Eat Dog Productions, website

The discretely-shot documentary follows the Bowling for Columbine filmmaker throughout various European countries in an attempt to understand the region’s approaches to healthcare, post-secondary education and the prison system.

Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom
Evgeny Afineevsky, Pray for Ukraine Productions, website

Evgeny Afineevsky’s Winter on Fire chronicles the Ukrainian uprising in Kiev’s Independent Square that saw the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych and examines the formation of a new civil rights movement.

About The Author
Andrew Tracy joined Realscreen as associate editor in 2021, following 17 years as managing editor of the award-winning international film magazine Cinema Scope. From 2010 to 2020 he also held the position of senior editor at the Toronto International Film Festival, where he oversaw the flagship publication for the organization’s year-round Cinematheque programming and edited its first original monograph in a decade, Steve Gravestock’s A History of Icelandic Film. He was a scriptwriter and consultant on the first season of the Vice TV series The Vice Guide to Film, and his writing and reporting have been featured in such outlets as Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, Sight & Sound, Cineaste, Film Comment, MUBI Notebook, POV, and Montage.