And the Oscar goes to… A look at the nominees for Best Documentary Feature

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Some would argue that documentary film deserve a place in the best picture category: A powerful portrait of real people and true stories, unraveling and revealing a mystery, unscripted. In most cases, these films bring an opporunity of hope and change, exposing the difficult truths of our society.

This year’s contenders include films about uprisings, a history of violence, women in service and a musical icon of the anti-apartheid movement.

Here’s a look at the documentaries nominated.

As Israeli settlers begin building homes and erecting a barrier wall in the West Bank village of Bil’in, a Palestinian farm worker documents the town’s resistance to the new settlement. Over the course of several years, the townspeople clash with the Israeli Defense Force, and tensions mount as the wall remains and the building continues. Co-directed by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi. Website

Six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s counterterrorism agency, speak candidly about their participation in the policies that have shaped the long history of violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Starting with the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, the men discuss with remarkable openness the successes and mistakes of their individual tenures. Co-directed by Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky and Estelle Fialon. Website

By the mid-1980s, as the official response to the growing AIDS epidemic remained dispiritingly low-key and at times hostile, the activist group ACT UP began focusing media attention on the disease and demanding action from the government and the medical community. While some members of the group staged protests, others immersed themselves in the research being done on the virus and helped achieve a dramatic transformation in its treatment. Co-directed by David France and Howard Gertler. Website

According to Department of Defense estimates, over 19,300 members of the U.S. military were sexually assaulted in 2010 alone. Yet, although the rate of sexual assaults against women in the service is twice that of the civilian population, only ten percent of assault cases end in prosecution, with female soldiers often finding themselves ostracized or pressured into remaining silent. Co-directed by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering. Website

In the early 1970s, A&M released two albums by a singer-songwriter known only as Rodriguez, who dropped out of sight and was rumored to have died after the records failed to sell. When Rodriguez unexpectedly attracted a cult following in South Africa, however, two of his ardent fans decided to track down the truth behind his disappearance from the music scene. Co-directed by Malik Bendjelloul and Simon Chinn. Website

*Descriptions provided by the Oscars