The 2018 Academy Awards received a total of 77 entries for the Documentary Short Film category. In order to qualify short films need to have a running time of no more than 40 minutes and must adhere to the Oscars’ rules of entry. The films then go through a selection process by the Branch Nominating Committees who vote for the top 10 movies out of all the entries. From those 10 nominees, they choose the top 5 which then are subject to one more vote to decide on the overall winner. This year’s best documentary short was Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405.
Now that they are available on general release, let’s take a look at what these films were about and why you need to watch them.
The film was recognized and awarded the Short Film Jury Award at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. This film tells the love story between director Garrett Bradley’s friend Aloné and her boyfriend Desmond, who gets arrested and jailed. The story offers a critical view on love and on the hardships of separation.
A Best Documentary Award winner at 2017 Palm Springs International Shortfest 2017. The film was also scored well with the critics at the Camden Film Festival and at the Hamptons International Film Festival. Edith and Eddie became famous as the oldest American interracial couple to get married in the United States.
A two-time winner at the 2017 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, where it won the Jury Award and the Audience Award for Best Short Film, this amazing film also triumphed at this year’s Oscars.
The film is about Mindy Alper a brilliant but tortured artist. The story examines her works as well examining how she copes with overcoming depression and isolation. Her story is a fascinating tale of how this sensitive woman managed to emerge from this darkness to find love and laughter once again.
Premiering at the 2017 Telluride Film Festival, this film was directed by Peabody award-winning filmmaker Elaine McMillion. It is set in Huntington, West Virginia, a place that became famous as the center of America’s modern opioid epidemic. At one time, Huntington had an overdose rate 10 times the national average. The movie follows the town as it attempts to battle to help those affected by addiction. From individuals such as Fire Chief Jan Rader, who has to frequently help revive overdose victims, to Judge Patricia Keller who presides over the town’s drug court, the film paints a harrowing picture of how drugs destroy people’s lives.
In the Ga language, Kayayo means “Girl Carrier” and refers to the women who carry baskets on their heads. Set in Ghana, this film tells the story of the young girls who are serving as a Kayayo. Today, over 10,000 young girls work as human carriers in Ghana’s markets carrying the goods on their heads to and from the markets. The story focuses on Bamumu, an 8-year-old child who is working away from her home. She has not seen her family for several years and her story reflects how harsh the life of a Kayayo can be.
This touching film follows a French restaurant that is staffed by men and women who have just been released from prison. It documents the many challenges that the staff face, especially given that most don’t know how to cook. It is an interesting film that highlights how much of a struggle that life after jail can be. The film won the Best Documentary Short at the 2017 Traverse City Film Festival.
The film is about Eva Schloss, who is an Auschwitz survivor, and documents her journey through recording her memories of this horrific time as part of the USC Shoah Foundation project. This project aims to record these stories for future generations and also hopes to help with the rehabilitation of the survivors. The film premiered at 2017 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. It was directed by an Emmy-award winning filmmaker Davina Pardo.
Ram Dass has been a popular and known cultural icon for the last three generations. This documentary catches up with him in Maui where he discusses major milestones in his journey from early drug addiction to his later spiritual transformation. The film was part of the Official Selection at the 2017 Mill Valley Film Festival and Mountain Film Festival.
Arguably the most bizarre entry in this year’s Academy Awards is Ten Meter Tower. It documents the challenge of taking a dive from a 10-meter diving tower. It examines how fear affects us as human beings and how we are limited by it. A total of 43 people agree to try to overcome their fears and jump from the tower, not all make it. This picture was screened at the 2016 Götenborg Film Festival and the 2017 Sundance Film Festival where it won much critical acclaim.
26-year-old Breaion King is an African-American school teacher in Austin, Texas. She became famous after a routine traffic violation stop turned into a nightmare. The incident was caught on the police vehicle’s dashcam and horrified a nation. After being repeatedly thrown to the ground and handcuffed, she decided to challenge the cop on her way to jail about the issue of race.
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