This Year's Oscar Shortlisted Documentary Shorts and Where to Watch Them

9 out of the 10 are available to stream online right now.

In the Absence
Field of Vision

This week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences unveiled a number of shortlists for the 92nd Oscars, including those for the three short film categories (as well as the one for documentary feature). In this age of so many streaming options, there are plenty of ways to watch shorts online. Documentary shorts are particularly easy to find on the internet, via such platforms as the New York Times‘ Op-Docs and The Guardian, as well as Netflix, which won the Oscar this year and now has four titles vying for next year’s Academy Awards.

Below is a guide to the 10 documentary shorts on this year’s shortlist of the best of 2019. Although many in this category qualify by winning awards at film festivals around the world, a lot of them quickly arrive online to be viewed by millions of doc fans. It’s a great list, with only one title (my personal favorite doc short of the year, In the Absence) overlapping with those nominated at the Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards.

First, I want to give a shout out to one of the non-documentary films on the live-action short shortlist: The Neighbors’ Window, which you can stream free on Vimeo, is directed by three-time Oscar-nominated documentarian Marshall Curry, whose last effort recognized by the Academy was the doc short A Night at the Garden, shortlisted then nominated this year.

Now, to help you decide what five are most deserving, here are the shortlisted short docs along with a bit of info about each one and where they can be watched right now. Half of these semi-finalists will become real contenders when the nominees are announced on January 13, 2020. Oscar winners will be revealed on February 9, 2020.

After Maria

Directed and shot by Nadia Hallgren
Executive produced by Roger Ross Williams (whose own film The Apollo is one of the shortlisted doc features this year) and Ariane Wu

What it’s about: Puerto Rican women displaced by Hurricane Maria who form a bond in New York City.
Length: 37 minutes

Stream it now on Netflix.

Fire in Paradise

Directed by Zackary Canepari and Drea Cooper
Executive produced by Canepari, Cooper, and Ariane Wu

What it’s about: The devastating wildfire that took out the entire town of Paradise, California, in November 2018.
Length: 40 minutes

Stream it now on Netflix.

Ghosts of Sugar Land

Directed by Bassam Tariq (These Birds Walk)
Executive produced by Charlotte Cook and Laura Poitras (Oscar-winning director of Citizenfour)

What it’s about: Four Muslim Americans remembering their friend who became an extremist.
Length: 21 minutes
Oscar-Qualifying Festival Wins: Sundance and Hamptons

Stream it now on Netflix.

In the Absence

Directed by Seung-jun Yi (Planet of Snail)
Executive produced by Charlotte Cook, Laura Poitras (Oscar-winning director of Citizenfour), and Oh Hyun-Ju

What it’s about: The tragic sinking of a ferry carrying schoolchildren in South Korea in 2014.
Length: 28 minutes

Watch it via Field of Vision here:

Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)

Directed by Carol Dysinger
Executive produced by Colleen Conway Grogan, Liz Gateley, Marissa Grasso, Christine Kecher, Molly Thompson, and Orlando von Einsiedel (Oscar-winning director of The White Helmets and nominee Virunga)

What it’s about: Young Afghan girls learning to skateboard.
Length: 40 minutes
Oscar-Qualifying Festival Wins: Tribeca

Stream it now via A&E Networks.

Life Overtakes Me

Directed by Kristine Samuelson (Oscar nominee for the short Arthur and Lillie) and John Haptas
Executive produced by Bonni CohenLisa Kleiner-Chanoff, and Ariane Wu

What it’s about: Refugee children with Resignation Syndrome, which puts them in a coma-like state.
Length: 40 minutes

Stream it now on Netflix.

The Nightcrawlers

Directed by Alexandra A. Mora
Produced by Abigail Anketell-Jones, Doireann Maddock, and Joanna Natasegara (Oscar-winning producer of The White Helmets and nominee Virunga)
Executive produced by Carolyn BernsteinRyan HarringtonRebecca LichtenfeldLisa Marie Russo, and Sandra Whipman

What it’s about: Photojournalists in the Philippines exposing the murders caused by President Duterte’s war on drugs, as well as the murderers themselves.
Length: 40 minutes

Watch it via National Geographic here:

St. Louis Superman

Directed by Sami Khan and Smriti Mundhra
Executive produced by Fiona Lawson-Baker and Sheila Nevins

What it’s about: Bruce Franks Jr., an activist and now state representative from St. Louis, Missouri, as he overcomes political obstacles and personal trauma.
Length: 28 minutes
Oscar-Qualifying Festival Wins: Big Sky

Coming soon via MTV Documentary Films.

Stay Close

Directed by Luther Clement and Shuhan Fan

What it’s about: A Brooklyn fencer heading to the Olympics.
Length: 19 minutes

Stream now via NYT’s Op-Docs or via PBS’s POV.

Walk Run Cha-Cha

Directed by Laura Nix (The Yes Men are Revolting)
Executive produced by Davis Guggenheim (Oscar-winning director of An Inconvenient Truth), Nicole Stott, and John Turner

What it’s about: Two Vietnamese Americans rediscovering themselves through dance.
Length: 20 minutes

Stream now via NYT’s Op-Docs.

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.