Student Short Oscars Student Short Oscars

In our third article dedicated to the 2023 Academy Award for best animated short film race, we’re looking at some of the student shorts which have qualified for the upcoming competition.

In August, we discussed nine hopeful shorts that had performed well on the festival circuit during the first half of 2022. Last week, we checked out another group of shorts with impressive credentials going into this year’s awards season. And more shorts will be covered in the coming days.

To qualify for this year’s Academy Awards, short films must have either won specific awards at an Oscar-qualifying festival, won a Student Academy Award, or met certain public exhibition criteria before September 30, 2022.

Student films can only qualify through the festival or Student Academy Awards route, not through public exhibition. Three of the shorts on this list are already Academy Award winners, having earned that distinction at the Student Academy Awards in September: An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It, Laika & Nemo, and The Seine’s Tears (Les Larmes de la Seine). The others qualified through festival wins, including at events such as Slamdance, Sitges, and the Rhode Island and Edmonton Island International Film Festival.

An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It

Director: Lachlan Pendragon

School/Country: Griffith University, Australia

Qualified: Student Academy Award

Surely the most meta film on this list, Pendragon’s stop-motion short is the story of a young telemarketer who is confronted by a mysterious talking ostrich that informs him the universe is a stop-motion animation. The first half of the “film,” is seen through an on-set monitor, creating a very real fourth wall that the protagonist falls through into a nightmare scenario where he meets his maker, quite literally.

Laika & Nemo

Director: Jan Gadermann, Sebastian Gadow (co-director)

School/Country: Konrad Wolf Film University of Babelsberg, Germany

Qualified: Student Academy Award

A winner of several international festival awards in addition to its Student Academy Award, Laika & Nemo turns a boy who feels alienated from the rest of the world because nobody but him wears a diving suit. Everything changes when Nemo meets Laika, an astronaut with a unique suit of his own. The film’s stop-motion animation is expertly executed and feels nostalgic but modern at the same time, a result of seven years of work by the students. The puppets were created with the support of U.K. puppet manufacturer Mackinnon & Saunders, which has made puppets for Wes Anderson, Tim Burton, and Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming Pinocchio.

The Seine’s Tears (Les Larmes de la Seine)

Directors: Yanis Belaid, Elliott Benard, Alice Letailleur, Nicolas Mayeur, Etienne Moulin, Hadrien Pinot, Philippine Singer, Lisa Vicente

School/Country: Pôle 3D, France

Qualified: Student Academy Award

The Seine’s Tears unspools in 1961 as Algerian workers take to the streets to protest a mandatory curfew imposed by the police. Unlike the other two Student Academy Award winners, this short is made using cg animation, although the result looks like stop-motion animation. Characters and their clothing are textured in a hyper-realistic way that creates a deep feeling of immersion in the film’s audience.

I’m Here

Director: Julia Orlik

School/Country: Łódź Film School, Poland

Qualified: Slamdance Jury Award

Another true stop-motion entry, I’m Here is the story of an elderly man who looks after his paralyzed wife, despite facing health problems of his own. The couple’s daughter contributes as best she can, but struggles to balance caring for her parents, a hospital job, and her family life. Mariusz Wilczyński and Joanna Jasińska-Koronkiewicz produced the Slamdance jury award-winning short.

Do Not Feed the Pigeons

Director: Antonin Niclass

School/Country: National Film and Television School, U.K.

Qualified: BAFTA – Best British animated short

A BAFTA winner and Annecy graduation film competition player, Do Not Feed the Pigeons is one of the most buzzed about short films to come from the U.K. this year. At 2 a.m. in a rundown bus station, a group of tired travelers quietly wait for their bus, the last of the day. In that otherwise dour setting, the riders are treated to a moment of beauty as a flock of pigeons fly through the lobby. Impressive camerawork and rough paper cutouts do well to capture the juxtaposition of a grim, modern setting and the inherent beauty of the natural world, even under such oppressive conditions.

Other Half

Director: Lina Kalcheva

School/Country: National Film and Television School, U.K.

Qualified: Sitges Best Animated Short

Brilliant colors and a vibrant fantasy world frame this intimate story about a society populated by merged couples. Ren, the short’s un-merged protagonist, embarks on a quest to find their other half and become complete by joining with another. The short screened at Cannes, was nominated for a British Animation Award, and won best animated short at Sitges in Catalunya.

Fall of the Ibis King

Directors: Josh O’Caoimh, Mikai Geronimo

School/Country: The National Film School – IADT, Ireland

Qualified: Rhode Island International Film Festival – Best Short Animation

With one of the strongest resumes of any student film that is qualified this year, Fall of the Ibis King played in competition in Venice’s Horizons section, scored a jury special mention at Clermont-Ferrand, and won the Irish Film and Television Award for best animation. In the 2d animated film, the antagonist of a strange opera becomes increasingly unsettled, following the unlikely return of the former lead actor. A muted color palette and dramatic score do well to impart the feelings of anxiety facing the short’s protagonist.

Life’s a Bitch

Director: Varvara Yakovleva

School/Country: School-studio SHAR, Russia

Qualified: Edmonton International Film Festival – Animated Short Award

Life’s a Bitch is the true story of Islam Bekbaev, a homeless man who lived in a Zelenograd train station for seven months. The 2d animated, mostly black and white documentary also features photos of its protagonist as a young man before an accident took one of his legs. It’s narrated by Bekbaev, now 54, whose future is entirely in doubt as he struggles to survive in a world that doesn’t seem to want to help him.

Pictured at top: An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It, Laika & Nemo, The Seine’s Tears, I’m Here, Do Not Feed the Pigeons, Other Half, Fall of the Ibis King, Life’s a Bitch


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