Guide to the 8 Documentary Shorts Named to 2013 Oscar Shortlist


The Oscar season is officially underway this week with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences kicking off their shortlist announcements. A few days ago brought some positive news to the nonfiction world with the docs The Missing Picture and More Than Honey (and dramatic nonfiction titles including Wajda’s Walesa: Man of Hope, Lines of Welington, Stalingrad, The Butterfly’s Dream and The German Doctor) being named as a Best Foreign Language contender. And today we have news on one of the two documentary specific categories: Best Documentary Short Subject.

I always feel a little bad about this shortlist, because there are eight titles selected and five of them go on to become nominees. That means only three of the following titles are not going to make it. With it that close, those few shorts shouldn’t think of themselves as losers come January 16th. They should still feel pretty honored.

Looking at the list of films, only one of which I’ve seen, it’s a hard bunch to predict from. They’re more varied, more original than in recent years. And compared to last year’s group especially there are a lot of newcomers here. Not just filmmakers who haven’t been nominated or won in the past but straight first-time filmmakers. There is Oscar vet Malcolm Clarke, though, who won in 1989 and was nominated again in 2003. Good luck to all in this tough race.

Interestingly enough, only one of the Oscar shortlisted films overlaps with this year’s Cinema Eye Honors shortlisted doc shortsSLOMO.

Below are the eight shortlisted titles with details and trailer (or full film in the case of Jujitsu-ing Reality).


39 min.
Directed and produced by Jeffrey Karoff
Cinematography by Anghel Decca (No Direction Home: Bob Dylan)
Subject: Ra Paulette, an artist who carves into sandstone cliffs in New Mexico, as he works on a ten-year “Magmum Opus.”
Winner of awards at the Newburyport Doc Film Festival, Maui Film Festival, San Antonio Film Festival and ECU The European Independent Film Festival
Official Website

Facing Fear

Jason Cohen Productions, LLC
23 min.
Directed and produced by Jason Cohen
Edited and co-produced by T.M. Christopher (Star Wars Trilogy Special Editions)
Cinematography by Svetlana Cvetko (Inside Job)
Subject: The reconciliatory friendship of Matthew Boger and Tim Zaal, the latter a former neo-Nazi who beat the former almost to death 25 years later for being a gay teenager.
Winner of the audience award for doc short at Outfest Los Angeles
Official Website

Jujitsu-ing Reality

Sobini Films
15 min.
Directed and edited by Chetin Chabuk (co-producer and assistant editor of Koran By Heart)
Produced by Mark Amin, Diane Becker, David Higgins, Lloyd Segan and Cami Winikoff (all of Sexy Evil Genius)
Narrated by Seth Green in the words of David Lew
Subject: David Lew, a screenwriter with ALS who is fully paralyzed as he works on the script for Sexy Evil Genius
Winner of the audience award for doc short at the Newport Film Festival
Full film:

Karama Has No Walls

Hot Spot Films
26 min.
Directed, produced and edited by Sara Ishaq
Subject: 2011 Yemeni revolution, specifically the tragedy of March 18th, the Friday of Karama, when snipers killed 53 protestors and injured thousands more.
Winner of awards at Edindocs, Arab Film Festival and United Nations Association Film Festival
Official Website

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life

Reed Entertainment
39 min.
Directed, produced and written by Malcolm Clarke (1989 Oscar winner for You Don’t Have to Die and 2003 nominee for Prisoner of Paradise)
Subject: Alice Herz Sommer, aged 109, the oldest Holocaust survivor and pianist in the world.
Official Website
Watch in full on Vimeo On Demand

Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Prison Terminal LLC
40 min.
Directed and produced by Edgar Barens
Produced by Lisa Heller (senior producer for HBO on Oscar winner Saving Face and nominee Mondays at Racine)
Edited by Geof Bartz (Emmy winner for Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth, In Memoriam: New York City and Lifeline)
Subject: A terminal prisoner at the Iowa State Penitentiary during his final months.
Official Website
Trailer: [not embeddable, watch on Vimeo]


notrac productions
13 min.
Directed, edited and written by Nathanael Carton
Subject: Tsunami survivors in Japan whose community is remembered through photographs found in the debris.


Big Young Films and Runaway Films
18 min.
Directed and produced by Joshua Izenberg
Produced by Amanda Micheli (2008 Oscar nominee for La Corona)
Subject: Dr. John Kitchin, a depressed neurologist who quits his practice to rollerblade on the boardwalk of Pacific Beach
Winner of the jury prize for doc short at RiverRun and the audience award for doc short at the Ashland Independent Film Festival
Official Website

(Editor in Chief)

Christopher Campbell is the founding editor of Nonfics.