We already have a pretty good sense of which shorts are competing in the upcoming Academy Award race for best animated short — a preliminary list is here — but with over 90 films to choose from, the big question is which stand out from the pack in terms of artistic excellence.

To gain a better sense of this year’s field of competitors, we surveyed leading festival directors and animation critics from around the world who have seen many of this year’s competing films. These are people who view and study animated shorts for their livelihood — people who watch hundreds (or even thousands) of animated shorts per year. Their job is to champion quality animation.

We asked each of our experts to choose their favorite short from the final list of Oscar-qualified films, and four more shorts in no particular order. They were also invited to write a few lines about their top choice. Between them, our contributors picked 23 different films. Here are the three that received the most votes:

1. Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland, 12 votes)
2. The Physics of Sorrow — Theodore Ushev (Canada, 10)
3. Daughter — Daria Kashcheeva (Czech Republic, 7)

Here are the individual responses of each person we surveyed:

Jeanette Bonds, festival director, GLAS Animation Festival (U.S.)

Top pick: Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland)

Acid Rain is a bold and ambitious film that is emblematic of the next generation. It’s a very real story, based on real experiences, with real people. It’s refreshingly honest and sincere in its depiction of a subculture both aesthetically and narratively. As a filmmaker, I’m truly inspired by this film and happy to see this is the direction animated shorts are going.

More picks:

  • Augur — David Doutel, Vasco Sá (Portugal/France)
  • Daughter — Daria Kashcheeva (Czech Republic)
  • Egg — Martina Scarpelli (France/Denmark)
  • I’m Going Out for Cigarettes — Osman Cerfon (France)

Bárbara Cerro, director, Bit Bang Fest (Argentina)

Top pick: Egg — Martina Scarpelli (France/Denmark)

I was impressed by the original perspective on the complex subject of anorexia and the oppression of those who suffer from it. It is a deeply honest and personal film which avoids clichés and reach a more unique truth, managing to transmit it through the bittersweet precision of its metaphors, designs, and animation. The film transports us to a seductive contradiction through the struggles of the main character, and to an exploration of obsession and desire. The film is not just risky in its dark and sensitive theme. The use of black and white, its format, and its unique designs help to deconstruct the popular discourse, and abduct us on a journey on which only the animation can take us.

More picks:

  • Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland)
  • Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days — Regina Pessoa (Canada/France/Portugal)
  • Guaxuma — Nara Normande (Brazil/France)
  • The Physics of Sorrow — Theodore Ushev (Canada)

Marco de Blois, artistic director, Les Sommets du cinéma d’animation (Canada)

Top pick: The Physics of Sorrow — Theodore Ushev (Canada)

The Physics of Sorrow is probably Theodore Ushev’s most personal film. We can see in it pieces and reminiscences from all his previous films. It is a mesmerizing piece of work which leaves you speechless. Crafted with encaustic painting, this vertiginous odyssey takes place at the point when the 20th century gives way to the 21st century, and where East meets West. It is also a contemporary masterpiece.

More picks:

  • Egg — Martina Scarpelli (France/Denmark)
  • I’m Going Out for Cigarettes — Osman Cerfon (France)
  • Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days — Regina Pessoa (Canada/France/Portugal)
  • Raymonde or the Vertical Escape — Sarah van der Boom (France)

Nobuaki Doi, festival director, New Chitose International Animation Festival (Japan)

Top pick: Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland)

The film invents a totally new language of animation. With its use of quirky motion capture and other techniques/methods that are only possible in the era of digital technology, it provokes a sense of being lost and feeling dizzy. The film conveys sadness and anonymity, but with the excitement of transhumanism (or mutation). I really like films with aesthetics and this one is perfect from this perspective.

More picks:

  • The Physics of Sorrow — Theodore Ushev (Canada)
  • I’m Going Out for Cigarettes — Osman Cerfon (France)
  • Reruns — Rosto (France/Netherlands/Belgium)
  • Daughter — Daria Kashcheeva (Czech Republic)

Stéphane Dreyfus, journalist and blogger, La Croix (France)
  • Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland)
  • Raymonde or the Vertical Escape — Sarah van der Boom (France)‎
  • ‎Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days — Regina Pessoa (Canada/Portugal/France)
  • ‎Memorable — Bruno Collet (France)‎
  • The Physics of Sorrow — Theodore Ushev (Canada)

‎This selection shows how animation is able to create a stronger bridge between reality and inner worlds than any feature films. With a powerful artistic direction, it can deal with topics as sensitive as violence, uprooting and loneliness, Alzheimer’s, and other mental disorders.


Yvonne Grzenkowicz, founder/executive director, Animation Nights New York (U.S.)

Top pick: My Little Goat — Tomoki Misato (Japan)

This horror fairytale is a masterful stop-motion film which tackles intense subject matter in the way only animation can. The artful character animation has true depth and expression. The story touches on delusion, obsession, violence, but also humor, acceptance, kindness, and healing.

More picks:

  • The Bird & the Whale — Carol Freeman (Ireland)
  • Egg — Martina Scarpelli (France/Denmark)
  • Cycles — Jeff Gipson (U.S.)
  • Le Mans 1955 — Quentin Baillieux (France)

Steve Henderson, director, Manchester Animation Festival; editor, Skwigly (U.K.)

Top pick: Egg — Martina Scarpelli (France/Denmark)

A powerful and emotive film that tracks the devastating grip that eating disorders can have on a person. Visceral and unsettling, the film skilfully uses the score, narration, and on-screen space to drag the unwilling viewer through the torment of the condition, depicting it through a surreal lens but with bright-white clarity and a soul-draining sense of reality. Films of this calibre shake audiences out of their comfort zone and force them to consider perspectives that they may not have done before. A compelling drama.

More picks:

  • The Procession — Pascal Blanchet, Rodolphe Saint-Gelais (Canada)
  • Memorable — Bruno Collet (France)
  • Daughter — Daria Kashcheeva (Czech Republic)
  • Mind My Mind — Floor Adams (Netherlands/Belgium)

Alexis Hunot, editor, Zewebanim (France)

Top pick: (Fool Time) Job — Gilles Cuvelier (France)

This year it was so difficult (impossible) to pick one film… I’ve chosen (Fool Time) Job because with his third film Gilles Cuvelier is really taking is cinema to a new level. This film is much more political than his previous ones, asking us about the nature of mankind and the society we live in. In its aesthetics, such beautiful black and white, and amazing design. And his “mise en scène” gains a lot of freedom with this film. If Ushev, Rosto, and Hodgson were already great directors before the films they made this year, Gilles Cuvelier proves to be one with this film. And for that same reason I could have also chosen Acid Rain…

More picks: 



  • Reruns — Rosto (France/Netherlands/Belgium)
  • Roughhouse — Jonathan Hodgson (U.K./France)

  • Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland)
  • The Physics of Sorrow — Theodore Ushev (Canada)

Carolina López Caballero, director, Animac Lleida (Spain)

Top pick: The Physics of Sorrow — Theodore Ushev (Canada)

At a time where artificial intelligence is already part of our lives, some of my favorite recent animated short films have a human footprint. Memory and personal events are central to their scripts and they have a strong graphic style involving handmade elements. All of them awaken ideas and feelings, and offer a fundamental space: the space between the film and the spectator’s seat. The Physics of Sorrow is masterfully written and directed. The rhythm of the words, the music and the images, created with the urgency of the encaustic technique, drive you though the realm of childhood and the tempest of life with glimpses of pure poetry.

More picks:

  • Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days — Regina Pessoa (Canada/France/Portugal)
  • Reruns — Rosto (France/Netherlands/Belgium)
  • Roughhouse — Jonathan Hodgson (U.K./France)
  • My Little Goat — Tomoki Misato (Japan)

Rob Munday, managing editor, Short of the Week (U.K.)

Top pick: Daughter — Daria Kashcheeva (Czech Republic)

A hugely relatable tale of unspoken, unconditional love, Kashcheeva’s haunting short portrays a troubled relationship between father and daughter, as the parent lies sick in a hospital bed. Told with kinetic energy, the immersive craft and personal storyline mean this is a short that’s difficult to shake.

More picks:

  • I’m Going Out for Cigarettes — Osman Cerfon (France)
  • Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland)
  • Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days — Regina Pessoa (Canada/France/Portugal)
  • Roughhouse — Jonathan Hodgson (U.K./France)

Anna Ida Orosz, co-founder/curator, Primanima World Festival of First Animations (Hungary)

Top pick: Egg — Martina Scarpelli (Denmark/France)

Designed with an engineer’s meticulous precision, Egg is a striking depiction of a woman’s psychosis as she struggles with body dysmorphia. The highly geometric, black-and-white visuals are not at odds at all with human expression.

More picks:

  • Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland)
  • The Opposites Game — Lisa LaBracio, Anna Samo (U.S.)
  • Mr. Mare — Luca Tóth (Hungary/France)
  • The Physics of Sorrow — Theodore Ushev (Canada)

Aneta Ozorek, artistic director, Kaboom Animation Festival (The Netherlands)

Top pick: I’m Going Out for Cigarettes — Osman Cerfon (France)

This is a delicate, honest story, told with witty humor in Cerfon’s characteristic graphic-novel style. Personal, touching, bittersweet.

More picks:

  • Mr. Mare — Luca Toth (Hungary/France)
  • Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland)
  • Daughter — Daria Kashcheeva (Czech Republic)
  • Five Minutes to Sea — Natalia Mirzoyan (Russia)

Igor Prassel, artistic director, Animateka (Slovenia)
  • The Physics of Sorrow — Theodore Ushev (Canada)
  • Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland)
  • Uncle Thomas: Accounting for the Days — Regina Pessoa (Canada/France/Portugal)
  • Roughhouse — Jonathan Hodgson (U.K./France)
  • Daughter — Daria Kashcheeva (Czech Republic)

Chris Robinson, artistic director, Ottawa International Animation Festival (Canada)
  • The Physics of Sorrow — Theodore Ushev (Canada)
  • ‎Memorable — Bruno Collet (France)‎
  • Mr. Mare — Luca Toth (Hungary/France)
  • Guaxuma — Nara Normande (Brazil/France)
  • Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland)

Daniel Šuljić, artistic director, World Festival of Animated Film Animafest Zagreb (Croatia)

Top pick: Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland)

With its disturbing and innovative images, Acid Rain tells a story on the border between reality and an LSD trip, about learning to avoid to make the same mistake twice. The film takes us on a fantastic cinematic journey rendered at a perfect pace. Among many equally interesting and great films, it is my top choice this year.

More picks:

  • Reruns — Rosto (France/Netherlands/Belgium)
  • My Little Goat — Tomoki Misato (Japan)
  • The Opposites Game — Lisa LaBracio, Anna Samo (U.S.)
  • Memorable — Bruno Collet (France)

Nicolas Thys, journalist, 24 images (France)

Top pick: The Physics of Sorrow — Theodore Ushev (Canada)

The Physics of Sorrow is Theodore Ushev’s total work of art and, at some point, it might evoke his whole filmography to those who already know his work. But, at the same time, Ushev renews his technique, extends his themes, and proves he’s still able to deal with his practice in depth. To those who don’t know his previous films, The Physics of Sorrow will come across as an intense depiction of the past half century: it touches on his own inner self as much as our own. So it’s at once universal and deeply unique.

More picks:

  • Acid Rain — Tomek Popakul (Poland)
  • I’m Going Out for Cigarettes — Osman Cerfon (France)
  • Daughter — Daria Kashcheeva (Czech Republic)
  • Riviera — Jonas Schloesing (France)
Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit

Alex Dudok de Wit is European Associate Editor of Cartoon Brew.

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