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Oscars 2018: 10 Documentary Shorts Finalists

Like the nominees in the feature-length Best Documentary category, these 10 films feature an array of powerful subjects


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has unveiled the 10 finalists for the Documentary Shorts Oscar. The Academy’s Documentary Branch viewed this year’s 77 eligible entries and submitted their ballots for tabulation. This short list will lead to the five nomination definitive slots. Nominations for the 90th Oscars will be announced on January 23, and the ceremony is set for March 4 at the Dolby Theater.

Netflix doc The White Helmets, about the small group of volunteer heroes who defy death, dodging bombs and sniper fire, to rescue Syrians from the bombs, won last year among the 10 doc shorts that made the Oscars 2017 shortlist. Here are the 10 finalists, short films dealing with significant topics such as class inequality, family crisis and racism.

Alone by Garrett Bradley
Winner of the Short Film Jury Award in non-fiction at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, the documentary directed by Garrett Bradley follows Alone Watts, who becomes a single mother overnight when her partner is jailed. Shot in black and white, the film offers a “critical way of talking about love and the universal importance of love for all people,” Bradley told TheWrap.

Edith+Eddie by Laura Checkoway
Executive produced by Cher, the doc was awarded as Best Documentary at the 2017 Palm Springs International Shortfest and has screened at the Camden Film Festival and at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Edith Hill and Eddie Harrison’s love story snagged national headlines. Edith and Eddie, ages 96 and 95, are America’s oldest interracial newlyweds. Their relationship was disrupted when the two were separated by Hill’s family in a bitter family feud.

Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405 by Frank Stiefel
This documentary short follows artist Mindy Alper, who has spent her life creating remarkable works of art, despite a lifelong struggle with depression and anxiety. Alper has suffered through electro shock therapy, multiple commitments to mental institutions and a 10-year period without speech. Through an examination of her work and interviews, director Frank Stiefel explains how Mindy has emerged from a life of darkness and isolation to a life that includes love, trust and laughter. The film won both the 2017 Jury Award and the Audience Award for Best Short Film at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Heroin(e) by Elaine McMillion, Patrick Coker, Isaiah Mackson
Balancing doc and drama, suspense and crime, this Netflix production shows a different side of the fight against drugs – one of hope. The landscape is Huntington, West Virginia. Once a bustling industrial town, this place has become the epicenter of America’s modern opioid epidemic, with an overdose rate 10 times the national average. This flood of heroin now threatens this Appalachian city with a cycle of generational addiction, lawlessness, and poverty. Fire Chief Jan Rader spends the majority of her days reviving those who have overdosed; Judge Patricia Keller presides over drug court, handing down empathy along with orders; and Necia Freeman of Brown Bag Ministry feeds meals to the women selling their bodies for drugs. Directed by Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon (Hollow), the film premiered at 2017 Telluride Film Festival.

Kayayo – The Living Shopping Baskets by Mari Bakke Riise
Kayayo means “girl carrier” in the Ga language. In the capital of Ghana, 10,000 girls from the ages of 6 work as real life shopping carts carrying around large trays on their heads for women in the markets to put their goods in. This is the story of Bamunu, a 8-years-old girl who works to support her family. She hasn’t seen them for two years since she was sent away from home. Norwegian director Mari Bakke Riise followed Bamunu in her harsh life on the markets and on her journey back home and what awaits there. The film has screened at Dokfest München and 2017 INPUT Film Festival.

Knife Skills by Thomas Lennon
Director Thomas Lennon follows the hectic launch of Edwins restaurant in Cleveland. A very singular place, where the staff is almost entirely men and women just out of prison, people who have never cooked or served before, and have barely two months to learn their trade. Anthony Bourdain described it as “compelling, funny, heartbreaking and thoroughly human.” Winner of the Audience Award as Best Documentary Short at the 2017 Traverse City Film Festival.

116 Cameras by Davina Pardo
Davina Pardo is an Emmy award-winning filmmaker based in Brooklyn. Her film follows Auschwitz survivor Eva Schloss, as she goes through this unique process and reflects on how her role as a Holocaust speaker has changed over time. Premiered at 2017 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, 116 Cameras is part of a project by USC Shoah Foundation to transform survivors into 3D digital projections that will interact with generations to come.

Ram Dass, Going Home by Derek Peck
Brooklyn, New York-based filmmaker Derek Peck has made several intimate documentary portraits about notable cultural personalities, including Marina Abramovic and Peter Beard. Ram Dass is one of the most important authors and spiritual teachers of the last three generations and is approaching the end of life. Peck visited him at his home in Maui. In his mid-80s, Dass discusses major milestones in his journey, from early drug use to his spiritual education on visits to India, to a 1997 stroke that was “an act of grace” because it forced him inward. A lyrical meditation on life, death, and the soul’s journey “home.” Official Selection at 2017 Mill Valley Film Festival and Telluride Mountain Film Festival.

Ten Meter Tower by Maximilien van Aertryck & Axel Danielson
A curious and funny experiment on the human in a vulnerable position. A ten-meter diving tower. People who have never been up there before have to choose whether to jump or climb down. The situation itself highlights a dilemma: to weigh the instinctive fear of taking the step out against the humiliation of having to climb down. Without a classical story frame, 43 people are caught in the moment of challenging themselves between doubt and courage. The film has screened at 2016 Göteborg Film Festival and at 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Traffic Stop by Kate Davis
The story of Breaion King, a 26 year-old African-American school teacher from Austin, Texas who is stopped for a routine traffic violation that escalates into a dramatic arrest. Caught on police dashcams, Breaion is pulled from her car by the arresting officer, repeatedly thrown to the ground, and handcuffed. En route to jail in a squad car, she engages in a revealing conversation with her escorting officer about race and law enforcement in America. The doc premiered at the 2017 DOC NYC.


Alessandro Zoppo

Alessandro Zoppo

Editor-in-Chief @ Good Short Films

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