A look at the Oscar nominated Shorts for 2016

This year’s list of Oscar nominees in the short categories contain few surprises for veterans of the short film circuit over the past year. Many films that have proven to be massively popular at festivals across the globe have also managed to strike a chord with Academy votes. The final list covers a diverse range of subjects even if – especially in light of the recent spotlight on lack of gender equality within the film industry - rather male-centric.

In the Best Live Action short film category, perennial festival favourite Everything Will Be OK (Alles Wird Gut) gets a nomination after already receiving a Bronze medal in the Student Academy Awards. Patrick Vollrath’s ultra-tense film about a father and daughter on an unusual day has been given high praise for its naturalistic acting and taut story and will be considered a favourite by many.

Talking to Cineuropa Shorts, Vollrath gave a simple summation on being nominated:

“It is just an amazing feeling.” he said

Basil Khalil’s Palestinian comedy Ave Maria also receives a nod. The story about an Israeli settler family who breaks down in front of a convent just as the Sabbath begins mixes some broad comedy with a vein of satire and political comment. The film – which premiered in the Short Film Competition at this year’s Cannes Film Festival – has been another popular piece of work and shows that short film is sometimes the best medium for comedy to travel.

Ben Cleary’s UK short Stutterer is a tender mix of subtle comedy and romantic drama. Focusing on the nerves of a man – who suffers from a speech impediment that plagues his life – as he prepares to go on a date with a girl he met online, the film is a fine example of the gentle yet moving films that the UK can often do so well. The film has already proved popular domestically screening at Encounters and winning Best Drama at Aesthetica. Ben Cleary, the director of Stutterer, told Cineuropa Shorts:

"Over the moon doesn’t even begin to describe how we’re all feeling right now. We never thought our little film would get anywhere near where it has gotten to. We’re so honoured and thankful to the Academy for this. Big love to Serena Armitage, Shan Christopher Ogilvie, Michael Paleodimos, Nico Casal, Matthew Needham, Chloe Pirrie and Eric Richard amongst many more incredibly talented people who took a risk working with a first time director on Stutterer. To every one of them I’m deeply grateful.

And what a moment for Irish film! Room and Brooklyn are two of my favourite films of the year. I’m so happy Saoirse, Lenny, Emma and all involved are receiving the recognition they deserve for these two excellent films. A very proud day."

US film One Day is a powerful work about a translator’s first day accompanying a US Army unit as it searches for a local terrorist. Throwing up ideas about gender and political inequality, the film is a strongly political piece of work. A thesis film from the AFI – and another recipient of a Student Academy Award – the film has not made much of a dent on the European circuit though this will undoubtedly change after the Oscar nod.

Finally in the Live Action section, Jamie Donoughue’s Shok receives a nomination. The UK and Kosovan co-production is based on the true story of the friendship of two boys that tries to survive the war in Kosovo. Winning a number of plaudits – including Best Film at InterFilm Berlin – the film had to be considered another favourite to take home the prize.

Speaking to Cineuropa Shorts, one of Shok’s producers Harvey Ascott said:

“Being nominated for an Oscar is an incredible experience. It is fantastic for the cast, crew and most importantly the people of Kosovo as this is the first time country has ever been nominated. We look forward to representing Shok in LA!”

In the Best Animated Short category, Sanjay’s Super Team is the unsurprising represent of Pixar for this year. After premiering at Annecy, the film was the supporting feature for Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur and is fun tale about a small Indian boy who dreams that the Hindu gods are in fact superheroes.

Prologue – by legendary animator Richard Williams – is a stunningly designed affair and it’s meta-examination of the role of the artist and it’s classic design might find appeal amongst the voting members. As will Konstantin Bronzit’s We Can’t Live without Cosmos, a clever and satirical piece of work that has also found much favour on the European festival circuit.

From Chile Gabriel Osorio’s Bear Story tells the story of the life of a bear through a mechanical diorama and it’s style and tender story should prove popular. However, the favourite has to be Don Hertzfeld’s World of Tomorrow. Showing at almost every major festival on the circuit, Hertzfeld’s blend of anarchy and genuinely moving drama has made it one of the visible global short films of the past year.

The Best Documentary Short section is heavily US dominated and – unsurprisingly for the Academy – the films nominated all deal with weighty themes. David Darg’s Body Team 12 is an unflinching look at people whose job it is to collect bodies from Ebole zones while Courtney Marsh’s Chau, beyond the Lines is a portrayal of a teenager who dreams of a being an artist despite suffering the debilitating effects of the Agent Orange defoliant that was used during the Vietnam War. A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy examines the subject of honour killings while Last Day Of Freedom – an interesting selection as it is an animated documentary – sees a man decide as to whether he should inform the police about a crime his brother has committed. Finally, Adam Benzine’s French documentary Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah focuses on the work of the director who worked tirelessly through his documentaries to expose the atrocities of the Holocaust.

The 88th Oscars will be held on Sunday, February 28, 2016.

15 January 2016, by Laurence Boyce