Best Documentary Short preview of all 5 Oscar contenders will help on your prediction

According to our official racetrack odds, “Black Sheep” looks to be out front for this year’s Oscar for Best Documentary Short Film. Those odds are pulled together from the forecasts made by our Expert film journalists, Gold Derby Editors, top 24 users and the thousands of regular Gold Derby readers predicting the contest in our predictions center.

But how solid is “Black Sheep” in the front-runner position? Is there another short that is a more traditional fit for Oscar voters? Let’s take a more in depth look at all five of this year’s nominated short docs, in order by their current Gold Derby odds.

“Black Sheep” (odds of winning: 7/2)

This short centers on Cornelius Walker as he reminisces about his experiences dealing with racism in England in 2000. After the publicized killing of Damilola Taylor, a 10-year-old Nigerian boy in London, Walker’s mother, fearing for Cornelius’s safety, wants the family to move somewhere else. They move to an estate in Essex, but Walker comes to learn the estate is run by racist and violent street gangs. Desperate for acceptance, Walker takes drastic measures to fit in including wearing blue contact lenses, bleaching his skin and joining in on beating up other black people.

This is the first Oscar nomination for both Ed Perkins and Jonathan Chinn. Chinn has won two Emmy Awards: Best Non-Fiction Program (Reality) for “American High” in 2001 and Merit in Documentary Filmmaking for “LA 92” in 2017.

Pros: It’s a shocking story that definitely grabs your attention. Walker’s retelling of his experiences from almost 20 years ago are harrowing and a haunting reminder that no matter how far we travel, racism and prejudice will be something that we are forced to deal with.

Cons: There doesn’t seem to be any resolution of any kind by the end of the film and that might be too much for voters to stomach. The reenactments that take place can also feel like they overshadow the story that Walker is telling.

Votes: 12 of our Experts, 4 of our Editors, 13 of our Top 24 Users (who topped last year’s Oscar predictions) and 66% of all our Users.

“Period. End of Sentence.” (odds of winning: 19/5)

Women’s menstruation is still a hugely taboo and misunderstood subject in the country of India and this doc shines a light on those that are trying to reverse that trend. We meet several people, mostly women, who are trying to get their rural village better access to sanitary pads. With a new machine that can manufacture them cheaply, several women look to have stores stock the pad, educate women as to how to use them and also bring the opposite sex to around to understanding that there’s nothing shameful about women’s hygiene.

Filmmakers Rayka Zehtabchi and Melissa Berton have earned their first Oscar nomination for this short.

Pros: Without question, this short is the most uplifting of the category. Seeing these women become more confident and empowered through the efforts shown in the film is especially powerful given what we have seen with the #MeToo movement over the past two years. It also has echoes of previous winners in the category including “Saving Face” (2011) and “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” (2015).

Cons: By showing a bunch of people (many of who are not named) and not limiting the film’s focus, some viewers may not get as invested as they should.

Votes: 9 Experts, 4 Editors, 6 Top 24 Users and 13% of all Users.

“End Game” (odds of winning: 39/10)

Set in the San Francisco Bay Area, the short focuses on several patients dealing with their end-of-life care and the physicians that attempt to bring a better approach to that care for the patients and their families.

This is the third Oscar nomination for Rob Epstein and first for Jeffrey Friedman. Epstein won both of his past nominations in the Documentary Feature category: “The Times of Harvey Milk” in 1984 (with Richard Schmiechen) and “Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt” in 1989 (with Bill Couturié). Epstein and Friedman were also both nominated at the 1996 Emmys for Best Informational Special for “The Celluloid Closet.”

Pros: This short packs the biggest emotional punch of the bunch but it’s also not as incredibly depressing as you might think. The way the doctors in the movie try to make their patients and their families prepared for what’s coming is actually kind of heartwarming and reassuring.

Cons: It has a very similar feel to a nominee from two years ago, “Extremis,” which failed to win. Even if this one doesn’t feel as depressing or intrusive as “Extremis,” the subject matter might be a tough one for voters to embrace.

Votes: 4 Experts, 3 Top 24 Users and 15% of all Users.

“A Night at the Garden” (odds of winning: 9/2)

The short is comprised of archival footage from a mass gathering of American Nazis, billed as a “Pro America Rally,” that happened at Madison Square Garden in February of 1939.

This is Marshall Curry’s third Oscar nomination. His previous two were in the Documentary Feature category: “Street Fight” in 2005 and “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front” in 2011 (with Sam Cullman).

Pros: The footage is very powerful and striking to see. The language that the speaker at the event uses is eerily similar to what’s heard these days from certain political realms. The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, as well as the resurgent White Power movement, make this footage all the more timely as well.

Cons: The footage is presented on its own and gives no context to the event or its speakers. The man speaking on stage (Fritz Julius Kuhn) is never identified nor is a protester who rushes the stage (Isadore Greenbaum).

Votes: 1 Expert, 1 Top 24 User and 4% of all Users.

“Lifeboat” (odds of winning: 9/2)

Sea-Watch, a German non-profit organization, has boats traveling in the waters of Mediterranean Sea looking for boats of migrants fleeing their home countries (usually North Africa) and attempting to make it to Europe. With many of the boats overcrowded and badly constructed, the boats often capsize and many end up drowning before they make it to the shores of Europe. Several migrants also share their stories as to why they’re fleeing.

This film brings Bryn Mooser his second Oscar nomination and Skye Fitzgerald his first one. Mooser was nominated in this category in 2015 for “Body Team 12.”

Pros: The short tackles a subject that continues to be very relevant and the fact that the Academy has more international members could mean that this film will resonate with them if it’s crisis that they are seeing happen.

Cons: It’s very bleak and doesn’t show anything positive coming from the situation. A similar short was nominated two years ago, “4.1 Miles.” If voters weren’t willing to reward it a short with that subject matter then, why would they do it now?

Votes: 1 Top 24 User and 3% of all Users.

PREDICT the Oscar winners now; change them until February 24

Be sure to check out how our experts rank this year’s Oscar contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own Oscar predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before winners are announced on February 24.

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