12.03.24 21:00 By Luiz Villar


Short Films at The Oscars 2024






CenterFrame Team

“The Oscars don’t matter anymore!” People have been saying that for at least the last two decades. Every year there is a debate over the relevance of the Academy Awards nowadays. But guess what, the Oscars do matter a lot! And when it comes to the short film categories, across animated, live action, and documentary, the Oscars hold profound significance within the filmmaking community and beyond. These awards shine a spotlight on storytelling in its purest and most condensed form, highlighting the power of brevity and creativity in conveying impactful narratives. For filmmakers, winning an Oscar in these categories can open doors to broader recognition and opportunities, paving the way for future projects. Moreover, these awards serve as a platform for lesser-known talents to showcase their skills and perspectives, fostering diversity and innovation within the industry. Beyond the realm of filmmaking, the recognition bestowed upon short films at the Oscars underscores the importance of storytelling as a universal language capable of transcending barriers and inspiring audiences worldwide. So let’s dive into the fifteen nominated films in 2024 and explore the incredible worlds these films bring to life!

Starting with the live-action short films, we have "The After," directed by Misan Harriman and produced by Nicky Bentham, a thought-provoking British short film that explores the aftermath of a devastating violent crime. It delves into the emotions and struggles of a father named Dayo as he grapples with the losses of both his wife and his daughter. With its poignant storytelling and powerful performances, "The After" tries to capture the strength necessary to go on when Dayo picks a passenger at the airport that resembles his late daughter. Very dramatic, but effective to some point, the film is available to watch on Netflix. 

THE AFTER - Directed by Misan Harriman

Now we travel to Denmark, where the next live-action short film comes from. "Knight of Fortune," directed by Lasse Lyskjær Noer, also tackles loss and grief as it tells the story of Karls, who finds himself overwhelmed by the loss of a loved one, the accompanying grief, but also the daunting task of dealing with a too-small coffin. A comedy drama that does its best at mixing genres, the film is definitely sad, but the humour makes it more bearable when Karl meets with Torben, a kindred spirit who brings an unexpected blend of absurdity and melody as two elderly men, united by their shared experience of grief, navigate their way through life's struggles.

KNIGHT OF FORTUNE - Directed by Lasse Noer

    Then, directed by Vincent René-Lortie and produced by Samuel Caron, we have the Canadian "Invincible", inspired by a real-life story. This thirty-minute short film features the troubled youth Marc-Antoine, who is confined in a juvenile detention center. Following a brief release to spend time with his family, Marc-Antoine becomes determined to evade his return to the facility, showing a readiness to take extreme measures, even if the consequences are dire. Visually impactful, “Invincible” is another very dramatic short that falls right into the type of film usually nominated in this category.

      INVINCIBLE - Directed by Vincent René-Lortie

      Going to the United States, we have "Red, White and Blue," a drama short film from 2023, is penned, helmed, and brought to life by British screenwriter and actress of Bangladeshi descent Nazrin Choudhury, best known for her radio dramas and extensive work in American television. Anchored by stellar performances from Brittany Snow and Juliet Donenfeld, the narrative follows a single mother on a poignant journey with her daughter in pursuit of an abortion. Faced with the restrictive laws of Arkansas, where abortion access is severely limited, they embark on a trip to an abortion clinic in Illinois, highlighting the challenging realities many women confront in accessing reproductive healthcare. Similar to the 2020 indie feature “Never Rarely Sometimes Always” by Eliza Hittman, "Red, White and Blue" is an important short that highlights the difficulties of being a woman in the US.

      RED, WHITE AND BLUE - Directed by Nazrin Choudhury

      Finally in the live-action category, we have Wes Anderson's adaptation of Roald Dahl's "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar," the fantasy short film that ended up winning the Oscars. Anderson serves as the writer, co-producer, and director, weaving a magical tale based on Dahl's 1977 short story. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch in the titular role, supported by a renowned cast including Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley, and Richard Ayoade. The narrative follows a wealthy man who discovers the extraordinary abilities of a clairvoyant guru, prompting him to embark on a journey to master this skill through a unique form of Yoga. His motive? To gain an unfair advantage in gambling. Undoubtedly, this production stands out as the most ambitious nominee in its category, with both big names and a large budget, and is also available on Netflix.

      THE WONDERFUL STORY OF HENRY SUGAR - Directed by Wes Anderson

      Now entering the animated realm, we have "Letter to a Pig", an Israeli-French animated short film from 2022, crafted by the talented Tal Kantor who serves as both its writer and director. This poignant 17-minute animation delves into the theme of generational trauma, earning recognition at numerous international film festivals. Set on 'Memorial Day,' the story unfolds as a Holocaust survivor recounts a letter he penned to the pig that saved his life, addressing a classroom filled with teenagers. Amidst his testimony, a young schoolgirl drifts into a surreal dream where she grapples with profound questions of collective trauma, memory, and identity. With its resonant message and distinctive visual style, "Letter to a Pig" leaves a lasting impression, lingering in the minds of its viewers.

      LETTER TO A PIG - Directed by Tal Kantor

      "Ninety-Five Senses" is a 2022 animated short film by the esteemed filmmakers Jared and Jerusha Hess. This poignant tale centers on a death row inmate, portrayed by Tim Blake Nelson, who grapples with his past mistakes while confronting his impending mortality. Produced by a collaborative team of animators from the United States and Latin America, this 13-minute film showcases a remarkable diversity of styles across six distinct animations. Through its tragic yet incredibly beautiful narrative, "Ninety-Five Senses" exemplifies the profound and enthusiastic use of animation to convey its story, solidifying its position as a standout among this year's nominees.

      NINETY-FIVE SENSES - Directed by Jerusha and Jared Hess

      Next we have "Our Uniform", a 2023 stop-motion animated short film from Iran, marking the directorial debut of Yegane Moghaddam, who also serves as its writer and producer. This captivating film delves into Moghaddam's personal journey with the hijab, utilizing it as a canvas for animation. Through the narrative lens, Moghaddam reflects on her experiences wearing the hijab as a school uniform in an Iranian girls' school, juxtaposing it with her evolving perspective upon relocating to the United States. The film's stunning and distinctive animation style showcases innovation and creativity, although some viewers may find the storyline overly simplified.

      OUR UNIFORM - Directed by Yegane Moghaddam

      Now going to France, "Pachyderme" is an animated short film helmed by director Stéphanie Clément. Seamlessly blending traditional and computer animation techniques, this film delicately explores the theme of a young girl's survival following childhood abuse. Through its animation, the film crafts a visual metaphor for the dissociative nature of the trauma she endures. Presented in a fairytale-like style reminiscent of children's books, the concise animations evoke an ambiguous and subtly eerie atmosphere, particularly in the portrayal of the young girl's perception of her grandfather as a silent and foreboding presence. Despite its somber subject matter, the film's stunning animation breathes life into a poignant narrative of childhood traumas.

      PACHYDERME - Directed by Stéphanie Clément

      And finally in the animated short film category, we have "War Is Over! Inspired by the Music of John and Yoko" directed by Dave Mullins, the winner of this category at the Oscars. This 11-minute creation draws inspiration from and prominently features John Lennon and Yoko Ono's timeless peace anthem, "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)". Mullins also serves as the writer, with additional story contributions from Sean Ono Lennon. Set within an alternate reality of World War I, where an ongoing senseless conflict persists, the film follows two soldiers from opposing sides engaging in a joyous game of chess amidst the chaos of war. While delivering a beautiful message of hope and peace, it may feel slightly disconnected from contemporary realities.

      WAR IS OVER! - Directed by David Mullins

      Now to our last category - documentary short film. We start with "The ABCs of Book Banning" is a short documentary film released in 2023, directed by Sheila Nevins with co-direction from Trish Adlesic and Nazenet Habezghi. This thought-provoking film delves into the mass banning of books, particularly those addressing LGBT topics and racial issues, notably in Florida. While the documentary is well-intentioned in highlighting the detrimental effects of book banning, it leaves viewers with a sense of unresolved urgency. Despite effectively conveying the message that book banning is harmful, there is a lingering question of "what now?" as the film concludes.

      ABC's OF BOOK BANNING - Directed by Sheila Nevins 

      with co-Direction from Trish Adlesic and Nazenet Habezghi

      Then we have "The Barber of Little Rock", a 2023 documentary short film co-directed by John Hoffman and Christine Turner. This film chronicles the remarkable journey of Arlo Washington, an African American barber in Little Rock, Arkansas, who established a nonprofit community bank with the goal of addressing the racial wealth gap. While the real-life story is undoubtedly inspiring and significant, the film itself struggles to captivate with its average structure and tedious pacing. Clocking in at 35 minutes, the documentary's slow development makes it feel much longer, failing to fully engage viewers despite the compelling subject matter.

      THE BARBER OF LITTLE ROCK - Directed by John Hoffman and Christine Turner

      "Island in Between" is a captivating short crafted by Taiwan-born filmmaker S. Leo Chiang and Jean Tsien. This visually compelling production delves into the unique story of Kinmen, a group of islands situated between Taiwan and China. Through the lens of Chiang's personal reflections on his ties to Taiwan, China, and the United States, the film explores the complex dynamics of cross-strait relations. Renowned for its historical significance, including remnants from the 1949 Chinese Civil War, Kinmen serves as a magnet for tourists. However, it also symbolizes the frontline in Taiwan's ongoing tensions with China, offering a compelling glimpse into the geopolitical complexities of the region, and the film shows that with an intriguing perspective of somebody who understands all the sides of the story.

      ISLAND IN BETWEEN - Directed by S. Leo Chiang & Jean Tsien

      We continue in Taiwan with the documentary "Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó," a short film directed by Sean Wang that intimately portrays his Taiwanese immigrant paternal and maternal grandmothers. The film gracefully captures Wang's elderly grandmothers as they navigate their daily routines. Residing together in their Fremont, California home, these Taiwanese immigrants share a close bond, sleeping in the same bed and spending their days in each other's company. Through heartfelt storytelling, "Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó" emerges as a multigenerational celebration of life and familial connection. It is available to watch on Disney+.

      Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó - Directed by Sean Wang

      Next up, for our final film in this category, we have the Searchlight Pictures & L.A. Times Studios production "The Last Repair Shop". This poignant short documentary directed by Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers was the winner of the documentary short category. It explores how Los Angeles has stood out as one of the few cities in the United States to provide musical instrument repair services free of charge to public school students. This vital service is carried out by a small team of artisans who meticulously take care of around 80,000 instruments in a downtown warehouse. Through powerful storytelling, the film shines a spotlight on four of these dedicated craftspeople, each specializing in a specific section of the orchestra, while also highlighting the profound impact of music on the lives of students who benefit from their work.

      THE LAST REPAIR SHOP - Directed by Ben Proudfoot & Kris Bowers

      And those are the fifteen short film Oscar nominees and winners of 2024. From the most different backgrounds, with filmmakers telling stories from France to Taiwan, from the UK to Iran, with different genres and styles, the short film categories are always the most eclectic, the most diverse and the most inspiring of the Oscars. Once again we are witnessing filmmakers who have demonstrated their talent and storytelling abilities through their work in short films, paving the way for further success in their careers within the film industry and showing the resilient importance of the short format.


      Film & TV Critic| CenterFrame Team

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      Luiz Villar