Film on exceptional artist makes list, along with short on would-be high divers
The Oscar race for documentary short subject is down to 10 films.
The Motion Picture Academy announced the shortlist on Monday, recognizing several films that were acquired or developed by New York Times Op-docs. Among them is 116 Cameras directed by Davina Pardo, the story of a Holocaust survivor who agreed to share her memories to create a 3-D interactive record. The process involved videotaping her interview with 116 cameras.
The New York Times Op-docs also made it onto the shortlist with Ten Meter Tower, directed by Maximilien Van Aertryck and Axel Danielson. The riveting film shows people on a 10-meter high dive platform as they try to muster the courage to leap into the pool below.
Our objective in making this film was something of a psychology experiment: We sought to capture people facing a difficult situation, to make a portrait of humans in doubt.
"Through an online advertisement, we found 67 people who had never been on a 10-meter (about 33 feet) diving tower before, and had never jumped from that high," the directors explained in their commentary for the New York Times. "We paid each of them the equivalent of about $30 to participate — which meant climbing up to the diving board and walking to its edge. We were as interested in the people who decided to climb back down as the ones jumping."
A third New York Times Op-doc made the shortlist: Alone, directed by Garrett Bradley, about a young African-American woman who becomes engaged to a man being held in a private prison in Louisiana.
Also earning a spot on the Oscar shortlist, Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405, a film directed by Frank Stiefel that centers on Mindy Alper, an artist who has struggled with depression and anxiety for most of her life.
Stiefel has nothing but praise for the central character in his film.
"She's the most human of us humans. She's the only interview subject that completely answered every question that I asked her without that 'governor' that we all have in our brains that wonders whether we're being smart and who's concerned about how we look or how we sound," he told Nonfictionfilm.com. "Just the very core of her is honest."
Edith+Eddie also claimed a spot on the top 10 list. The film by Laura Checkoway explores "America's oldest interracial newlyweds," as press materials put it. The nonagenarians at the center of the story are prevented from living out their lives together, despite their love for each other.
This is the full list of 10 short documentaries that made the Oscar shortlist:
“Alone,” The New York Times
“Edith+Eddie,” Heart is Red and Kartemquin Films
“Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405,” Stiefel & Co.
“Heroin(e),” A Netflix Original Documentary in association with The Center for Investigative Reporting, A Requisite Media Production
“Kayayo – The Living Shopping Baskets,” Integral Film
“Knife Skills,” TFL Films
“116 Cameras,” Birdling Films
“Ram Dass, Going Home,” Further Pictures
“Ten Meter Tower,” Plattform Produktion
“Traffic Stop,” Q-Ball Productions
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.