top of page

The Oscars 2024: Short Film Nominees and How Accessibility Is Changing

On Sunday 10th March, A-listers will be stepping onto the velvety red walk at the Ovation Theatre in Hollywood for the 96th annual Academy Awards. Zendaya, Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie will all be there. And walking that same carpet, full of hope and apprehension, will be filmmakers from the 15 nominated live-action, documentary and animated short films.


We’re going to get into the changing face of the short film landscape at awards season and the accessibility of these films to film lovers everywhere. First, let’s look at the Oscar nominated films for 2024…


Live-Action Short Films


The After

Misan Hamman & Nicky Bentham



Starring David Oyelowo, The After follows a car-share driver who is struggling to come to terms with his grief after witnessing a violent and unprovoked attack. But after picking up a passenger that resembles the person he lost, Dayo is forced to confront the past. 



The Invincible 

Vincent Rene-Lortie and Samuel Caron



Inspired by true events, Invincible recounts the last 48 hours in the life of Marc Antonine-Barnier, a 14-year-old boy on a desperate quest for freedom. 





Knight of Fortune

Lasse Lyskjaer & Christian Norlyk



The loss of a loved one, the grief, the risk of yellow skin, and a coffin. That is too much for Karl to face. 



Red, White and Blue

Nazrin Choudhury & Sara McFarlane



Red, White and Blue follows a poor single mother who must go out of state for a necessary abortion.





The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

Wes Anderson and Steven Rales


The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar chronicles a variety of stories, but the main one follows the titled character, who can see through objects and foresee the future with the help of a book he stole. 


Animated Short Films


Letter To a Pig

Tal Kentor & Amit R. Gicelter



A Holocaust survivor reads a letter to a pig who saved his life. A young schoolgirl hears his testimony in class and sinks into a twisted dream where she confronts questions of identity, collective trauma, and the extremes of human nature. 





Ninety-Five Senses

Jared Hess and Jerusha Hess


An ode to the body’s five senses delivered by a man with little time left to enjoy them. 



Our Uniform

Yagane Moghaddam



An Iranian girl unfolds her school memories on the wrinkles and fabrics of her old uniform. 





Pachyderme 

Staphanie Celement


Just like every summer, Louise is sent to her grandparents for a couple of days for a vacation in the country. She experiences the grass of the garden, swimming in the lake, fishing with Grandpa – everything seems as sweet as Grandma’s strawberry pies. But this year, snow will fall in summer and a monster will die. 





WAR IS OVER! Inspired By the Music of John and Yoko

Dave Mullins & Brad Booker



Set in an alternative reality, where WWI rages on, two soldiers on opposite sides of the conflict play a joyful game of chess. A heroic carrier pigeon delivers the soldiers’ chess moves over the battlefield as the fighting escalates. 


Documentary Short Films


The ABCs of Book Banning

Sheila Nevins & Trish Adlesic 



Over 2000 books have been removed from school districts in the US – what toll will this have on future generations as they’re being deprived of their right to read and learn about the complex world. Interviews with children and authors shed light on this dangerous precedent. 



The Barber of Little Rock

John Hoffman & Christine Turner


The Barber of Little Rock explores America’s widening racial wealth gap through the story of Arlo Washington, a local barber whose visionary approach to a just economy can be found in the mission of People Trust, the non-profit community he founded. 


Watch the film below.



Island in Between

S. Leo Chiang & Jean Tsien



From Taiwan’s frontline amid rising tensions with China, filmmaker S. Leo Chiang weaves lyrical glimpses of local life with his own struggles negotiating ambivalent bonds to Taiwan, China and the US.  



The Last Repair Shop

Ben Proudfoot & Kris Bowers



The Last Repair Shop tells the story of four unassuming heroes who ensure no student is deprived of the joy of music. It also stands as a reminder of how music can be the best medicine, stress reliever and even an escape from poverty. 



Nai Nai & Wai Po

Sean Wang & Sam Davis



Nai Nai is my grandma. Wai Po is also my grandma. Together, they are a super team that dances, stretches, and farts their sorrows away. 




So, those are the nominees for the best Live-Action, Animation and Documentary Short Film categories – which ones are you betting on?! 


Over the last decade and a half, the establishment of forums such as YouTube and Vimeo and subsequently platforms like Omeleto and Short of the Week, among others, short film has gained more and more traction as an entertainment medium. Long viewed as ‘practice film’ or the medium filmmakers operate in until they can graduate to feature film, the perception of what short film is and what it can be has expanded massively. This has been fuelled, in no small part by the ‘democratisation’ of filmmaking, with high-end camera, sound and post production resources becoming available to productions operating on extremely low budgets. This has meant that the standard of filmmaking and level of ambition in the short film space has exploded, while simultaneously becoming available to its biggest audience ever thanks to online access. 


A constant throughout the evolution of short film has been the emergence of high level awards contenders from the film festival circuit. With BAFTA and Oscar qualifying festivals like Leeds International Film Festival, Bolton Film Festival, Rhode Island Film Festival and a host of others, short film representation on the largest awards platforms would largely come from the film festival arena. 


In recent years, however, another source of awards nominations has emerged in the short film space - Netflix. Since 2016’s Documentary Short Subject Academy Award winner The White Helmets, Netflix has been an ever-present fixture in the short film categories. The animation category, which had been the domain of Disney/Pixar for numerous years, Netflix offerings like Robin Robin and 2021 winner If Anything happens I Love You, have pulled focus towards the streamer. Netflix also emerged with the winning hand in the live action category that same year with the incredibly powerful Two Distant Strangers, which tackled the Groundhog Day-esque experience of violence toward people of colour in America at the hands of the police. 


Another factor of change in the 2021 Academy Awards was the emergence of the celebrity-backed short film as an Oscar nominee with Oscar Isaac starring in The Letter Room. The following year saw the Riz Ahmed-starring semi-dystopian music video/short film The Long Goodbye walk away with the best live action short Oscar. Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuarón produced the 2022 live action short nominee Le pupille for Disney and this year’s nominees merge these two factors with Netflix fielding two nominees in the live action category. The After starring David Oyelowo and The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar directed by Wes Anderson with an all star cast fronted by Benedict Cumberbatch and featuring Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley among others are sure to command the majority of attention in this category. It is becoming evident that short film categories are becoming host to big names. They are also becoming more accessible to online audiences, with most of the short documentary category for the last several years being available via online platforms like YouTube. The emergence of the star-led Netflix short, has also meant that anyone with access to the world’s most subscribed streaming service has access to what will arguably be the front runners in their category. So, what does this shift mean for audience accessibility? 


How Accessibility to Oscar Nominated Shorts is Changing


To be eligible for an Oscar Nomination, a short film must have been theatrically screened to a paying audience in LA County for seven days or have won a competitive category in a qualifying film festival. Let’s rewind fifteen years ago, when the only way to access these short films was to have attended their theatrical release or a screening at a festival. This meant that films weren’t necessarily accessible for online audiences. 


In fact, quite controversially, back in 2013, five nominated Animated shorts were released on YouTube prior to the Academy Awards ceremony of that year. This led to a huge debate, which saw theatres threaten to remove the leaked films from their listings. But of course, the online community love scandals and so the shorts were watched and gained momentum. 


When Disney released their nominated short “Paperman” on YouTube and Hulu with an aim to reach a larger audience, other nominees followed suit. They then received a letter from the Chief Executive of Shorts International who instructed them to remove their films as online streaming was a threat to theatrical release. He also went on to say that the ‘Academy Award is designed to award excellence in the making of motion pictures that receive a cinematic release’


Now let’s head back to 2024, 11 years later. Eligibility for Oscar Nominations remains the same. But online streaming services, such as Netflix and Disney+ have transformed media consumption when it comes to high profile short films. And while there is nothing quite like the magic of the cinema, for many there is no fighting the allure of convenience. Case in point are the annual online TVOD releases of the Oscar nominated short films from Shorts TV. While they still conduct a theatrical release of the compilation of nominees, online releases on Amazon Prime, Apple and other online outlets has doubtless increased the visibility and accessibility of the short films up for the year’s top awards. This is a vital avenue for short films, that largely require “piggy-backing” on feature films to get that all important qualifying theatrical exhibition (see Pixar for examples). 


This all begs the question as to where that leaves the hard-working yet unknown filmmakers, who require competitive festivals to get their shot at Oscar glory. If they are now fighting the combined force of Disney, Netflix and stars like Wes Anderson, Riz Ahmed and David Oyelowo, are they facing the threat of being edged out of the category? Or is the presence of known names the missing element to making their work more visible to larger audience? 


With Oscar nominated short films being discovered by mainstream audiences online rather than at film festivals or LA County screenings, should the Academy be considering a change in eligibility? Moreover, with industry giants increasingly in the mix, would this help or hinder the grassroots filmmaker?


What do you think? Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts.

Comments


bottom of page