When it comes to awards season, the short film categories often get overlooked in favor of their flashier, star-studded brethren. However, many filmmakers and actors started their careers in short films, and some of the most compelling movies are mere minutes long. The Oscars just announced the nominees for its 86th awards show. We took this opportunity to highlight the 15 short films that made the cut. Become familiar with these wonderful works in the documentary, animated, and live action shorts categories, below.
Documentary Short Subject
Cavedigger, Jeffrey Karoff
Festival favorite Cavedigger from Jeffrey Karoff takes us inside one of artist Ra Paulette’s labyrinthine sandstone masterpieces, carved into the cliffs of New Mexico. Paulette has a reputation for being stubborn about his creative vision when it comes to commissions, but his determination to create the ultimate “eight wonder of the world” propelled him to embark on his own 10-year project. Keep tabs on this study of personal obsession on the film’s official website.
Facing Fear, Jason Cohen
Star Wars editor T.M. Christopher and Inside Job cinematographer Svetlana Cvetko partnered with first-time director Jason Cohen on Facing Fear. Matthew Boger became a homeless teenager when his family found out he was gay. He barely survived a savage beating by a group of neo-Nazi skinheads while living on the streets of Hollywood. Twenty-five years later, Boger had a chance meeting with one of his attackers, Tim Zaal, which challenges both men to confront their fears, leading to an unlikely friendship. Visit the official website for more info on screenings.
Karama Has No Walls, Sara Ishaq
Told from the view of two fathers, Karama Has No Walls recounts the tragic events on the Friday of Karama (March 18, 2011), which changed the course of the revolution. Dozens of protestors in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, were killed by government forces and hundreds were wounded.
The Lady in Number 6, Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed
Meet the tenacious and spirited Alice Herz Sommer, the world’s oldest pianist and oldest Holocaust survivor (109 years old).
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall, Edgar Barens
Prison Terminal takes us inside one of America’s oldest maximum-security prisons where one of Iowa’s oldest prisoners (until his death at the age of 83) was serving a life sentence for murder. The film tells the story of the terminally ill Jack Hall and the trained hospice volunteers who cared for him, they themselves prisoners. The documentary will premiere on HBO on March 31. Visit the official website to find out more. Director Edgar Barens has explored other aspects of the American criminal justice system, as in the case of his award-winning doc A Sentence of Their Own, which focuses on the impact of incarceration on families.
Short Film (Animated)
Feral, Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden
It’s a mere dollar to rent or two dollars to buy Daniel Sousa’s beautifully animated short film Feral on Vimeo’s VOD service. Inspired by mythology, fairy tales, and the struggles of human nature, Sousa’s film chronicles the attempted taming of a feral boy who tries to adapt to his new surroundings using the same strategies that helped him thrive in the wilds of the forest.
Get a Horse!, Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim
If you went to see Disney’s Frozen in theaters, this imaginative animation screened before the feature film. The short starts out just like any other Mickey Mouse movie made during the 1920s, and the attention to the recreation is impressive. Eventually Mickey emerges as a full-color, 3D character. But not everyone was charmed by the union of Disney’s past and future animation styles.
Mr. Hublot, Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares
If Edward Gorey and the Quay brothers made a steampunk animation, it would probably look something like Mr. Hublot. The eccentric titular character’s rigid routines are disturbed when a robotic pet enters his life. The short took three years to make, but its artistry is limitless. Visit the official website to see film stills and more.
Possessions, Shuhei Morita
Featured in the film anthology Short Peace, Shuhei Morita’s Possessions takes a page from Japanese folk legends about objects that become self-aware and are granted souls after 100 years of service (a concept known as Tsukumogami). In the film, a wanderer confronts these living objects after seeking shelter in an abandoned house.
Room on the Broom, Max Lang and Jan Lachauer
Witches, cranky cats, dragons, dogs — we’re already in love with Room on the Broom.
Short Film (Live Action)
Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me), Esteban Crespo
“In this powerful war drama inhabited by teenage African soldiers, a woman’s compassion is pushed to the limit as she must find humanity where none exists.”
Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything), Xavier Legrand and Alexandre Gavras
Au Revoir Les Enfants actor Xavier Legrand makes his directorial debut in Just Before Losing Everything, which slowly reveals the story of a woman named Miriam over its 29 minutes.
“A young boy hides under a small bridge. A teenager in tears waits at a bus stop. A woman picks them up and drives them to the parking lot of a supermarket. The woman takes a big rubbish bag out of the trunk. All three rush inside the shop. . . . “
Helium, Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson
The Danish doppelgänger of Michel Gondry would be proud of Anders Walter’s Helium, about a hospital janitor who brings magic into the life of a dying boy through his fantastical stories.
Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?), Selma Vilhunen and Kirsikka Saari
Selma Vilhunen’s comedic short proves once again that moms love to remind you that they know everything.
The Voorman Problem, Mark Gill and Baldwin Li
Before being hauled off to the insane asylum, Dr. Williams must determine if the enigmatic Mr. Voorman, who claims to be God, is a phony. And if not, why would God choose to be imprisoned and mentally ill?