It was an American banker and real estate mogul H. J. Whitley who opened the Hollywood Hotel in what is now downtown modern Los Angels, but at that point, the area was literally a ghost town with one shack yet now it is the site of the Dolby Theatre, which hosts the annual Oscars ceremony. Officially the Academy Award of Merit was founded by Louis B Mayer, head of MGM studios, in 1927, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was intended as a non-profit organisation with the goal of advancing the film industry. Twelve awards were presented at the dinner and 20 additional certificates of honourable mention were given to runners-up in each awards category. Now the Oscars have 24 categories best picture, actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress, directing, and original screenplay. From 1936 onwards shot films began to be included. Yet what most don’t always know is that without shots the world of full-length motion pictures simply would not exist. Find out more in Oscar and the Short.
The first Academy Award Ceremony took place on 16 May 1929 with tickets for the private dinner costing $5 and the presentation ceremony was hosted by the actor and president of the academy Douglas Fairbanks. These awards were in recognition of excellence in cinematic achievements of primarily American films, as assessed by the Academy’s voting membership.
Before Hollywood, before the awards, most films were made on the east coast of the USA and certainly came from more humble beginnings and certainly were not epics. The film world started of course with what we refer to as Shorts but initially lasted only a few seconds.
The very first films were on Thomas Edison’s kinetoscope, a device that allowed one viewer at a time to see a series of photographs on film telling a story or an action. These first films were filled with celebrities, current affairs and small exhibition shows. But like with everything, technology moved the world of film forward and the films got longer.
Georges Méliès 1902 short film A Trip to the Moon was one of the first of the longer ‘short ‘ films. A remarkable and internationally successful film about a group of astronomers who take a trip to the moon. It was seen as instrumental to other filmmakers because of the film makers use of innovation, editing and special effects techniques.
In Europe, two brothers created another style of cinema. They used a projector to display film sequences on a screen so that lots of people could watch them at once. So The Lumiere Brothers are commonly considered to have been the first to have shown the real power of cinema on audiences.
The story goes during the premiere of their film Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat (1895), members of the audience ran screaming from the movie theatre because they were so scared at the sight of a train coming straight towards them.
It is also important in the history of short films to understand such greats as Charlie Chaplin started his career in this medium, and it was visionaries like him that saw longer films would ultimately become popular. He made his last short in 1923 and then switched to making feature films.
Charlie Chaplin – Laughing Gas (1914) HQ FULL MOVIE
As longer films became more popular around the world increased demand bought the need for more complex stories and characters. And once the ‘talkies’ came along many short-form films were on the decline so short films moved into the world of animation.
These shorts were often shown before feature-length movies from the 1920s to the 1960s. Other styles of shorts often referred to as B movies were shown as a cinema package up until the 1980s.
Yet short films did continue well often in the form of experimental art films, think Andy Warhol’s Kiss 1963 or Antony Balch’s The Cut-Ups 1966, but it was another medium that would bring a whole new life to the short film. Music television. This literal explosion into most people’s living rooms via channels on TV like MTV acts like Michael Jackson was employing the services of A-list Hollywood directors to shoot their short video films.
One of the most famous music videos of all time it also became the first music video to be inducted into the National Film Registry. Running at 13 minutes, it was the most expensive music video of all time and was directed by John Landis, who wrote it with Michael. From this time on music videos would be an important industry with its own awards.
Today with technology bringing much cheaper options short films are still extremely popular, from experimental or as a traditional stepping stone towards full-length filmmaking, millions of shorts are still being made each year. Social media in many ways has made filmmakers out of us all, yet it’s fair to say very few will make it to be put forward for an oscar. However, below is a handful of shots all up for Hollywood’s grandest award.
The Red Suitcase
Luxembourg Airport. Late in the evening. A veiled 16-year-old Iranian girl is frightened to take her red suitcase on the automatic carpet. She keeps pushing back the moment to go through the arrival gate and seems more and more terrified.
Director Cyrus Neshvad’s short is a heartbreaking story of a 16-year-old Iranian girl who is visibly terrified after picking up her red suitcase at the airport. She is seen to be lost in thought and taking her time to leave the departure lounge. What awaits her on the other side of the automatic doors is even more daunting than we thought. This thought-provoking film has been shortlisted for the 2023 Oscars.
Stranger at the Gate
The next Oscar-shortlisted documentary short film STRANGER AT THE GATE tells the dramatic, timely story of a planned hate crime, about a former U.S. Marine who plans to bomb an Indiana mosque. When he meets an Afghan refugee and her family, the story takes a surprising turn towards friendship and compassion.
It shows the true story of U.S. Marine Richard “Mac” McKinney. After several tours of duty in the Middle East, McKinney was shattered and suffered from P.T.S.D. Blinded by fury, he plotted to attack a mosque in his hometown of Muncie, Indiana.
But when McKinney visited the mosque to gather information, he meets Afghan refugee Bibi Bahrami, a founder of the Islamic Center of Muncie, her physician husband Saber Bahrami, their son Zaki Bahrami, and Jomo Williams – a member of the Mosque with a generations-long African American family history in Muncie. They befriended him with kindness and love. Instead of committing an act of violence, he discovered a new sense of community and shared faith.
After McKinney became a member of the mosque, Bibi Bahrami and the other congregants learned of McKinney’s plan to bomb them, and they chose to forgive him. McKinney not only built friendships with his would-be victims, but he also converted to Islam, and subsequently became president of the mosque.
Next up comes Almost Home
Having lived aboard a cramped spaceship with his mother for two years, Jacob’s dream of returning home is finally about to come true. But as they close in on Earth, they receive word of a great danger that could put the teenager in mortal peril.
A coming-of-age sci-fi film by Nils Keller shares a story of a teenager who beats the odds and then faces a dangerous destiny. This breathtaking short won a student Academy® award and has been shortlisted for the 2023 Oscars®.
The Right Words by Adrian Moyse Dullin’s
Night Ride by Director Eirik Tveiten
When naive and romantic Mahdi is peer-pressured into confessing his love to Jada, a girl who doesn’t know he exists, his declaration becomes a public spectacle.
This film shares the story of two siblings who regularly humiliate each other on social media. On a crowded public bus, after school has let out, disparate groups of children tease each other as the city passes by their windows. There, a 13-year-old boy is egged on by his older sister to approach his crush. This wonderful short has been shortlisted for the 95th AcademyⓇ Awards.
A cold night in December. Ebba waits for the tram to go home after a party, but the ride takes an unexpected turn.
It shares the story of Ebba who is waiting for the tram, and an unexpected turn of events transforms the ride home into something uncomfortable and potentially violent. This important film has been shortlisted for the 95th Academy® Awards.
“This is wonderful news! I’m delighted that our film and our message receive this recognition! Big shoutout to my amazing producers Heidi and Gaute, and the whole crew for their remarkable work.”
Violinist Mitka plays in a Ukrainian restaurant with pianist Yegor. Nobody knows that Mitka is part of a Jewish partisan movement. When an opportunity arises to execute an attack on SS officers in the restaurant, Mitka puts his only friend Yegor’s life at risk.
Andreas Kessler’s film shows the extremes the Jewish community had to go to during the Holocaust to save themselves. Follow the story of a young violinist with a dark secret. This timely short has been shortlisted for the 95th Academy® awards after qualifying at the Cleveland International Film Festival.
“I am thrilled to be on the Shortlist of the 95th Academy Awards with my short film NAKAM. This is phenomenal and has been such an amazing journey so far! I want to thank the whole CAST and CREW and especially those who are in Ukraine right now. Thanks to you all. I am excited to share my film with so many people.”
And finally A Fox in the Night by Keeran Anwar Blessie, which is up for a BAFTA
A South London story in which opposites attract, appearances deceive and bravery reaps rewards. A beautiful story set in south London and shares an unlikely meeting of two young black men. This phenomenal short film has been longlisted for a BAFTA.
Keeran Anwar Blessie graduated from The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in 2018. Excited by telling stories with levity and a fresh perspective that led Keeran to write and direct his debut short film. This work has been nominated for a BIFA, Critics Circle Award and the Iris Prize.
The London Short Film Festival celebrates its 20th edition over nine days with packed programmes of short films, supplemented with panel discussions, Q&As and live performances will be held at the ICA from 20 to 29 January
Short films may not be long in length, but they carry just as much weight as their full-length cousins, as the above oscar contenders highlight.
Short films at the ICA more info here at Shortfilms
All films that get fully nominated for the awards will get theatre releases.
If you enjoyed reading Oscar and the Short why not read New Fable here