BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
THE CONSCIENCE OF NHEM EN
Nominated three times before and an Oscar winner in 1990 for his documentary short Days Of Waiting, Steven Okazaki went to Cambodia to research and shoot The Conscience Of Nhem En. The film explores issues of conscience and complicity in the story of a 16-year-old soldier who, during the late-1970s rule of the Khmer Rouge, was given the job of photographing 6,000 men, women and children before they were tortured and executed. Three survivors tell their stories in the film, one of four short documentaries produced by Okazaki - including 2005 documentary short Oscar nominee The Mushroom Club - that take a personal view of culture and history. Made by Okazaki's Berkeley-based Farallon Films, The Conscience Of Nhem En is set to screen on US cable channel HBO this year.
THE FINAL INCH
Looking at the push to eradicate an almost forgotten disease from the poorest corners of the world, The Final Inch follows a Unicef volunteer whose job it is to persuade reluctant Indian families to accept the polio vaccine. Irene Taylor Brodsky - whose previous films include Sundance audience award-winner and Producers Guild of America documentary award-winner Hear And Now and Emmy-winning CBS TV project The Rural Studio - directed for her Oregon-based company Vermilion Pictures, which produced in collaboration with Google.org, which hosts a blog about the anti-polio campaign. Shot with HD equipment to give it a cinematic style, The Final Inch will air in April in the US on the HBO cable network.
Director/producer Megan Mylan - whose previous films include Independent Spirit Award winner and Emmy nominee The Lost Boys of Sudan - made this 'real-world fairytale' about two children in rural India born poor and with cleft lips. The verite-style film follows the chrildren as they become patients of a hospital that provides free surgery to thousands each year. Made by non-profit documentary company Prinicipe Productions, the film had its world premiere at the 2008 Silverdocs Film Festival and is screening at the Boulder International Film Festival. It was nominated late last year for the International Documentary Association short film award. A US TV sale and a deal with an international sales company are pending.
THE WITNESS - FROM THE BALCONY OF ROOM 306
Produced by Margaret Hyde for the National Civil Rights Museum (Ncrm), The Witness recounts the last hours of civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King Jr through the recollections of the reverend Samuel 'Billy' Kyles, who was standing beside King when he was assassinated at a Memphis motel in 1968. Award-winning commercials and feature editor Adam Pertofsky - who last year made his feature directing debut with comedy thriller bgFATLdy - directed for Rock Paper Scissors, a Santa Monica-based commercials editing company. The Witness had its debut at the Ncrm last spring during the 40th anniversary commemoration of the assassination. It was named best documentary short at the 2008 Palm Springs International ShortFest and at the Cinema St Louis Film Festival. International sales are being handled by New Zealand-based Smiley Film Sales.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
LA MAISON EN PETITS CUBES
Japanese contender La Maison En Petits Cubes won the top prize at last year's Annecy International Animated Film Festival (where it also took the junior jury award). Director Kunio Kato, whose previous films include The Apple Incident, used drawn and 2D computer techniques, but no dialogue, to tell the wistful story of an old man in a gradually flooding world who looks back on his life. It is produced by Robot Communications, the Tokyo film, TV and commercials company where Kato works. The film's other honours include the Hiroshima award/audience award at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival and the best animation prize at the LA Shorts Fest. Together with the other animated and live-action short nominees, the film is on theatrical release in the US as part of the Oscar-nominated shorts programme from Shorts International and Magnolia Pictures. The programme is set to be available on iTunes in the US, UK and Canada later this month.
LAVATORY - LOVESTORY
This Russian short comes from writer-director Konstantin Bronzit, St Petersburg-based animation house Melnitsa and CTB Film Company, known internationally for Oscar-nominated live-action feature Mongol. Animated in black and white with occasional splashes of colour, it tells the humorous story of a lonely female lavatory attendant and her attempts to uncover the identity of her secret admirer. The dialogue-free film has won prizes including the Animated Eye award at last year's Aspen Shortfest, the grand prize at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, and a special prize at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival. Bronzit's previous award-winning shorts include Die Hard, At The Ends Of The Earth and The God. In 2004 he directed his first animated feature, Melnitsa's Alosha.
Six recent graduates of Gobelins l'ecole de l'image, a Paris photography, animation and multimedia school set up by the city's chamber of commerce and industry, collaborated to direct this French short. Julien Bocabeille, Francois-Xavier Chanioux, Olivier Delabarre, Thierry Marchand, Quentin Marmier and Emud Mokhberi used 3D computer animation for the colourful three-minute slapstick comedy about an octopus trying to keep his beloved out of the cooking pot. Distributed by Paris- and Tokyo-based Talantis Films, the short has won awards including the special international jury prize at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival, the best of show/audience prize at Siggraph, the Canal Plus family award at Annecy, and the best animation award at Imagina. It has had special screenings in the US at Lucasfilm Animation and Pixar.
The only US short nominated in the category comes from animation powerhouse Pixar and first-time director Doug Sweetland, a 15-year Pixar veteran who has worked as an animator or storyboard artist on features including Toy Story, Monsters, Inc and The Incredibles. Influenced in look and comic style by classic hand drawn cartoons such as the Bugs Bunny series, the computer-animated Presto is about a magician and his hungry bunny - both voiced, albeit non-verbally, by Sweetland - and their battle of wits over a carrot. The film was nominated for an Annie award last year and screened out of competition at festivals including Annecy, Siggraph, Ottawa and Hiroshima. It was released in cinemas worldwide with Pixar's animated feature Wall-E and included on DVDs of the film.
THIS WAY UP
Award-winning UK duo Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes - who make shorts, music videos, commercials and feature film title sequences as Smith & Foulkes - directed this 3D computer animated black comedy about the series of misfortunes that befalls a pair of undertakers on their way to the cemetery. The short was produced by London-based TV, film and commercial animation operation Nexus Productions with sponsors including BBC Films and French regional fund Arcadi (Charlotte Bavasso, producer of the film and co-founder of Nexus, is French and some key French talent was involved in the project). The film won a jury's special mention for best humour at the Animation Dreams Festival in Tallinn, the Shooting People comedy award at the London Short Film Festival, and the best in show award at the Siggraph Asia Computer Animation Festival. It is due to be broadcast in the UK by BBC1 and BBC3 and Canal Plus has acquired the TV rights for France.
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM
ON THE LINE (AUF DER STRECKE)
This German-Swiss co-production from writer-director Reto Caffi is a drama about a department store security guard (played by Roeland Wiesnekker) who is drawn to one of his co-workers but who makes a fateful decision that will affect both their lives. Cultural radio and TV journalist Caffi, whose six previous shorts include the award-winning Bus-Stop 99, made the film in 2007 at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne, where he was a post-graduate. Co-producers include Zurich-based commercials and music video company Blush Films and Swiss Television SF TV. Hamburg Shortfilmagency is distributing. The film was named honorary foreign film in the most recent Student Academy Awards and has earned festival honours including the international grand jury prize at the Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival and the best student film prize at Aspen Shortsfest.
MANON ON THE ASPHALT (MANON SUR LE BITUME)
Making their second short film together, Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont jointly wrote and directed this light French drama about a young woman (played by Aude Leger) who, when she is involved in a traffic accident, starts musing on her future, her lover and her friends. Marre, who studied law before becoming an assistant director on feature films, and Pont, who worked as an animator at Steven Spielberg's Amblimation in London before becoming a comic strip artist, previously made the short That Little Spark (La Petite Flamme). They are now working on a feature. Produced by La Luna Productions, Manon On The Asphalt has won prizes including the Cologne festival's international audience award, the Limoges festival's prix du public, and the best live action short award at the CFC Worldwide Short Film Festival.
THE PIG (GRISEN)
Dorte Hogh, writer of award-winning feature The Inheritance (Arven), makes her directorial debut with this Danish short, which she also co-wrote. The satire about tolerance and freedom of speech centres on a man facing surgery (played by The Celebration's Henning Moritzen), who finds comfort in a painting of a pig - until the painting is removed at the request of a Muslim patient's family. Producer Tivi Magnusson (The Lost Treasure Of The Knights Templar), who shares the nomination with Hogh, helped finance the film, produced by his M&M Productions. Based on a story by Norwegian author Lars Saabye Christensen, The Pig won the audience award for best short film at last year's Hamptons International Film Festival and best short film at the Miami International Short Film Festival.
Dealing with issues of guilt and responsibility in the Second World War, this German short centres on a mother who tells her son the Jewish neighbours are going on a journey to 'Toyland.' One morning she finds the neighbours have disappeared - and so has her son. Director and co-writer Jochen Alexander Freydank was born in what was then East Germany and began his career in fringe theatre before becoming a writer, director and editor of commercials, TV series and short films (including the award-winning Dienst). He is preparing for his first feature film as a director. Toyland was produced by Berlin-based Mephisto Film - which is also handling world sales - with backing from the German Federal Film Board and Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg.
Based on a recently published short story by novelist and screenwriter Roddy Doyle (The Commitments), this Irish entry mixes drama and comedy in the story of a nine-year-old African refugee trying to get through his first day at school in Ireland. Irish-American commercials and short film-maker Steph Green, who is developing feature projects on both sides of the Atlantic, wrote and directed for Dublin's Zanzibar Films. Dublin-based Network Ireland Television is handling international sales. Named best short film at last year's Irish Film and Television Awards, New Boy has won festival prizes including best narrative short at Tribeca, special mention - Generation kPlus at the 2008 Berlinale, and the special jury prize for short film in Seattle.