2023 Oscar Nominated Short Films (Part 3 of 3)

The 2023 Academy Award-nominated short films have been playing in theaters since February 17. ShortsTV has made the nominees in all three categories (animated, live-action, documentary) available to audiences every year since 2006. Visit the website here to learn more about the participating cinemas and how to purchase tickets. See them before the upcoming Oscars ceremony on Sunday, March 12.


The entries in this category briefed me about nature and human nature. Tales of misery often dominate this award. This year is more positive. Even the negative efforts have a silver lining. The best documentary shorts give us everything we need to know in 40 minutes or less and do it impartially. These accomplish that goal with varying results. I instinctively resist heavy-handed narratives, but a documentary should have a point of view. Thankfully there isn’t a clinker in the group as they are all interesting.

I’ve ranked these shorts in order for their ability to captivate.

INDIA / 41 MINS / 2022
Director: Kartiki Gonsalves

Bomman and Bellie are members of the Kattunayakar Tribe, a forest community that resides in the Mudumalai Forest Reserve in Tamil Nadu, India. They are elephant caregivers who rehabilitate injured, abandoned, and orphaned baby elephants. Their lives intersect when carrying out the duties of their life’s passion. They successfully raise two baby elephants, Raghu and Ammu, and become husband and wife in the process. It’s that last part that clinched it for me. The tender presentation of these majestic animals was enough, but adding the human drama of love to this portrait just puts it over the top. Yes, it’s manipulative but so what? The most feel-good entry of the program. My pick for what WILL WIN and SHOULD WIN.

UK / 25 MINS / 2022
Directors: Evgenia Arbugaeva, Maxim Arbugaev

The setting is on the Kara Sea coastline on the Yamal Peninsula in Russia. A lonely scientist waits patiently in a ramshackle hut on a remote beach. He’s there to witness a historical gathering of walruses that temporarily leave the water between foraging periods. Stunning cinematography highlights a breathtaking reveal. But don’t get too enamored by all the beautiful wildlife on display. There is a nefarious explanation for what we are witnessing. Not surprisingly, this phenomenon is blamed on climate change. Shrinking ice is the reason. Yet another reminder that human beings are the most dangerous threat to our ecosystem. I assume the conservationist-minded people who made this documentary are not being reprimanded.

USA / 30 MINS / 2022
Directors: Joshua Seftel

Islamophobia is the theme. Richard “Mac” McKinney is US Marine consumed with rage. After 25 years of military service that comprised multiple tours in Somalia and the Middle East, he has returned home to Muncie, Indiana. However, his hatred for Muslims persists. So much so that he plans to construct an improvised explosive device (IED) and set it off at the Islamic Center in town. His wife Dana and stepdaughter Emily are unaware of his intentions. The story takes an unexpected turn when he meets Afghan refugees Bibi Bahrami and her husband Dr. Saber Bahrami, as well as their fellow believers, which includes Muncie native Jomo Williams. What could have been a very dark story ultimately incorporates kindness and rehabilitation. That people can undergo a true conversion for the better is a powerful testament. However, the unsettling idea that if the Muslims hadn’t approached Mac in just the right way, they would be dead still lingers well after the happy ending.

USA / 39 MINS / 2022
Directors: Anne Alvergue, Debra McClutchy

Martha Mitchell was the wife of John N. Mitchell, United States Attorney General under President Richard Nixon. She became a whistleblower of sorts when her public comments and phone calls became a thorn in the side of the Nixon administration. She complains of allegedly being held captive in a California hotel. The portrait elevates the outspoken woman as a hero whose sanity was publicly and unfairly questioned at the time. This heavily relies upon having prior knowledge of the politics of this era. For example, what made Watergate such a scandal is never satisfactorily explained to the uninformed. It’s been over half a century. The opinion that Watergate was a bad thing is neither unique nor revelatory. Rather superficial at 39 minutes but a breezy watch of how Watergate affected this one wealthy socialite.

USA / 29 MINS / 2022
Director: Jay Rosenblatt

Director Jay Rosenblatt interviews his daughter every year on her birthday until age 18. Watching someone age before our eyes is inherently compelling. The edited compilation is acceptable, but I suspect the presentation would be mildly fascinating with almost any child. To truly transcend requires a director to ask cogent questions. It’s not happening here, folks. “What are dreams?” and “What is power?” are emblematic of the queries. The answers predictably change over time but not in any meaningful way. Social media is filled with viral videos of parents who feature their kids. Much of what I see is more riveting than this. Either more parents should submit their work for Oscar consideration, or Jay Rosenblatt is lucky. The filmmaker was recognized in this category last year for When We Were Bullies. That didn’t win, and I doubt this will either. Kudos for getting nominated again, though. Perhaps his next movie should be entitled How do you get an Oscar nomination?


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