Guide to the 8 Documentary Shorts on the 2015 Oscar Shortlist

By  · Published on October 21st, 2014

Weary Traveler

This past weekend I was at the New Orleans Film Festival, serving as a juror for the event’s impressive documentary shorts program. Out of the 22 contenders, Oscar nominee Sari Gilman (King’s Point), Picture Motion’s Wendy Cohen and I awarded our prize to J. Christian Jensen’s White Earth, honoring the film “for its pure, harsh look at a devastating economic reality from the unlikely perspective of people on the sidelines who are most affected, as well as for its stunning, metaphoric cinematography and restrained, quiet editing,” One day later, Jensen had another, perhaps bigger reason to celebrate: his film was named to the 2014 doc shorts Oscar shortlist.

White Earth, which also won the Silver Medal in the documentary category at this year’s Student Academy Awards is the Stanford University alum’s MFA thesis film. It focuses on the oil boom of North Dakota, partially from the perspective of children, and it will be a fitting nominee alongside documentary feature hopeful The Overnighters (and Rich Hill if we could be so lucky). It’s joined by the seven films listed ahead of it alphabetically below. I’ve included trailers or full versions of the films and any significant info I could find about each of the shorts. The group is notable for having fewer Oscar vets than usual (only one is by a former Oscar nominee) as well as for being an especially bleak bunch – much disease and death and tragedies involving children.

Three to five of these will be named Oscar nominees on January 15th and the winner announced at the Academy Awards ceremony on February 22nd.

Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Perry Films/HBO
41 min. (according to HBO, though it must have been a wee bit shorter for qualification)
Directed by Ellen Goosenberg Kent (Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq)
Edited by Geof Bartz (Oscar noms Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall, Poster Girl and Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth and winners Big Mama and King Gimp) and Gladys Murphy (Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall)
Cinematography by Tony Hardmon (Detropia)
Subject: Counselors at the Veterans’ Crisis Line, which helps military vets deal with any of life’s troubles after returning home from service.
Official HBO site
Watch in full on HBO GO