Most Oscar viewers use the presentation of the three short film awards to take a bathroom break, but picking the winners of Animated, Live-Action, and Documentary Short can mean the difference between winning or losing our predictions contest. It’s become a lot easier to predict these categories since all the nominees, formerly only viewable by Academy members, are available to see in separate programs at independent cinemas.
The Oscar race for Best Documentary Short Film is a tough one to handicap this year. Usually you can bet on the darkest and most serious nominee to take the prize. Light-hearted fare is routinely rewarded in the Animated Short category but not here. But this year’s short-form doc candidates all cover deadly serious territory.
“Body Team 12” is the clear frontrunner to win, drawing the support of 15 of our 20 experts drawn from journalists who cover this beat year-round as well as five of our six in-house editors, 17 of the Top 24 Users (those two dozen folks who did the best predicting last year’s winners) and 80% of all Users. David Darg‘s 17-minute film follows Liberian Red Cross workers as they collect the bodies of Ebola victims. Darg effectively focuses on a nurse who explains her duties and the opposition she receives from family members of the victims. It won in the same category at the Tribeca Film Festival.
In second place is “Claude Lanzmann: Specters of the Shoah,” a 40-minute film by British journalist Adam Benzine that profiles the French filmmaker during the arduous task of making “Shoah,” the epic, nine-hour documentary on the Holocaust that debuted in 1985. Four experts as well as 10% of users are picking this to prevail. Only two Holocaust-themed entries have won this category in recent memory: “One Survivor Remembers” (1995) and “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life” (2013).
In “Chau, Beyond the Lines” from Courtney Marsh, the title subject is a Vietnamese teenager struggling to overcome birth defects caused by Agent Orange and to realize his dream of becoming an artist and living independently.
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“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” from Pakistan is a shattering portrait of an 18-year-old girl who survives an honor killing; her father and uncle shot her and left her for dead when she married against her family’s wishes. Director Sharmen Obaid-Chinoy won in this category for 2012’s “Saving Face” covering a similar issue: acid attacks against Pakistani women.
“Last Day of Freedom” has won numerous accolades from film festivals and awards ceremonies including the Atlanta Docufest and the International Documentary Association. Directors Dee Hilbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman use animated line drawings to tell the tragic story of a mentally disturbed Vietnam vet convicted of murder and awaiting his execution.
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