Ten Contenders will compete for Best Documentary Short Subject

81st Annual Academy Awards Set Up at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood on February 21, 2009
Folks, a short list has emerged for Academy Award nominating consideration. Yes, 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 far more 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 as I’ve mentioned in prior years, but I can at least try and set the stage for you a bit now. It’s the least I can do, right?

As always, 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. It’s just that simple.

Historically, Oscar voters have gone for rather serious subject matter here, even more so than in other categories. Just look at the prior winners in the category:

2015 – A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
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

This year, much like with last year, I can’t say that I know anything really about the contenders, but if you look closely 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!

Enough talk though. Enough beating around the proverbial bush. Here now are the ten shortlisted contenders remainining in the race for Best Documentary Short Subject:

“Brillo Box (3¢ Off)” Brillo Box Documentary
“Close Ties” Munk Studio – Polish Filmmakers Association
“Extremis” f/8 Filmworks in association with Motto Pictures
“4.1 Miles” University of California, Berkeley
“Frame 394” Compy Films
“Joe’s Violin” Lucky Two Productions
“The Mute’s House” The Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School
“The Other Side of Home” Feeln
“Watani: My Homeland” ITN Productions
“The White Helmets” Grain Media and Violet Films

Stay tuned to see which five remaining contenders emerge from this list as the eventual 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 contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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