On one end of the spectrum, we have modern, sound-bitten world of TV journalism, with complex stories boiled down to slogans and humans to cartoons. On the other is a new wave of filmmakers, with Laura Poitras leading the charge, who dedicate themselves to nuanced, provocative explorations of contemporary issues. Poitras immerses herself in crucial events of our time, emerging with innovative, hand-crafted works that simultaneously serve as gorgeous art and essential journalism. Her debut, Flag Wars (2003, co-directed with Linda Goode Bryant) — though ostensibly about the gentrification of an African-American neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, by largely gay homebuyers— spins a heartbreaking tale of mutual mistrust, misuse of power and broken lines of communication. My Country, My Country (2006) explores still more epic themes: betrayal, civil war and global imbalances of power. With The Oath (2010), Poitras weaves the stories of two men, brothers-in-law, who are united in friendship and a one-time belief in al-Queda, but are now separated by chasms both physical and ideological. Poitras creates a narrative structure as intricate and filled with reversals as a Shakespearean tragedy; critic Dennis Lim described it as going “so far beyond the media’s customary thumbnail sketches of terrorists as to be almost disorienting.” With just three films completed, Poitras has won a host of awards including an Oscar nomination. But her audiences are the real winners: In an age of shrinking, increasingly myopic journalism, her deep and visionary films chart us towards a new way of engaging with nonfiction and serve as a bold challenge to other filmmakers to follow in her footsteps.