While this year’s Best Picture race is dominated by high-profile projects (with the possible exception of indie upstart Winter’s Bone), the Best Documentary Feature category has a few titles that are probably unfamiliar to even the most dedicated moviegoers. That’s because most of the nominees never even made it to the multiplexes on account of their low budgets, their envelope-pushing subject matter, and the generally tepid box office prospects for nonfiction films that aren’t made by hell-raising Michiganians. But if you caught yourself scratching your head over this year’s list of contenders, never fear: EW is here with an easy primer to all five movies in the race. Check out their trailers, official sites, and EW reviews (when available) after the jump. Then head to the comments and let us know which one will get your vote on Oscar night.

Exit Through the Gift Shop

A hall-of-mirrors portrait of two figures: The elusive street artist Banksy, and filmmaker Thierry Guetta, who fashions himself into a street artist named Mr. Brainwash.


Filmmaker Josh Fox’s examination of the potential consequences of “fracking,” a new natural gas drilling technique that has tapped into a vast wealth of fossil fuel in the continental United States.

Inside Job

Academy Award-nominated documentarian Charles Ferguson (No End in Sight) sheds light on the roots of the financial crisis in a series of no-holds-barred interviews with economists, lawmakers, and Wall Street power players.


A commentary-free account of a group of American soldiers deployed in Afghanistan’s notorious Korengal Valley, known as “the deadliest place on Earth.”

Waste Land

Brooklyn-based artist Vik Muniz traveled back to his native Brazil to photograph the people who spend their lives picking through the trash in the Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest garbage dump.

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