The 2017 Oscar Shorts Primer

This article was originally published at ComicBook.Com on February 21, 2017.

Each year the Oscars host 3 categories for short films, including animated, live action, and documentary. For many viewers none of them ring a bell, although many or all might look interesting. There’s not many places to check out these short films in theaters or time to make it happen, even at 6-40 minutes per movie. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth seeking out though. So in order to help ComicBook.Com readers figure out which short films they ought to try watching this year, we’ve created a brief primer.

In addition to listing titles, directors, run time, and a brief description, we’ve also selected the ones we expect to win and the ones we liked the most in each category. We hope you can use the slides ahead to pick a few new things to watch before the Oscars are here, and discover some of the great work being done in cinema from across the world.

2017-oscar-shorts-piper

Short Film (Animated)

Blind Vaysha

Directed by Theodore Ushev

Runtime: 8 Minutes

This tells the story of a young girl who can only see the past with one eye and the future with her other. Animated in a haunting style, it evolves to become more than an Eastern European fairy tale, but a metaphor for how we all see the world.

Borrowed Time

Directed by Gustavo Santoulalla

Runtime: 7 Minutes

This is a reminder that the Western isn’t dead, telling the story of an old cowboy remembering an early tragedy in his life. The simplest of all the animated shorts, it stands out with excellent imagery and emotional resonance.

Pear Cider and Cigarettes

Directed by Robert Valley

Runtime: 35 Minutes

The longest of all the animated shorts is a cartoonist’s memoir about the loss of a childhood friend who spent his entire life self-destructing in every way imaginable. It’s harsh, mean, and filled with difficult truths that resonate through careful selection of images and colors.

Pearl

Directed by Patrick Osborne

Runtime: 6 Minutes

Centered around a cheerful song about discovering home, this is a father-daughter story about the struggles of single parents and finding your place in the world. The music and heartwarming tale are bound to draw some tears from any parents in the audience.

Piper

Directed by Alan Barillaro

Runtime: 6 Minutes

Piper is both the likely winner and our favorite animated short at the Oscars this year. It’s the sweet, simple, and incredibly well told tale of a young sandpiper learning to find food for itself and become part of a community. Without a single word it touches on themes of family, fear, and creativity, effortlessly communicating it all through wonderfully animated animals.

*Most Likely to Win

*Our Pick to Win

2017-oscar-shorts-sing

Short Film (Live Action)

Ennemis Intérieurs

Directed by Selim Azzazi

Runtime: 27 Minutes

This French film focuses on modern fears of Islamophobia within governments as an Algerian man applying for citizenship is interrogated by state officials. Its claustrophobic surroundings and ties to the Red Scare and previous periods of government terror make it effective and timeless.

*Most Likely to Win

La Femme et le TGV

Directed by Timo von Guten

Runtime: 30 Minutes

Based on a true story, this is a comedy about an aging baker who finds romance and renewed interest in life from the bullet train that passes her house each day. It is quirky, funny, and uplifting, a surefire crowd pleaser.

Silent Nights

Directed by Aske Bang

Runtime: 30 Minutes

Silent Nights is a romance between a Ghanan refugee and Danish social worker who find love at the wrong time. It’s messy and complicated, and feels very real for those reasons, offering us characters that encourage understanding over moralizing.

Sing (Mindenki)

Directed by Kristof Deak

Runtime: 25 Minutes

Sing is the story of schoolchildren discovering the power of solidarity and confronting authority in the face of a music teacher who values winning over education. The children are incredibly well cast and make a small victory something worthy of a standing ovation. It is a film that teaches us to cherish one another and how even the minor moments in life can be celebrated.

*Our Pick to Win

Timecode

Directed by Juanjo Giminez

Runtime: 15 Minutes

Utilizing security cameras to capture an oddball romance between two guards, Timecode is a comedy filled with dancing and laughter. It’s a great use of the short time frame in this category and ends on a killer final joke.

2017-oscar-shorts-the-white-helmets

Documentary (Short Subject)

Extremis

Directed by Dan Krauss

Runtime: 24 Minutes

This hospital documentary tackles the very difficult subject of families making end of life decisions. It captures the ethical and emotional trauma confronting doctors, families, and the dying with understanding, never judgment. It is a significant reminder of the need for planning around even the most terrible of subjects.

4.1 Miles

Directed by Daphne Matziaraki

Runtime: 26 Minutes

Focused on a Greek coast guard captain, 4.1 Miles documents the struggle of residents on Lesbos to save refugees fleeing Syria across the 4.1 mile stretch of water between Turkey and Greece. It is an unflinching documentary that forces the audience to bear witness to the human toll of a humanitarian crisis.

Joe’s Violin

Directed by Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen

Runtime: 24 Minutes

Joe’s Violin is by far the most uplifting of all the short documentaries. It tells the story of a Holocaust survivor’s violin donated to a school in Brooklyn, showing how music can continue to save people and connect generations. It’s a valuable reminder of our shared humanity and how small acts of kindness can change the world.

*Most Likely to Win

Watani: My Homeland

Directed by Marcel Mettelsiefen

Runtime: 40 Minutes

Filmed over several years, this documentary follows a family from their struggles in Aleppo to becoming successful refugees in Germany. While the story is still filled with tragedy, the ultimate outcomes of the story offer hope and encouragement in the face of terrible circumstances.

The White Helmets

Directed by Orlando von Einsiedel

Runtime: 41 Minutes

This documentary is currently available on Netflix and we encourage you to seek it out as it’s not only the best of the short documentaries, but one of the best films nominated for an Oscar this year. The White Helmets documents a group of volunteers in Syria who work to rescue people from the many bombings caused by Russian, ISIS, and government forces. In the face of overwhelming odds and terror, they dedicate themselves to saving lives and offer an incredible message about human bravery and goodness. The White Helmets is not only a great documentary, it is an essential one.

*Our Pick to Win

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About chasemagnett

Chase is a mild-mannered finance guy by day and a raving comics fan by night. He has been reading comics for more than half of his life (all 23 years of it). After graduating from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln with degrees in Economics and English, he has continued to research comics while writing articles and reviews online. His favorite superhero is Superman and he'll accept no other answers. Don't ask about his favorite comic unless you're ready to spend a day discussing dozens of different titles.
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