What do you get when you mix a dumpling, animals in therapy, boys in the Quebec wilderness, a friendship between a nurse and an older woman, and a child’s memories of parental separation? You get three Canadian shorts, plus two more with Canadian creators, that are all nominated for top short film honours at the 91st Academy Awards. With only five films in total nominated in each of these categories—best Short Film (Live Action) and best Short Film (Animated) — Canada rules in this year’s short film race!
Best Live Action Short Film
The Oscar love begins with the best Short Film (Live Action) category. In the running are two Quebec films (both repped by Montreal’s h264 distribution). Jeremy Comte’s Fauve has screened at 120 festivals, taking home more than 65 awards, notably, a Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival; Best Drama at the Aspen ShortFest; and nine prizes (including Best Short Film and Best Director) at the 15th Gala Prends ça court! Fauve puts two young boys in the Quebec wilderness as they compete against nature, and each other. (Rumour has it that Comte is working on his debut feature, stay tuned!)
Marianne Farley’s Marguerite is about a friendship between a nurse (played by Sandrine Bisson) and the elderly Marguerite (Béatrice Picard). The titular character addresses memories and feelings thanks to this relationship. With 35 prizes and more than 70 fests under its belt, wins include Best Canadian Short Film at the Festival du film francophone en Acadie; Best Queer Short Film at the Provincetown International Film Festival; and Best Performance in a Short for Béatrice Picard at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival. Farley is busy co-producing her first feature, Les Nôtres, in which she also acts.
Best Animated Short Film
In the best Short Film (Animated) category, Vancouver’s Alison Snowden and David Fine’s Animal Behaviour puts a comedic twist on therapy, as animals with guilt, OCD, and separation anxiety have group therapy sessions. The married couple behind the TV series Bob and Margaret won the Oscar in this very category in 1994 for Bob’s Birthday. Their National Film Board-produced Animal Behaviour has screened at festivals from TIFF to VIFF, Edinburgh to Annecy, and more. Wins include Best Direction and Best Comedy at the Los Angeles Animation Festival and Audience Choice for Best Short Film at Court c’est COURT! in France. (Pssst! From February 11 to 24, the NFB will stream the flick for free on NFB.ca and some of its social platforms.)
Canadian creator Trevor Jimenez’s Weekends tells a personal tale spun from childhood memories of moving between his mom’s and dad’s homes after they split; a story with universal appeal, says this Pixar story artist in a behind-the-scenes video on the film’s website (here). Weekends takes place in 1980s Toronto and its prizes include Best Animated Short at the Warsaw Film Festival; Grand Jury Prize at the Nashville Film Festival; and Jury and Audience awards at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, to name a few.
Domee Shi’s Bao is about the relationship between mother, child… and dumpling who comes to life, much to the delight of an overprotective mother whose son is growing up. Set in Toronto, where Chineese-Canadian creator Shi grew up, Bao premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival, where it was nominated for Best Narrative Short, and hit theatres opening for the Incredibles 2 (one of the Pixar films on which Shi worked as a storyboard artist). Shi is the first woman to direct a Pixar short.
More Canadian nominations
Canadians have also been nominated in technical categories: Paul Massey for Sound Mixing in Bohemian Rhapsody, and Gordon Sim is in the running for best Production Design (nominated together with American John Myhre) for their work on Mary Poppins Returns.
The Oscars take place February 24, 2019!