Guide to the 10 Live Action Shorts on the 2013 Oscar Shortlist (Watch One of Them Now)

By  · Published on November 23rd, 2013

Yesterday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled the semi-finalists for the Oscar in the Live Action Short category, and to many fans’ chagrin the shortlist did not include Jonas Cuaron’s Aningaaq, the Gravity companion piece that also arrived online this week. So much for history being made (some thought the feature and its spin-off could win Best Picture and Best Live Action Short). I’d say that perhaps the voting branch didn’t have enough room in their hearts for two movies involving Inuit characters and preferred Miranda de Pencier’s Throat Song. But that’s also one of two shortlisted films dealing with spousal abuse, so clearly they’re okay with overlapping themes.

Rather than simply lay out the shortlist as it came to us from the Academy, with only title and director and no synopsis or other information, I’ve compiled a short guide to each of the contenders. Because it’s a more international group than usual (and yet not one Irish film for once!), some were harder to find details on than others, let alone trailers ‐ some of which were found but not subtitled in English. Only one of the ten appears to be available to watch right now (and that might change if it’s nominated, so watch asap), and another almost doesn’t even seem to exist yet and has been shortlisted on faith in the filmmakers alone.

If any others pop up online, even if it’s after the nominations are announced (on January 10, 2014) and its one of the losers, we’ll have to post them then since we do love shorts here at FSR. I’m especially interested in the mysterious one with the giant flying machine and the one written by the author of Cloud Atlas and the on set amidst the 1984 Sikh riots in India.

Has anyone seen any of these shortlisted films? Can anyone make some early guesses about which will advance to the nomination round?

Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me)

[23 minutes] Written and directed by Esteban Crespo, this film already won the 2013 Goya Award for Best Fiction Short, which is the Spanish equivalent of this particular Oscar category. The plot involves a child soldier from Sierra Leone and a Spanish woman in Africa to save kids like him, and it’s very much a drama with a message and a mission to raise awareness. The trailer below has no subtitles, but it also doesn’t have much dialogue.

Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything)

[29 minutes] Written and directed by Xavier Legrand, a French actor who is possibly best known (though hardly recognizable) for playing one of the kids in Au Revoir Les Enfants, “Babinot.” In his debut behind the camera, we meet three characters, a woman, a young boy and a teenage girl, who we slowly find out are a mother and her children, fleeing from an abusive husband/father. The short is produced by Alexandre Gavras, son of Costa-Gavras. There is no trailer available, but here is a dialogue-free making-of video:

Dva (Two)

[26 minutes] Written and directed by Mickey Nedimovic (another actor who’s moved behind the camera), this is the kind of film where you have a pair of enemies stuck together and united in the middle of a war. Here they’re on either side of the Croatian War, one Croat, one Serb, in 1993. The specific in this film is that the characters are joined atop a mine they’ve stepped on and need to work together to keep from exploding. There are no trailers or clips available, so here is an image from the film:


[Running time unknown] Directed by Anders Walter, this film has almost no presence on the Internet. The only information I can find is that it’s listed on actress Marijana Jankovic’s CV as a 2014 release, and you can see a sci-fi-ish still below. For all I know, it’s on the shortlist without even being finished. That doesn’t seem too impossible if you know that producer Kim Magnusson has been nominated four times in this category, and won the Oscar in 1999. His father, Tivi Magnusson, who founded M & M Productions (the company behind Helium), has been nominated twice and won in 2010. He and Walter were also shortlisted last year for 9 Meter, which you can watch here. UPDATE: Now we have a trailer for Helium (below) and a synopsis via the new Facebook page, which also features a bunch more stills from the film. It’s about a boy dying in the hospital and the imaginative stories told to him by a janitor of a fantasy world.


[20 minutes] Written and directed by Shubhashish Bhutiani, this Indian short won two prizes at this year’s Venice Film Festival, for best short and most innovative budget, and a special jury prize at the Hamptons International Film Festival for its ensemble cast. The plot follows a teacher returning with a bus full of 10-year-olds as she tries to protect the one Sikh student from being the victim of violence. The backdrop is the 1984 anti-Sikh riots following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if this one was nominated. Watch the trailer:

Pitääkö Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?)

[7 minutes] Written by Kirsikka Saari and directed by Selma Vilhunen, this one is a Finnish comedy set on Halloween morning and tells a brief tale of a mother who has to do everything herself. Watch the very quick trailer:


[10 minutes] Directed by Jesse Atlas, this clever sci-fi film was in this year’s Sundance shorts competition, and it won the award for best short at Fantastic Fest. It’s about a man who has lost a love, but he has a cassette tape documenting her last words and moments, and he listens to it regularly. Then one day his walkman breaks and his means of fixing it turns it into a kind of time machine. It’s kind of like Source Code but more romantic. Watch the whole film below.

Throat Song

[15 minutes] Directed by Miranda de Pencier (producer of Mike Mills’ Beginners), this film already won the 2013 Genie Award for Best Live Action Short Drama, which is the Canadian equivalent of this Oscar category. It tells the story of an Inuit woman in the Arctic whose new job brings inspiration to leave her abusive, alcoholic husband. There is no trailer or clips available, so here is a still:

Tiger Boy

[20 minutes] Directed by Gabriele Mainetti (another actor turned director), this Italian film is about a 9-year-old boy who constantly wears a mask like his hero, a wrestler called “The Tiger,” in order to find the courage to go up his abuser. Watch the official trailer, which isn’t subtitled, below.

The Voorman Problem

[13 minutes] Directed by Mark Gill and based on a story by David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas), this film was nominated for the BAFTA Film Award for Best Short ‐ the British equivalent of this category ‐ and stars Martin Freeman as a prison doctor examining the title character (Tom Hollander), a man who claims to be a god. Watch the trailer below.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.