The Oscars are months away, as are the nominations, but the Academy has named eight finalists for one category, Documentary Short Subject, which they’ve narrowed down from 35 qualified works. It’s a very short shortlist for these shorts, given there’s a good chance only three of them won’t make it to the nomination stage. But there could also be only three or four picked for the category; it doesn’t necessarily have to be five.
Six of the eight films are at least co-directed by previous Oscar nominees, including 2011 contender Lucy Walker, though no winners. Don’t expect just these past honorees to be selected, though, because one of the odd finalists is an important, topical award-winning doc concerning the Iraq War and WikiLeaks. The other is completely unknown to anyone (does it really exist?)
One significant short notably not named to the shortlist is Tim Hetherington’s “Diary,” but this does not mean it was snubbed, just maybe not qualified (anyone out there know?)
Check out the eight shortlisted titles with what pertinent info, awards and trailers I could find after the jump.
“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement” - A 25-minute film by (feature) Oscar nominee Gail Dolgin (“Daughter from Danang”) and Robin Fryday, which is of course about an 85-year-old barber from Birmingham, who was a major activist of the Civil Rights era. A 2011 Sundance selection and winner of the Best Short Documentary award at the 2011 Ashland Independent Film Festival. Watch the trailer here.
“God is the Bigger Elvis” - A 37-minute film by (feature) Oscar nominee Rebecca Cammisa (“Which Way Home”) for HBO. Previously titled “Mother Prioress.”
“In Tahrir Square: 18 Days of Egypt’s Unfinished Revolution” - A 36-minute film by (short) Oscar nominees Jon Alpert and Matthew O’Neill (“China’s Unnatural Disaster: The Tears of Sichuan Province”), which is of course about 18 days in Tahrir Square, from the beginning to the celebration.
“Incident in New Baghdad” - A 22-minute film by James Spione about a July 2007 incident in which American helicopters attacked and killed unarmed men plus two Reuters journalists. Winner of the Best Short Documentary award at both the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and the Rhode Island International Film Festival. Watch the trailer here.
“Pipe Dreams” - A 39-minute film by (short) Oscar nominee Leslie Iwerks (“Recycled Life”), also known better for directing “The Pixar Story,” about the environmental battle against the the Keystone XL Pipeline planned to intersect Midwest America. Daryl Hannah narrates. Watch the trailer here.
“Saving Face” - A film by (short) Oscar nominee Daniel Junge (“The Last Campaign of Governor Booth Gardner”) and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy for HBO about a plastic surgeon who reconstructs the faces of Muslim acid attack victims.
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” - A film by (feature) Oscar nominee Lucy Walker (“Waste Land”) about survivors of the Japanese tsunami picking up the pieces while blooming Cherry Blossoms grow out of the rubble and provide the people with a real life metaphor. Watch the trailer here.
“Witness” - A film I can’t find anything about, even through the listed production company, Buche.
Blind prediction: final nominees will include (or only be) “In Tahrir Square,” “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” and “Incident in New Baghdad.”
Nominations will be announced January 24 and the Academy Awards will be held February 26.
The shortlist for the Best Documentary Feature category will be announced in November.