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2018 Documentary Film Diversity Report: Journey to the Academy Awards

By Caty Borum Chattoo


Culture paints a portrait of what we celebrate and who is worthy of our attention. As cultural critic and journalist Mary McNamara stated, "When we praise and reward certain stories or images, whether by big box office or gold statuary, we reveal what we as a society value, the kinds of people we find interesting, the characteristics we revere and revile. We show the paths we hope to choose or avoid and the lessons we have learned, or not learned, from history."

Through artistic expression, documentary films provide a portal into real lives, stories and social challenges. It is not only the story itself that reflects cultural meaning and value; who is telling the story matters.

This annual report illuminates the number of women and members of traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic minority groups as credited directors and producers in the highest film achievement for documentary film in the United States: The Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The Center for Media and Social Impact 2018 Documentary Film Diversity Report examines documentary diversity in two levels: It spotlights the films and filmmakers nominated for the Best Documentary Feature award in 2018, and it showcases the numerical reality of diversity and representation within the streaming, social media era (from 2008 to 2018). Given the unique nature of documentary film, as both creative expression and reflection of real life, the report also examines the extent to which the dominant narratives of the documentary feature nominees focus on social issues or entertainment slice-of-life stories.

Read the full report here