Ranking the 2015 Oscar-Nominated Short Documentaries

Wow, leave it to the 2015 Oscar-nominated documentary short films to depress you all the way to near suicide. I’m not a huge fan of short films, but documentary short subjects are an exception–often offering a glimpse into something that feature-length documentaries normally wouldn’t bother with.

Here are the five Oscar-nominated documentary shorts, ranked in order of how I liked them:

5. The Reaper

About a man who works at a slaughterhouse, The Reaper failed to hold my attention. If intended to explore what life is like for someone who kills frightened animals for a living, there’s not a lot of meat–we’re primarily treated to statements like, “I only kill animals, because if I didn’t my family would starve.” Almost insightful, but not really.

4. Joanna

My girlfriend cried at this one, while I found it sort of slow and without substance. About a woman who is documenting her life for her son after finding out she only has three months to live, Joanna shows her doing just that. It’s not a poorly made film, but not one that really advanced my knowledge or expanded my perspective on anything in particular. Call me an unemotional asshole.

3. Our Curse

A Polish couple have to wrestle with the fact that their newborn son will, any time he sleeps, have to be hooked up to a ventilator to breathe–for the rest of his life. While visually plain, the film does adequately capture the anguish and dilemma the parents face, though sometimes the conversations between the two feel a bit forced, as if they were coached to say things in a certain way for the sake of the camera.

2. White Earth

White Earth follows three children and an immigrant mother who are impacted by an oil boom in North Dakota. An interesting look at life in a makeshift town–but not told from the perspective of environmentalists or even adults–White Earth is fairly memorable, if only for me wondering why that one little kid spends all day playing video games instead of going to school???

1. Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

By far the most powerful documentary on this list, this HBO doc brings to life the tense situations that occur at a suicide hotline center for veterans. Honestly, they could make a recurring show about this and it would never get old. Sad yet absorbing, Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 is the best Oscar-nominated documentary short of 2014.

While I’m never great at predicting these things, I think Oscar voters may agree with me here and go with Crisis Hotline.

By Erik Samdahl
Related categories: Awards & Oscars, Documentaries