The Best Documentary Short Subject list is down to Ten contenders

Another day, another new list emerges to show us what titles are in contention for certain Academy Awards. Yes, today we have AMPAS announcing that they’ve pared down the list of films hoping to be nominated for Best Documentary Short Subject rather considerably. There were initially 74 entries vying for one of the five available slots, but not it’s just down to ten. Obviously, only half will be among the final five receiving spots in the Oscar race, though that’s pretty good odds, all things considered. This can be a hard category to figure out, but I can at least try and set the stage for you a bit now…

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this is one of the least seen categories at the Academy Awards, if not the absolute least seen. Not only is it the red headed stepchild of the Best Documentary Feature category in a way, it has the added disadvantage of shorts more or less being discarded. That makes it harder to see/care about the contenders, which is only furthered when you see that the winners tend to be heavy and not exactly in the cultural zeitgeist. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does hurt it in terms of visibility. If you catch these Oscar hopefuls, you’re either in the business or a real completist.

Historically, Oscar voters have gone for rather serious subject matter here. Just look at the prior winners in the category:

2014 – Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
2013 – The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
2012 – Inocente
2011 – Saving Face
2010 – Strangers No More
2009 – Music by Prudence
2008 – Smile Pinki
2007 – Freeheld
2006 – The Blood of Yingzhou District
2005 – A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin
2004 – Mighty Times: The Children’s March
2003 – Chernobyl Heart
2002 – Twin Towers
2001 – Thoth
2000 – Bib Mama
1999 – King Gimp
1998 – The Personals: Improvisations on Romance in the Golden Years
1997 – A Story of Healing
1996 – Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien
1995 – One Survivor Remembers
1994 – A Time for Justice
1993 – Defending Our Lives
1992 – Educating Peter
1991 – Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons and Our Environment
1990 – Days of Waiting

As you can see above, very few of these are particularly well known contenders, though Freeheld and Twin Towers have gotten some notice. The former mainly this year for being turned into a narrative feature starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page, while the latter was coming shortly after the World Trade Center tragedy. As a general rule though, these fly below the radar.

This year, I can’t say that I know anything really about the contenders, but if you look into what each of them is about, you can begin to cull which ones are more likely to be nominated than others. Personally, I won’t wager a guess just yet and will wait until my next predictions update to pick the five, but a little research can go a long way in this category. Again, it’s not a sexy category, even less so than Best Documentary Feature or even Best Animated Short, but it’s still part of the Oscar lineup and worth considering. Obviously, this won’t be the last time that we discuss some of these shorts!

Here now are the ten shortlisted contenders remainining in the race for Best Documentary Short Subject…

Body Team 12 (RYOT Films and Vulcan Productions)

Chau, beyond the Lines (Cynasty Films)

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah (Jet Black Iris America)

50 Feet from Syria (Spin Film)

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (SOC Films)

Last Day of Freedom (Living Condition)

Minerita (Kanaki Films)

My Enemy, My Brother (Fathom Film Group)

Starting Point (Munk Studio – Polish Filmmakers Association)

The Testimony (Atria Film in association with Escape Artists)

Stay tuned to see which five remaining contenders emerge as the nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject at the Oscars!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He also contributes to several other film-related websites.

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