The Academy Awards Short Film category has always been a great platform for recognizing emerging talents and innovative works of cinema. In the 93rd Academy Awards held in 2021, the Short Film category once again proved to be a showcase of creativity and brilliance in filmmaking.
This year’s Oscar-nominated Short Films, live-action, animation, and documentary, showcased a diverse range of stories and perspectives, all of which left a lasting impression on audiences worldwide.
In this article, we will explore the standout short films that captivated viewers and the judges at the 2021 Oscars, each of which highlights the power of storytelling and the magic of the cinematic arts.
Animated Short Films
If Anything Happens I Love You
If Anything Happens I Love You is a poignant and heart-wrenching animated short film directed by Michael Govier and Will McCormack. The film centers around two grieving parents who have lost their daughter in a school shooting. The story follows their emotional journey as they try to come to terms with their loss and find a way to heal.
The film is entirely wordless, relying solely on its visual storytelling to convey the depth of the characters’ emotions. The animation style is minimalist, with a monochromatic color palette and simple character designs. The use of shadow and light is particularly effective, adding depth and nuance to the scenes.
The film’s animation style contributes to the storytelling by allowing the audience to focus on the characters’ emotions without any distractions. The simplicity of the visuals also adds to the sense of isolation and grief that permeates the film.
One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when the parents find their daughter’s room still intact. The scene is a stark reminder of the loss they have suffered and the pain they will continue to feel.
Overall, If Anything Happens I Love You is a beautifully crafted and emotionally impactful film. It is a must-watch for anyone who has experienced loss or is looking for a powerful story that explores the human experience. While the subject matter is heavy, the film’s message of hope and healing is one that will resonate with audiences of all ages. I highly recommend this film to anyone who appreciates powerful storytelling and beautiful animation.
Burrow is a charming and heartwarming animated short film directed by Michael Capbarat and Madeline Sharafian. The film tells the story of a young rabbit who dreams of building her own home. However, as she begins to dig her burrow, she realizes that she’s not the only one living underground. With the help of her new friends, she learns the importance of community and collaboration.
The main character, a wide-eyed and determined rabbit, is endearing and relatable. Despite facing setbacks, she remains optimistic and determined to achieve her goal. The supporting cast of animals, including a mole, a mouse, and a family of rats, are equally charming and add depth to the story.
The animation style of Burrow is simple yet effective. The characters are designed with soft, rounded shapes and warm colors, giving the film a cozy and inviting feel. The use of light and shadow is particularly impressive, creating a sense of depth and texture despite the film’s 2D animation style.
One of the most impressive aspects of Burrow is how the animation style contributes to the storytelling. The film relies heavily on visual storytelling, with little dialogue or exposition. The animators use subtle movements and expressions to convey emotions and relationships between characters. This allows the audience to connect with the characters on a deeper level and invest in their journey.
There are several standout scenes in the film, including a delightful sequence where the rabbit tries to mimic the digging techniques of the other animals. The film also uses sound design effectively, with the sounds of digging and scurrying adding to the immersive experience.
Overall, Burrow is a delightful and heartwarming film that is sure to appeal to audiences of all ages. It’s a testament to the power of community and collaboration, and a reminder that sometimes the best way to achieve our goals is by working together. I highly recommend this film to anyone looking for a feel-good story and a visual treat.
Genius Loci, directed by Adrien Mérigeau and Amaury Ovise, is a stunning animated short film that explores the inner world of a troubled young woman named Reine. This French production was nominated for the Best Animated Short Film Oscar at the 93rd Academy Awards and offers a unique, artistic perspective on the human experience.
The film begins with Reine wandering through the streets of her city, which is depicted as a surreal, dreamlike landscape. The animation style is striking and fluid, with bold colors and abstract shapes that constantly shift and morph around the characters. This contributes to the storytelling by creating a sense of disorientation and instability that mirrors Reine’s own inner turmoil.
As the story progresses, we learn more about Reine’s struggles with mental illness and her deep connection to the world around her. The film is essentially a character study, with Reine serving as the main focus throughout. Despite the short runtime, we get a strong sense of her personality and the challenges she faces on a daily basis.
One of the most striking aspects of Genius Loci is the way it blends reality with fantasy. There are several scenes where Reine’s surroundings transform into strange, otherworldly landscapes that reflect her emotional state. For example, at one point, her apartment building becomes a giant tree with roots that stretch deep into the ground. These moments are visually stunning and add an extra layer of depth to the story.
Overall, Genius Loci is a beautiful, thought-provoking film that is sure to leave a lasting impression on viewers. While it may not be suitable for young children due to its mature themes, it will appeal to anyone who appreciates innovative animation and complex character studies. I highly recommend giving it a watch.
Opera is a 2020 animated short film directed by Erick Oh that takes the viewer on a surreal journey through the cycle of life. The film is a visual feast, featuring stunningly detailed animation and a unique storytelling style that is both captivating and thought-provoking.
The plot of the film follows a group of creatures as they go about their daily lives, each one representing a different stage in the cycle of life. The creatures move in a circular pattern, with each one passing their responsibilities on to the next as they reach the end of their own cycle. The film explores themes of birth, life, death, and rebirth, and does so in a way that is both beautiful and haunting.
One of the standout features of Opera is its animation style. The film is made up of a series of interconnected scenes, each one featuring a different creature or group of creatures. The animation is incredibly detailed, with each creature having its own unique characteristics and movements. The use of color is also noteworthy, with each scene featuring a different color palette that adds to the dreamlike quality of the film.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film features a group of creatures working together to build a towering structure. As the structure grows taller, the creatures begin to struggle under the weight of their own creation, until the entire thing comes crashing down. This scene is a powerful metaphor for the dangers of unchecked ambition and the importance of balance in life.
Overall, Opera is a stunningly beautiful film that is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who sees it. The film is a masterclass in visual storytelling, and its unique animation style is a testament to the power of animation as an art form. I would highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a thought-provoking and visually stunning cinematic experience. While the film is suitable for all ages, its themes and imagery may be best appreciated by adults and older children.
Yes-People is a delightful and whimsical animated short film that was directed by Arnar Gunnarsson and Gísli Darri Halldórsson in 2020. The film follows the daily lives of several people who live in an apartment complex, all of whom are experiencing their own unique struggles and challenges. Despite their differences, they all share one thing in common: a desire to connect with others and find joy in their lives.
The animation style of Yes-People is simple yet effective, using a combination of hand-drawn and computer-generated imagery to create a charming and visually appealing world. The characters are all designed with a sense of whimsy and playfulness, with exaggerated features and expressions that help to convey their emotions and personalities.
One of the most notable aspects of the film is its use of sound design, which adds an extra layer of depth and richness to the storytelling. The sounds of everyday life, such as the hum of a washing machine or the clinking of silverware, are used to great effect, creating a sense of immersion and realism that draws the viewer in.
There are several standout scenes and moments in Yes-People that are sure to stick with viewers long after the film is over. One of the most memorable is a sequence in which a man attempts to fix his malfunctioning washing machine, only to be repeatedly thwarted by a mischievous cat. Another standout moment is a montage that shows the various characters going about their daily routines, set to a catchy and upbeat musical score.
Overall, Yes-People is a charming and heartwarming film that is sure to appeal to audiences of all ages. Its themes of connection, community, and finding joy in the little things in life are universal and relatable, making it a film that is easy to recommend. Whether you’re a fan of animation, short films, or simply looking for a feel-good movie to brighten your day, Yes-People is definitely worth checking out.
Live Action Short Films
Two Distant Strangers
Two Distant Strangers is a powerful and emotional documentary that explores the issue of police brutality against black people in America. Directed by Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe, the film tells the story of a young black man named Carter James (played by Joey Bada$$) who is stuck in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over again. Each time he wakes up, he tries to make it home to his dog but is killed by a police officer who mistakes him for a criminal.
The film’s style and cinematography play a crucial role in telling this story. The use of a time loop is a clever way to show how black people are stuck in a never-ending cycle of violence and injustice. The camera work is also impressive, with close-ups of Carter’s face and the police officer’s gun, creating a sense of tension and fear.
One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Carter is stopped by the police officer for the first time. The officer asks for his ID, and when Carter reaches for it, the officer shoots him. This scene is shot in slow motion, with the sound of the gunshot echoing through the streets. It is a haunting and heartbreaking moment that captures the fear and trauma that black people face every day.
Another standout moment in the film is when Carter meets a young girl who is playing hopscotch on the sidewalk. She tells him that she wants to be a police officer when she grows up, and Carter tries to explain to her the dangers that come with that job. This scene is a powerful commentary on the systemic racism that exists within law enforcement, and the impact it has on future generations.
Overall, Two Distant Strangers is a must-see documentary that addresses an important and timely issue. The film is a powerful reminder of the injustices that black people face every day and the impact that police brutality has on individuals and communities. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested in social justice, activism, and the fight for equality.
Feeling Through is a powerful and poignant documentary directed by Doug Roland and Susan Ruzenski. The film tells the story of Tereek, a teenage boy who is lost and alone in New York City, and the chance encounter he has with Artie, a DeafBlind man who is trying to make his way home. Through their brief but impactful interaction, Tereek learns about the challenges and joys of life as a DeafBlind person, and both characters are forever changed.
The film’s style and cinematography are simple yet effective, with a focus on close-ups and tight shots that highlight the emotions and reactions of the characters. The use of natural lighting and handheld camera work gives the film a sense of immediacy and authenticity, and the decision to cast a DeafBlind actor in the role of Artie adds an extra layer of realism to the story.
One of the most memorable scenes in the film is when Tereek helps Artie navigate the streets of New York City, using touch and gestures to communicate. This scene is a powerful reminder of the importance of empathy and understanding, and it highlights the unique challenges that DeafBlind people face in a world that is often inaccessible.
Overall, Feeling Through is a beautiful and moving film that is sure to resonate with audiences of all ages. While it may be particularly meaningful for those who have experience working with DeafBlind individuals or who have an interest in disability rights, the film’s universal themes of human connection and understanding make it a must-see for anyone who appreciates powerful storytelling and authentic performances. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is looking for a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant cinematic experience.
The Letter Room
The Letter Room, directed by Elvira Lind and Sofia Sondervan, is a 2020 documentary film that explores the world of prison life through the eyes of a letter censor. The film follows Richard (Oscar Isaac), a lonely and introverted corrections officer who is transferred to the prison’s letter room, where he is responsible for reading and censoring prisoners’ letters. As he becomes more involved in their lives through their letters, Richard begins to question his own sense of right and wrong.
The film’s visual style is simple and intimate, with a focus on the characters and their emotions. The cinematography is often close-up and personal, emphasizing the emotional impact of the letters on Richard and the prisoners. The use of muted colors and soft lighting adds to the film’s somber and reflective mood.
One of the film’s standout scenes is when Richard receives a letter from a young girl whose father is in prison. The letter is innocent and heartfelt, and it touches Richard deeply, causing him to reflect on his own life and the choices he has made. Another poignant moment is when Richard discovers a letter from a prisoner who has been wrongly convicted, and he is faced with the moral dilemma of whether or not to reveal the truth.
The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by creating a sense of intimacy and emotional depth. The close-up shots and muted colors emphasize the personal and emotional impact of the letters on the characters, and the soft lighting adds to the film’s reflective and somber mood.
Overall, The Letter Room is a powerful and absorbing documentary that explores the complexities of prison life and the human connections that can be formed even in the most unlikely of circumstances. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in thought-provoking and emotional documentaries. The film’s themes of empathy, morality, and human connection will resonate with a wide range of audiences.
The Present is a heart-wrenching and eye-opening documentary that takes us on a journey through the daily struggles of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank. Directed by Farah Nabulsi, the film follows Yusef (played by Saleh Bakri), a Palestinian man who is on a mission to buy his wife a refrigerator. Sounds simple enough, right? But in the occupied West Bank, even the most mundane tasks can become daunting and dangerous.
The Present provides a raw and unfiltered look into the daily lives of Palestinians living under occupation. We see Yusef and his daughter navigating their way through military checkpoints, getting their IDs checked, and being subjected to invasive searches. We witness the humiliation and frustration that comes with being treated like a second-class citizen in your own homeland.
The film’s style and cinematography are essential to its storytelling. The camera work is simple yet effective, with long takes that allow us to immerse ourselves in the characters’ emotions. The use of close-ups and tight framing helps to create a sense of claustrophobia and tension, reflecting the oppressive atmosphere of the West Bank.
One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Yusef and his daughter are confronted by a group of Israeli soldiers who refuse to let them pass through a checkpoint. The tension is palpable, and we feel Yusef’s frustration and anger as he tries to reason with the soldiers. It’s a heartbreaking moment that highlights the power dynamics at play in the West Bank.
Overall, The Present is a must-see documentary that sheds light on an issue that is often ignored by the mainstream media. It’s a film that will leave you feeling angry, sad, and frustrated, but also hopeful that change is possible. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in human rights, social justice, and the power of cinema to make a difference. This film would be particularly impactful for those who are unfamiliar with the Palestinian struggle and want to learn more about it.
White Eye is a powerful and thought-provoking documentary directed by Tomer Shushan and Shira Hochman. The film is centered around a man named Omer who witnesses his stolen bicycle being ridden by a foreign worker named Yunes. Omer confronts Yunes and calls the police, but as the situation escalates, Omer begins to question his actions and the implications of his privilege.
The film’s style and cinematography are masterful in their ability to convey the emotional weight of the story. The entire film takes place in one continuous shot, creating a sense of urgency and tension as the viewer watches the events unfold in real-time. The camera work is also incredibly intimate, capturing the subtle nuances of the facial expressions and body language of the characters.
One scene that stands out, in particular, is when Omer tries to get his bicycle back from Yunes, but the bike has already been sold to another man. The camera follows Omer as he desperately tries to track down the new owner, ultimately leading him to a scrap yard where the bike has been dismantled. This scene is incredibly poignant, as it highlights the devastating consequences of Omer’s actions and the impact they have on Yunes.
Overall, White Eye is a must-see film that offers a powerful commentary on privilege, immigration, and social justice. While the film’s subject matter is heavy, it is handled with sensitivity and nuance, making it a deeply moving and impactful viewing experience. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in thought-provoking documentaries and social justice issues.
This film would be particularly impactful for those interested in issues of immigration and social justice. The single-shot format and intimate camera work may appeal to fans of experimental or art-house cinema.
Documentary Short Films
Colette is a powerful documentary that follows the journey of a 90-year-old French resistance fighter named Colette Marin-Catherine. Directed by Anthony Giacchino and Alice Doyard, the film explores Colette’s emotional journey as she revisits the concentration camp where her brother died during World War II.
The film’s visual style is both intimate and haunting, with sweeping shots of the French countryside juxtaposed with close-ups of Colette’s weathered face. The filmmakers use archival footage and photographs to transport the audience back in time, giving us a glimpse into the horrors of the Nazi regime.
One of the most poignant scenes in the film is when Colette meets a young German man who is working to preserve the memory of the concentration camp. Despite her initial reluctance, Colette forms a bond with the man, and they both come to the realization that they share a common goal: to ensure that the atrocities of the past are never forgotten.
The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by allowing the audience to experience Colette’s journey on a visceral level. The filmmakers use music sparingly, allowing the natural sounds of the environment to create an immersive experience for the viewer.
Overall, Colette is a must-see documentary that is both heartbreaking and inspiring. The film’s message of forgiveness and reconciliation is more relevant now than ever, and Colette’s story serves as a reminder that we must never forget the atrocities of the past. I highly recommend this film to anyone who is interested in history, human rights, or the power of forgiveness.
A Concerto Is a Conversation
A Concerto Is a Conversation, directed by Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers, is a 2020 documentary that explores the life of Horace Bowers Sr., a successful entrepreneur and community leader in South Los Angeles, and his grandson, Kris Bowers, an award-winning pianist and composer. Through a series of interviews and personal stories, the film explores the impact of Horace’s life and the legacy he has left for his family and community.
The film’s style and cinematography contribute greatly to the storytelling, as it seamlessly blends interviews with archival footage, family photos, and scenes of Kris composing music for his grandfather’s story. The use of black and white footage and close-ups of the subjects’ faces adds a personal and intimate feel to the film, allowing the audience to connect with the characters on a deeper level.
One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Horace recalls his experience of moving from the segregated South to California and the racism he faced. His story is intercut with footage of Kris composing a piece of music inspired by his grandfather’s journey. The scene is both emotional and inspiring, showcasing the resilience and strength of the human spirit.
Overall, A Concerto Is a Conversation is a beautifully crafted film that explores themes of family, community, and legacy. The film’s message of hope and perseverance is inspiring, and the music composed by Kris Bowers adds an additional layer of depth to the storytelling. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in documentaries that explore the human experience and the power of family and community. It is a must-see for music lovers, history buffs, and anyone looking for a thought-provoking and uplifting film.
Do Not Split
Do Not Split is a powerful and timely documentary that follows the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019. Directed by Anders Hammer and produced by Charlotte Cook, the film captures the spirit of the protesters and the brutal tactics used by the police to suppress their movement.
The film opens with a scene of protesters marching through the streets of Hong Kong, waving flags and chanting slogans. We are introduced to several key figures in the movement, including Joshua Wong, a young activist who has become the face of the pro-democracy movement, and Denise Ho, a singer and actress who has become an outspoken critic of the Chinese government.
The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by capturing the intensity and chaos of the protests. The filmmakers use handheld cameras to create a sense of immediacy and urgency, putting the viewer right in the middle of the action. The use of slow-motion and close-ups also helps to emphasize the emotional impact of certain scenes.
One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when the police storm a university campus where protesters have taken refuge. The footage shows the police firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the students, who are armed with makeshift weapons and barricades. The scene is chaotic and harrowing, and it highlights the extreme violence used by the police against the protesters.
Another standout moment in the film is when Denise Ho gives a speech at the United Nations, calling for international support for the pro-democracy movement. The scene is a reminder of the global implications of the protests and the importance of standing up for human rights and democracy.
Overall, Do Not Split is a must-see documentary that provides a powerful and intimate look at the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The film is a reminder of the importance of freedom and democracy, and the bravery of those who are willing to fight for it. I highly recommend this film to anyone interested in politics, human rights, or social justice.
Hunger Ward is a powerful and heart-wrenching documentary that shines a light on the devastating humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Directed by Skye Fitzgerald and Michael Scheuerman, the film takes viewers on a journey into the heart of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, where millions of people are suffering from starvation and malnutrition.
The film primarily focuses on two brave women, Dr. Aida Alsadeeq and Nurse Mekkia Mahdi, who work tirelessly to save the lives of children suffering from severe malnutrition. Their courage and determination to save lives in the face of overwhelming odds is nothing short of inspiring.
The film’s visual style is stunning, with breathtaking cinematography that captures the beauty of Yemen’s landscape while also highlighting the stark reality of the crisis. The filmmakers use a mix of intimate interviews and powerful footage to tell the story, and the result is a film that is both informative and emotionally impactful.
One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Dr. Alsadeeq and Nurse Mahdi try to resuscitate a severely malnourished infant who is on the brink of death. The scene is both heartbreaking and hopeful, as the two women work tirelessly to save the child’s life.
Overall, Hunger Ward is a must-see documentary that sheds light on one of the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises. The film’s style and cinematography are expertly crafted to draw viewers into the story and convey the urgency of the situation. I highly recommend this film to anyone who wants to learn more about the crisis in Yemen and the incredible people who are working to save lives in the face of overwhelming odds. This film would be particularly relevant to anyone interested in humanitarian issues or global politics.
A Love Song for Latasha
A Love Song for Latasha is a powerful and emotional documentary that tells the story of Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old African American girl who was fatally shot by a Korean convenience store owner in Los Angeles in 1991. Directed by Sophia Nahli Allison and Janice Duncan, the film explores Latasha’s life and the circumstances that led to her tragic death, as well as the impact that her death had on her family and the community.
The film is told through a combination of archival footage, interviews with Latasha’s family and friends, and poetic visuals that capture the essence of her life and the world she lived in. The cinematography is stunning, with vibrant colors and dreamy landscapes that evoke the beauty and pain of Latasha’s life.
One of the most powerful scenes in the film is when Latasha’s aunt talks about the day of her funeral, and how she felt a sense of anger and sadness that her niece’s life was cut short. Another poignant moment is when Latasha’s mother talks about the pain of losing her daughter, and how she wishes she could have been there to protect her.
The film’s style and cinematography contribute to the storytelling by creating a sense of intimacy and connection with Latasha and her family. The use of archival footage and poetic visuals helps to bring Latasha’s story to life and to honor her memory.
Overall, A Love Song for Latasha is a moving and powerful documentary that sheds light on an important moment in American history. It is a must-see for anyone interested in social justice, racial equality, and the fight for human rights. I highly recommend this film to anyone who wants to learn more about Latasha’s life and the impact that her death had on her community. This film is suitable for all audiences but may be of particular interest to those who are interested in African American history and culture.
2021 Oscar Short Film Winners
Live Action – Two Distant Strangers
Animated – If Anything Happens I Love You
Documentary – Colette