‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor,’ ‘Free Solo’ Lead Oscar Documentary Shortlist

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has released the shortlists in nine categories, including Best Feature Documentary, where hit documentaries like “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “Free Solo” are among the list of contenders.

While a few of the films on the doc-feature shortlist were not nominated or singled out by other awards groups – “Charm City,” “Communion” and “The Distant Barking of Dogs” being the biggest surprises – for the most part, the list stays true to the nonfiction films that have garnered the most critical and commercial attention in 2018.

Crucially, it includes the four top-grossing nonfiction films of the year: “Free Solo,” “RBG,” “Three Identical Strangers” and the presumed frontrunner, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” But the most-honored films of the year are also accounted for, including “Minding the Gap,” “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” “Crime + Punishment,” “Of Fathers and Sons” and “Shirkers.”

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Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9” was conspicuously missing, but that film was considered a longshot given the tepid reaction it received after its Toronto Film Festival debut. The Quincy Jones doc, “Quincy,” also failed to make the list, along with other showbiz docs, “Hal” and “Filmworker.” And legendary documentarian Frederick Wiseman, recipient of an Honorary Academy Award for his work, was bypassed for his latest film, “Monrovia, Indiana.”

The full list of Oscar nominees will be announced on Jan. 22. See the full list of finalists for Best Documentary Feature and Short below.

Best Documentary Feature

“Charm City”
“Communion”
“Crime + Punishment”
“Dark Money”
“The Distant Barking of Dogs”
“Free Solo”
“Hale County This Morning, This Evening”
“Minding the Gap”
“Of Fathers and Sons”
“On Her Shoulders”
“RBG”
“Shirkers”
“The Silence of Others”
“Three Identical Strangers”
“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Best Documentary Short

“Black Sheep”
“End Game”
“Lifeboat”
“Los Comandos”
“My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes”
“A Night at the Garden”
“Period. End of Sentence.”
“’63 Boycott”
“Women of the Gulag”
“Zion”

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The Scene at ShortList 2018: TheWrap’s 7th Annual Short Film Festival (Photos)

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“The Goodnight Show” actress Ellie Dubin and director Charlie Schwan join the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.
TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman and awards editor Steve Pond join the filmmakers featured in the seventh annual Shor…

‘Blindspotting’ Star Rafael Casal Explains Why We Shouldn’t Doubt Short Filmmakers (Video)

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Should short films be able to stand on their own? It’s a question that always comes up when critics debate the merits of short filmmaking and whether its an art form worthy of its own medium or if a short is just a condensed version of a feature film.

Speaking on behalf of the jury at TheWrap’s 2018 ShortList Film Festival, “Blindspotting” star and co-writer Rafael Casal may have finally put that question to rest.

“It’s like asking a writer whether or not a haiku is valid,” Casal told TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman on Thursday at the AMC Century City 15 in Los Angeles. “It has its place, it has its purpose, it has its power. Medium is entirely arbitrary.”

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Casal explained that beyond more easily being able to secure funds or manage time, we frequently see shorts that succeed when the same technique stretched out into a 90-minute feature would struggle.

One great example of this was Casal’s fellow juror Irene Taylor Brodsky. Her film “Homeless: The Soundtrack” is a documentary short that has no backing score, but is half-filled with music that the characters listen to or perform live.

“I don’t know if I would’ve tried that in a feature, because it was an awkward tool to use,” Taylor Brodsky said. “But in a short, in a 26-minute film, I could do it.”

Studios and distributors too are looking more intently at short films and how they can best be shared.

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“It’s always a great opportunity to take a peek into someone’s talents,” said Jihan Robinson, vice president of nonfiction programming at Topic Studios, a unit of First Look Media. “Deeply powerful stories can be told in a short form. And given the nature of how people are viewing media today in shorter formats in general on the internet, I think to be able to have platforms on the web that are showcasing shorts are a great opportunity for people to connect with filmmakers and material that is really impactful.”

Now in its seventh year, the ShortList Film Festival gathers together award-winning short films from festivals across the country to compete in one showcase. And this year’s ShortList jury, which also included “Thunder Road” filmmaker Jim Cummings and Dana Gills, director of production and development with Lionsgate motion picture group,  recognized Randall Christopher’s “The Driver is Red” for the festival’s top Industry Prize.

The hybrid, animated-documentary tells the story of the hunt for a Nazi war criminal hiding in South America. The jury called it “an incredibly crafted, elegant, and possibly timely story of the execution of civilized justice under circumstances where no civility was due.”

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But regardless of the length of a film, filmmaking still comes with challenges and adversity that must be overcome. Casal also offered some advice to any aspiring directors who might hope to find their way to a future ShortList.

“Do it with your friends. Do it with people you love,” Casal said. “Issa Rae says a great thing, she says network across, not up. Stick with the people next to you who have the same ambition, same heart and same love, even if they’re a little less qualified. Straight up. Even if they’re a little less qualified, they’ll run 10 miles longer than the person who is that clocks out.”

Watch a clip from the jury panel at the 2018 ShortList Film Festival above.

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How Nazis, Drunk College Kids and Stubborn Goats Shaped This Year’s ShortList Finalists (Video)

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The filmmakers competing in TheWrap’s 2018 ShortList Film Festival had to contend with children, Nazis, drunk college students, financial challenges, peer criticism — and in the case of one of the festival’s winning short films — an adorable goat, in order to get their movies completed.

“We’re not going to pout and cry about it,” student filmmaker David Fortune told TheWrap’s Steve Pond on Thursday. “We’re going to make something happen.”

Now in its seventh year, The ShortList gathers award-winning short films from festivals around the country into one competition. And considering that for many directors, these shorts represent their first films, they’ve already faced immense adversity getting here.

Also Read: ‘The Driver Is Red,’ ‘Magic Alps’ Take Top Prizes at TheWrap’s ShortList Film Festival 2018

“There are so many things that went wrong, it’s a miracle we’re here today,” the director of “Night Shift,” Marshall Tyler, said while speaking on a panel discussion during the awards presentation at the AMC Century City 15 in Los Angeles.

Randall Christoper’s “The Driver Is Red,” an animated, documentary short about the hunt for a Nazi war criminal, won the festival’s Industry Prize as determined by a jury. And “Magic Alps,” an Italian film about an Afghani refugee forced to separate at the border with his beloved pet goat, won the Audience Prize as voted on in an online poll.

The jury of industry veterans, including “Blindspotting” co-writer Rafael Casal and filmmakers Jim Cummings and Irene Taylor Brodsky, called “The Driver Is Red,” “an incredibly crafted, elegant, and possibly timely story of the execution of civilized justice under circumstances where no civility was due.”

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“When I started this project in 2016, I never imagined in 2017 there would be people marching on American soil with swastikas,” Christopher said upon accepting the Industry Award.

“Magic Alps” co-director Andrea Brusa said prior to accepting the Audience Award that the goat in his film often called the shots on set. Unlike a trained dog, this was a beautiful, but stubborn animal that dictated when the crew took breaks or where they could shoot at a given moment.

“She was the queen of the set,” Brusa said. “At the end of the film we put no animals were harmed, actually she was the boss. We were like the interns.”

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All the same, this group of filmmakers each gave some advice to aspiring filmmakers who, with any luck, might be in this same spot next year. Among their words of wisdom were: always shoot everything to make sure you’re fully covered, insist on getting that extra shot that you might need later, don’t miss out on those special moments on set by getting too stressed out or caught up in your own headspace, and always remember that directing involves the “art of listening,” as one director put it, not just dictating orders.

“You have to embrace the challenges. Otherwise it’s not going to be fun,” said student filmmaker Cecilia Albertini.

Watch a clip from the 2018 ShortList Film Festival above.

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‘The Driver Is Red,’ ‘Magic Alps’ Take Top Prizes at TheWrap’s ShortList Film Festival 2018

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Randall Christoper’s “The Driver Is Red,” a gripping hybrid documentary and animation short about the hunt for a Nazi war criminal, won the Industry Prize at TheWrap’s Shortlist Film Festival.

Andrea Brusa and Marco Scotuzzi’s “Magic Alps,” about an Afghani refugee who bring the Italian immigration bureaucracy to a grinding halt when he attempts to bring his goat into the country, took the Audience Prize at an awards ceremony held Thursday at the AMC Century City 15.

“The Peak,” a short about an elaborate scavenger hunt in Hong Kong directed by Savannah College of Art and Design student Mark Alex Vogt, won the top prize in the student competition.

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Chosen for the Industry Prize by a jury of industry veterans and award-winning filmmakers, “The Driver Is Red” tells the true story of a Israeli secret agent who hunted down a war criminal known only as “Ricardo Klement” in Argentina in 1960.

The jury called the film “an incredibly crafted, elegant, and possibly timely story of the execution of civilized justice under circumstances where no civility was due.”

“The Driver Is Red” and “Magic Alps,” which received the most votes in an online poll over the last two weeks, will each receive a $5,000 cash prize.

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The ceremony on Thursday featured a screening of the prize winners as well as panel discussions with the filmmakers and jury members moderated by Sharon Waxman, editor-in-chief of TheWrap. The evening wrapped up with a reception where industry vets and up-and-coming filmmakers mingled.

The 12 films in the main competition were a mix of foreign language, drama, comedy and animation created by filmmakers from around the globe.

The eight student films from top colleges and universities listed in TheWrap’s ranking of film schools included filmmakers who studied at UNCSA, USC, UCLA, AFI, LMU, Northwestern, UT, and SCAD.

The 2018 Shortlist jury featured Dana Gills, Director of Production and Development, Lionsgate; Jihan Robinson, Vice President of Non-Fiction Programming, Topic; Irene Taylor Brodsky, Director, (“Beware the Slenderman”); Rafael Casal, Writer, Director, Actor, (“Blindspotting”); Jim Cummings, Writer, Director, Actor, (“Thunder Road”).

TheShortlist Film Festival is presented with the generous support of Topic and AMC.

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ShortList 2018: Why ‘Nevada’ Director Chose Naked Puppets to Tell Her Sexy Story (Video)

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Human stories are always the most compelling, but sometimes you get more mileage out of a puppet than a flesh-and-blood actor.

Take it from director Emily Ann Hoffman, whose award-winning stop-motion short “Nevada” is one of the finalists in TheWrap’s ShortList Film Festival.

It’s a simple but emotional narrative about couple Zoe and Eli, two people in the “honeymoon phase” of their relationship, Hoffman told TheWrap. While they seem keen on each other, they’re less discerning when it comes to condoms.

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A flimsy one breaks, leaving the pair with the awkward and urgent decision about whether or not to seek emergency contraception (like Plan B).

“It was important to show the story truthfully. And, truthfully, these characters would be walking around naked after sex. It’s way easier to show naked, stop-motion puppets than it would be live-action actors,” said Hoffman. “Audience members are more comfortable with a naked puppet.”

Naked they are.

The puppets spend most of their time fully exposed or engaged in sex. There’s even a tiny, broken, used condom in the film. But the motive to use animation was more than just practical (Hoffman works in stop-motion for a living).

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Zoe and Eli have painful discussions about Plan B’s side effects for women, who should pay for the medication and the unthinkably early conversation about actually keeping a baby at a tender stage in their relationship.

Hoffman said that for the majority of women she knows, these conversations “were being had behind closed doors, and not with our male partners. I wanted to shed some light on an experience that is very common and very relatable in sex that can lead to pregnancy.”

Watch the film above. Viewers can also watch all of the ShortList finalists at any time during the festival at shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22. The ShortList Film Festival is supported by Topic and AMC Theatres.

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Benjamin Cleary said the inspiration for his new short, “Wave,” was a BBC news story about man who hit his head and woke up speaking fluent Welsh, although he wasn’t from there.

“Human communication fascinates me, especially as…

ShortList 2018: How ‘My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes’ Explores Family Secrets (Video)

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But you should know that there’s a lot more to “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes” than that.
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ShortList 2018: How ‘Fish Story’ Uncovered a Whopper of a Strange Family Legend (Video)

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It sounded too crazy to be true. The host of an opening for a Welsh marina in the 1980s was a BBC broadcaster named Michael Fish and all the invited guests were locals with fish names: Salmon, Carp, Bass, Haddock …

Charlie Lyne figured that it probably wasn’t true, but he loved the story anyway. He’d heard it from his friend Caspar Salmon, who said his grandmother had attended the event on the Welsh island of Anglesey.

“I would force him to tell it to anyone I introduced him to,” Lyne said. “It just became incessant, a favorite party trick to get him to reiterate this story — culminating in forcing him to do it for the film.”

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Lyne didn’t have high hopes for his short film, “Fish Story,” a finalist in TheWrap’s 2018 ShortList Film Festival that required feats of dogged reporting such as going through the Anglesey phone book and cold-calling everyone with a fish surname.

“I was aware that in all likelihood the film would end up debunking the story,” he said. “I thought it would be a short but sweet thing: He would tell the story, and I would find out that the dates didn’t line up and there was no marina in Anglesey.”

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Instead, Lyne uncovered the truth about a strange celebration on that Welsh island, and turned it into a delightful short documentary.

“The film was basically made on no budget, because my expectation was that it wasn’t going to lead anywhere,” he said. “I thought it was going to be something I would do in a week and stick on the internet, but it ballooned into a six-month spare-time investigation that involved traveling across the British isles.”

Lyne gave the film a playful comedic tone, and doesn’t show us any talking heads until he finds people who actually know the truth. Instead, he throws in “lots of authentic and inauthentic props and reference points — most of the people who appear as fish people are just relatives of mine.”

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And in a way, all the phony props and meandering asides are the point of “Fish Story,” which is as much about storytelling as it is about this particular story.

“Initially, the pleasure for me was the relatability of those family stories that get passed down, he said. “I think every family has them, though not quite as delightfully strange as Caspar’s. Hopefully the finished film uses their story as a stand in for every ridiculous family story.”

Watch the film above. Viewers can also watch all of the ShortList finalists at any time during the festival at shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22. The ShortList Film Festival is supported by Topic and AMC Theatres.

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Little Potato from Topic on Vimeo.

Wes Hurley wanted to turn the story of his journey from Russia to the United States into a movie, but he wasn’t thinking of a short documentary.

Instead, Hurley wrote a feature script about growing up gay in the repressive and homophobic Russian society, about his and his mother’s move to the United States and about a bizarre twist that followed after she became the mail-order bride to an intensely religious man in Seattle.

But somewhere along the line, Hurley got a small grant and decided to make a short documentary and a complementary virtual-reality short as a way to build momentum for his feature. The resulting film, “Little Potato,” he said, “took off in its own right,” and is now one of the 12 finalists in TheWrap’s 2018 ShortList Film Festival.

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“During the Sochi Olympics [in 2014], I wrote an article for the Huffington Post about being gay in Russia,” he said. “That was the first time I shared my story, and I got such overwhelming response that I realized there are no gay voices coming from Russia. It’s always in the news, we hear about human rights violations, but we don’t really hear the stories of gay people.”

But his story also had a big twist — because the strict but karaoke-loving man whom Hurley’s mother married also turned out to be transgender.

“I’ve always been a Pedro Almodovar fan,” Hurley said. “And when that happened, I thought, ‘My God, my life is like a Pedro Almódovar movie.’”

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The biggest challenge of making the short, he said, was the fact that he didn’t have any footage of himself growing up. He and cinematographer Nathan M. Miller hit on a novel approach that gave the film a striking look.

“We didn’t just want normal talking heads, so we had to figure out how to spruce it up,” he said. “One of the ideas was to have double projections in the back, so we would have two simultaneous visuals going behind me and my mom, kind of overlapping. I wanted it to be evocative but not literal, with a little bit of the visual popping through.”

Making the short caused Hurley to rewrite his feature script, which he’s now trying to get off the ground at a time when his native country is constantly in the news.

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“When I wrote the feature screenplay and got the grant, Russia was mildly in the news because of the Olympics and all the horrible stuff that Putin is doing all over the world,” he said.

“But now it’s really exploded, which makes us in a weird way more timely. In the film I talk about how corrupt and scary Russia is, and now it’s gotten its tentacles in all of the world affairs. It’s really disturbing to me.”

Watch the film above. Viewers can also watch all of the ShortList finalists at any time during the festival at shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22. The ShortList Film Festival is supported by Topic and AMC Theatres.

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Karishma Dube had a very specific set of goals when she set out to make her third-year film for NYU’s graduate film program. “I really wanted to make a film that was shot in Delhi, the city I grew up in, that examines sexuality and class but within a contemporary Indian household similar to the one I grew up in,” Dube recalled.

After months of writing and planning, three weeks of preproduction and six days of shooting on location in Delhi, Dube to produce the 12-minute “Devi” (“Goddess” in Hindi), a finalist in TheWrap’s ShortList Film Festival that  tells the story of a well-to-do modern Indian teenager coming to terms with her sexuality and her attraction to her childhood maid.

Although the film is not autobiographical, Dube — who was “brand spanking new” as a filmmaker when she applied to NYU — said that she drew from her personal experiences to develop the story.

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The film also served as Dube’s vehicle for coming out to her family. “It’s inspired by the people I’ve grown up around, and we shot in the house where I grew up, but the characters are created,” she said.

“We have this culture of domestic help in India,” she said. “I was raised by a woman who was like family and was like a second mother to me, and I wanted to put these women in a script and put them in a room and have these conversations that I’d never seen them have.”

The shoot was not without its complications since most of her crew were visiting India for the first time. “There were a lot of accidental illnesses,” she said, “and the gaffer and cinematographer were really ill.”

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The opening scene, which features a mob chasing the central character through a real-life market at night, was the hardest to shoot. Since Dube was the only one on her crew who could speak Hindi and communicate with the extras, she also had to fend off unsuspecting bystanders who thought the scene was a real fight and tried to join in.

“It was very exciting,” Dube said with a laugh, adding, “nothing bad happened.”

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Dube has been pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction to the film within India as well as internationally.

“I was expecting a lot of negative feedback and I didn’t get that,” she said. “It resonated a lot, and a lot of people reach out to me and try to understand the film a little bit better.”

To Dube, that impulse to initiate discussion of a once-taboo subject like homosexuality is a real achievement. “In India there’s a culture of never addressing things,” she said, “and if the film can get people to start talking about [these issues], I will have achieved what I set out to do.”

Watch the film above. Viewers can also watch all of the ShortList finalists at any time during the festival at shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22. The ShortList Film Festival is supported by Topic and AMC Theatres.

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Artist and filmmaker Randall Christopher grew up with what he said was “zero knowledge” of the Holocaust — but once he started to learn about it, it led him straight to the animated short “The Driver Is Red,” one of the finalists in TheWrap’s 2018 ShortList Film Festival.

The film uses line drawings to tell the true story of a hunt for former Nazi officials who took international agents (led by Israel’s Mossad) to Argentina in 1960. It focuses on one key Nazi war criminal living under the name Ricardo Klement, and on the intricate plan to capture him.

“The hook was this guy who was found 15 years after the war on the other side of the world, but it led down a rabbit hole,” Christopher said. “I read an article about him and then started watching documentaries, but it was a gradual thing — I tell people that I was working on the film for almost two months before I realized I was making a film.”

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“The Driver Is Red” includes information about the Treblinka extermination camp, which Christopher had known nothing about. The film’s style is dramatic but understated, consisting largely of black-and-white line drawings. “In this film, the drawings and the music are there to supplement the script,” he said. “More colorful, imaginative drawings might take you out of the story, so I wanted something that wouldn’t do that.”

And it is not lost on Christopher that his film is being seen at a time when nationalism and even neo-Naziism appears to be on the rise both in Europe and the United States.

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“It is so crazy that I began this project in 2016, and in 2017 there were people marching on American soil with swastikas in Charlottesville,” he said, referring to the deadly rally of white supremacists last summer in the Virginia city.

“If I had seen that five years ago, I would have said, ‘That’s lame, those guys are bigots,’” he said.  “But I see it now that I really know what that symbol means, and I’m completely speechless and dumbfounded and shocked. I can’t even fathom it. But here we are.”

Watch the film above. Viewers can also all of the ShortList finalists at any time during the festival at shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22. The ShortList Film Festival is supported by Topic and AMC Theatres.

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Julio Ramos said he was inspired to shoot his short film “Debris,” about a gruesome accident on a construction site, after observing an incident involving immigrant construction workers without documentation on the remodeling of a friend’s house.  

In the film, a finalist in TheWrap’s ShortList Film Festival, a worker named Rafa (Jorge Diaz) has fallen off the roof and impaled himself — but the crew boss Tadevos (Karren Karagulian) refuses to transport him to a hospital and instead calls in a shifty “doctor” to treat him on a basement floor.

Ramos said he researched labor trafficking and what it actually entailed — luring people from Third World countries to the U.S., stripping them of their passports and their rights. “I was asking myself, ‘If a trafficker has an equity or an investment on these workers … what would it do to them if they became incapacitated?’” he told TheWrap. “I was forming this thriller based on that aspect.”

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Ramos, a graduate of UCLA’s MFA program, said he chose to tell his story in four long shots to keep the film subjective, to follow crew leader Armando (Tenoch Huerta) wherever he went on the site.

“We knew the longer we could continue rolling, the more engaged the audience could potentially be, or at least be more on the edge,” said Ramos, adding that he was influenced by the shooting styles used in films such as “American Honey” and the German thriller “Victoria.”

Although the owners of the home are never seen, the stark white porch and expansive interior is a looming reminder of what the workers themselves lack — a proper bathroom, potentially heat or even beds to sleep on.

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Even for viewers who think they have no direct connection to the immigrant experience, “Debris” may still hit close to home.

“Sometimes we don’t realize that our connection to trafficking is a lot closer than we think, and it comes down to just to asking yourself, ‘Do you know who the people are that are going to your house to do these jobs, do you know is are actually building these beautiful homes in America?” Ramos said. “The beautiful apple that is sitting on your table right now, who picked it, who hired the person that picked it?”

Watch the film above. Viewers can also all of the ShortList finalists at any time during the festival at shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22. The ShortList Film Festival is supported by Topic and AMC Theatres.

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Alexa Lim Haas credits President Trump in part for spurring her to make the most of her prescient animated short “Agua Vida,”a finalist in TheWrap’s seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

Lim Haas began working on the film — about the daily routine of a Chinese immigrant woman who works in a nail salon in Florida — nearly two years ago, just before the 2016 presidential election.

“It felt different after Trump got elected,” she told TheWrap. “It became motivation, and I felt activated to make it more.” 

Lim Haas, the daughter of Filipino immigrants, said much of “Agua Vida” is based on the experiences of her family members, particularly those who work in service industries. “I’m just really interested in what they think about and what they do, because their routine is so repetitive, day to day,” she said.

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She was also interested in the linguistic struggles that many of her family members experience with native English speakers, including younger relatives. “We would have conversation without language, it would be gestural conversations or smiles and warm pats on the back,” she said. “A lot of the film is about what it’s like to be inside of a body and the feeling of not being able to express what’s inside of you.”

In 2016, Lim Haas received a “No Bro Zone” grant from the Borscht Corporation in Miami, a female-driven funding program. She then began traveling to different nail salons in New York, Miami and Philadelphia to speak with workers and learn about their routines and inner lives.

At the same time, she was writing, storyboarding and animating the film, a “very lonely” process that lasted nearly 15 months. “I made it largely solo, and it was just me in a room in my apartment for about a year, just animating away,” she said. “The largest challenge was just waking up every day and doing the same thing every day.”

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As she made the film, Lim Haas felt compelled to address the discourse of the Trump era. “There’s such rhetoric from many sides, as Trump says. Words are very meaningful, and sometimes we’re just having semantic battles across the lines.”

While reactions to the film have been mostly positive, one scene has triggered surprise and some walkout:  an up-close and personal view of a woman getting a Brazilian wax. “People aren’t used to seeing female parts in a non-sexual way, and in more conservative towns, people will walk out,” she said. “It really shakes people for some reason.”

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Filmmakers Marco Scotuzzi and Andrea Brusa traveled to many farms just outside Milan until they found just the right goat — who turned out to be named Alice.
In the short film “Magic Alps,” a finalist in TheWrap’s ShortList Film…

Finalists Announced for 2018 ShortList Film Festival

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TheWrap is pleased to announce the 12 finalists in the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival, launching today online.

The finalists, hand-picked from the world’s top film festivals over the last year, will stream on the site starting today through August 22, 2018 — allowing visitors to vote on their favorites.

The Audience Prize and The Industry Prize winners will each receive a $5,000 cash prize during a ceremony to take place at the AMC Century City in Los Angeles on Thursday, August 23.

The films in the main competition are a mix of foreign language, drama, comedy and animation created by filmmakers from around the globe.

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In addition, eight student films from top colleges and universities included in TheWrap’s ranking of film schools have been named finalists in a sidebar competition.

The contenders come from filmmakers who studied at USC, UCLA, University of North Carolina School of the Arts, the American Film Institute, Loyola Marymount University, the University of Texas, Northwestern University and Savannah College of Art and Design.

You can watch, vote and share your favorite festival short film using #Shortlist2018 for your chance to win two tickets to the ShortList Film Festival award ceremony. The ShortList Film Festival is supported by Topic and AMC Theatres.

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Here are the official finalists in the 2018 ShortList Film Festival:

“Agua Viva”
Directed by: Alexa Lim Haas
USA, 7 minutes
A Chinese manicurist in Miami attempts to describe feelings she doesn’t have the words for.

“Debris”
Directed by: Julio O. Ramos
Peru/USA, 14 minutes
After a disastrous event on his construction site, Armando acts quickly to save his crew, but instead stumbles upon an unspeakable truth.

“Devi (Goddess)”
Directed by: Karishma Dev Dube
India, 13 minutes
Set in New Delhi, a closeted lesbian risks family and social boundaries as she pursues her household maid, Devi.

“The Driver Is Red”
Directed by: Randall Christopher
USA, 14 minutes
Set in Argentina 1960, this true crime documentary follows the story of secret agent Zvi Aharoni as he hunted down one of the highest ranking Nazi war criminals on the run.

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“Fish Story”
Directed by: Charlie Lyne
UK, 13 minutes
Sometime in the 1980s, Caspar Salmon’s grandmother was invited to a gathering on the Welsh island of Anglesey, attended exclusively by people with fish surnames. Or so he says. Thirty years later, filmmaker Charlie Lyne attempts to sort myth from reality as he searches for the truth behind this fishy tale.

“Little Potato”
Directed by: Wes Hurley & Nathan M. MIller
USA, 14 minutes
An autobiographical documentary short about a gay boy growing up in the Soviet Union, his mail-order-bride mom and their adventurous escape to America.

“Magic Alps”
Directed by: Andrea Brusa and Marco Scotuzzi
Italy, 14 minutes
An Afghan refugee arriving in Italy to seek asylum brings the immigration system to a grinding halt when he includes his beloved goat in the application. Based on a true story.

“My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes”
Directed by: Charlie Tyrell
Canada, 13 minutes
In My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes director Charlie Tyrell attempts to uncover a deeper understanding of his deceased father by examining his posthumous possessions.

Narrated by David Wain (director of “Wet Hot American Summer”), Tyrell presents a unique lens on family relationships and their challenges.

“Nevada”
Directed by: Emily Ann Hoffman
USA, 12 minutes
A young couple’s romantic weekend getaway is interrupted by a birth control mishap in this stop-motion animated comedy.

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“Night Shift”
Directed by: Marshall Tyler
USA, 16 minutes
A day in the life of a bathroom attendant in a Los Angeles nightclub.

“Wave”
Directed by: Benjamin Cleary and TJ O’Grady Peyton
Ireland, 10 minutes
Gaspar Rubicon wakes from a coma speaking a fully formed but unrecognizable language, baffling linguistic experts from around the globe. Cleary won an Oscar two years ago for his last short, “Stutterer.”

“Weekends”
Directed by: Trevor Jimenez
USA, 15 minutes
“Weekends” is the story of a young boy shuffling between the homes of his recently divorced parents. Surreal, dream-like moments mix with the domestic realities of a broken up family in this hand-animated film set in 1980’s Toronto.

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The finalists in the Student category:

“A Place to Stay” (American Film Institute)
Directed by: Charlie Polinger
USA, 17 minutes
Kansas City, 1959. When Andy’s boyfriend leaves him, he drives across the state to confront him and discovers his lover’s double life.

“The Goodnight Show” (University of Texas)
Directed by: Charlie Schwan
USA, 16 minutes
The year is 1978 and an unstoppable asteroid is soaring directly for earth. As a family eats their last meal, a news program playing in the background confirms their inevitable and impending doom. For most, there isn’t much to do except sit and wait for the end. In paltry hero Samuel’s case, however, this is his last chance to prove to himself — and everyone else — that he’s not a loser.

“Labor” (University of California, Los Angeles)
Directed by: Cecilia Albertini
USA/Italy, 12 minutes
Two mothers. One baby. A harrowing decision.

“Oglesby Park” (Northwestern University)
Directed by: Troy Lewis
USA, 9 minutes
After a confusing encounter at the park, a young boy struggles to reconcile the ache of empathy with the desire to push the pain away, leading to devastating results.

“One Small Step” (University of Southern California)
Directed by:  Aqsa Altaf
USA, 13 minutes
Dasani is a motivated 9-year-old student who dreams of becoming an astronaut. After finding out that her class is going on a field trip to the Science Museum to see the Endeavor Space Shuttle, Dasani starts counting down days to that trip. After her mother doesn’t return from a rally one day, Dasani is forced to choose between going on that field trip or being with her siblings.

“The Peak” (Savannah College of Art and Design)
Directed by: Mark Alex Vogt
USA & Hong Kong, 14 minutes
In this love story, set against the backdrop of Hong Kong’s Hungry Ghost Festival, a young man leads his girlfriend on an elaborate scavenger hunt as they prepare to say goodbye to the city where they first met.

“Supernova” (University of North Carolina School of the Arts)
Directed by: Gavin Lankford and Alexsandre C. Kosinski
USA, 9 minutes
When a little boy’s late-night viewing of his favorite space adventure is cut short by a scolding from his mom, he channels the heroism of his sci-fi fantasy hero and makes it his mission to get it back.

“Z-MAN” (Loyola Marymount University)
Directed by: David Fortune
USA, 12 minutes
Z -MAN follows the journey of a 7-year-old boy pretending to be a superhero in South Central LA. After witnessing a crime in his neighborhood, he goes on a mission to find the man responsible and ensure the safety of his community.

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Laurie Metcalf, Holly Hunter and Allison Janney on the Mother of All Oscar Races

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This story first appeared in the Actors/Directors/Screenwriters issue of TheWrap’s Oscar magazine.

They sit atop most prognosticators’ lists of the top Best Supporting Actress candidates, three mothers to remember. There’s Holly Hunter in Michael Showalter’s “The Big Sick,” fiercely protective of her comatose daughter Emily (Zoe Kazan), in a fictionalized version of the actual romance between co-writers Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon.

Allison Janney in Craig Gillespie’s “I, Tonya,” the seemingly true story of the pugnacious and scandal-ridden figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) and the mother who used verbal and physical abuse to push her daughter toward greatness, regardless of the toll it would take.

And Laurie Metcalf in writer-director Greta Gerwig’s “Lady Bird,” a perpetually worried mom engaged in what sometimes seems to be an endless battle with her headstrong and arty daughter Christine, a.k.a. Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan).

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All three movies are dramatic, touching and funny, and all three performances peel back the layers of one of the most complex and fundamental experiences of the human condition. As Janney said, “There is no relationship that is more important or more potentially effed-up than the mother-daughter relationship.”

Caution: Toward the end of the story you’ll encounter some spoilers, particularly for “I, Tonya.”

Photographed by Ben Duggan for TheWrap

As actresses, you’re obviously often called upon to play mothers — in fact, Allison, you star in a TV show called “Mom.” But I imagine that motherhood isn’t often as central to your characters as it is in these movies.
HOLLY HUNTER I feel like I’ve played mothers my entire career. I mean, I started out wanting to be a mother in the worst way in “Raising Arizona,” and that was very central to the character. I played “The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom,” that was a mother who was willing to have people killed for her daughter. Quite central.

LAURIE METCALF “The Piano.”

HUNTERThe Piano,” very much a mother. For me, motherhood and the realm of the female are intertwined, obviously. It’s always a part of the expression when you play a woman: Do you have children or not? So the commonality of us, it doesn’t feel so odd to me. It doesn’t feel particular serendipitous. It feels like life.

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ALLISON JANNEY I’ve played a lot of mothers, too, and there are as many mothers as there are snowflakes. I could play mothers for the rest of my life and never repeat one. But I think this one was one of the most complicated and brutal mother-daughter relationships I’ve played.

What was your reaction when you got these scripts?
JANNEY My dear friend Steven Rogers wrote this role for me. We went to the Neighborhood Playhouse together in New York City many years ago. He’s written many roles for me in his other movies over the years, and I’ve never gotten to play any of them because they always were cast with a different actress.

So when he told me about this, he said “Ooh, I’m writing you a doozy of a part right now.” I said, “What is it, what is it?” He said, “Well, you’re gonna play Tonya Harding’s mom, and you get to wear this ratty old fur coat and have a bird on your shoulder. And you’re an alcoholic, crazy, abusive mother.” I said, “Oh, my God, that sounds fantastic.”

METCALF For me, I identified right away with the central mother-daughter battle that was on the page, because I had a teenager at home at the time, and I was basically going through the same thing. So that was very clear and doable. And also Greta wrote in the other side of the character, so that these battles didn’t have to be the be-all and end-all — that every time the mother and daughter were present together, it wasn’t, ‘Who’s triggering who, and who’s passive-aggressive this time?’

Greta found some soft spots, sometimes when they were on the same page together. And those go a long way with the audience in giving a backstory.

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HUNTER It’s so interesting in film how little gestures have such an impact. I was very aware of that in “The Big Sick,” not with my daughter, but with Kumail Nanjiani’s character. I knew that any rejection that I made of him in the beginning of the movie would be seismic. This is his story, so any injury that I perpetuate will have lasting resonance.

Photographed by Ben Duggan for TheWrap

Holly, you’re not playing the real mother of [co-writer] Emily Gordon, but the character is in a way based on her. And Laurie, there’s obviously some of Greta Gerwig’s mother in your character. Did you try to learn about the real mothers behind these characters?
HUNTER No. For me it’s fiction. I like fiction.

METCALF I met Greta’s mom when we finally went up to shoot in Sacramento, toward the end of the movie. But what cemented the fact to me, weirdly, that I was playing a real person was a rehearsal day at Greta’s apartment in New York before we ever started filming. She brought out a box filled with mementos from her high school years. Her diary. Programs from plays she was in. Pictures of her best friend. Pictures of her family. And it just clicked to me that yes, this is real. It’s fiction on the page until all of a sudden it isn’t.

HUNTER For Ray Romano’s character and mine, it was imaginative. We were the departure for the movie. The farthest that Kumail and Emily went in the story toward fictionalizing people was Emily’s parents. So there are similarities, but one of the cool kind of liberations of the project was that we were all free from any obligation. Which I appreciated, because I like the realm of the imagination, of making things up. Then it’s a different route to reality, I guess.

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Allison, you’re not just playing a fictionalized version of somebody’s mother — you’re playing a real woman who was in the news, which is a very different thing.
JANNEY Yeah. And yet she is a version of what Tonya Harding says her mother is like, and Jeff Gilooly also had very specific opinions about LaVona. And other people went on record about how LaVona used to hit Tonya at the skating rink. So there are a lot of different people’s eyewitness accounts, and their versions of who this woman is.

Since we didn’t have the luxury of finding her or being able to interview her, Steven wrote some things that we don’t necessarily know are true — but, you know, artistic license. And then I stepped in. In some ways, I was glad I didn’t talk to her. I think I would have been afraid to talk to her.

I tried to find footage. I used whatever I could, and then just took off from there and worked on those scenes as if it was a totally fictional character. I just had to figure out what caused her to act the way she did, and it was, “I want my daughter to be the best that she can be, and I don’t care what I have to do to get there. I know that she performs at her best when she’s pissed off.” And that was a concept that I understand really well, because I perform well when I’m pissed off. If someone says, “You can’t do that,” I’m like, “Oh, yeah? Watch me do it.”

Also Read: The Evolution of Margot Robbie, From ‘Neighbours’ to ‘I, Tonya’ (Photos)

Photographed by Ben Duggan for TheWrap

I want to ask about specific scenes from each of the films. Laurie, in your case, you have that amazing scene toward the end of the film where you don’t say anything — you’re just driving out of and into an airport.
METCALF I was kind of left brain/right brain on that day. Half of me was just trying to get the emotional part of the little story in the drive-around. And the other half was technical. The camera’s mounted on the hood of the car. I can’t quite see around it, but I’m really driving. Other cars in front of us, police cars on either side to keep people from cutting us off.

And then trying to tell the silent story of what’s going on about leaving your daughter behind in the rearview mirror. So it was challenging to meld those two things together. But in film, it’s always a mix of keeping the emotional story present and hitting that mark.

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Holly, let’s talk about the scene in the comedy club where your character shuts down the heckler who’s going after Kumail.
HUNTER That was not originally in the script. That was a collaborative process of figuring out what we needed at that point in the story. They said, “We need to go back to the comedy club.” And I said, “What am I gonna do in the comedy club? My daughter’s in the hospital. She’s going to have surgery. Why am I going to the comedy club?”

But they needed a set piece — it was time for the movie to return to the comedy club.

Your character shares the same reluctance to go — it’s part of the build-up to the scene.

HUNTER That was one of the scenes where Ray and I brought ourselves to it. Ray really wanted to go, and I really didn’t. OK, the characters love each other. He didn’t want to be alone, I didn’t want to leave him by himself. All those compromises felt like the history of a couple that had been together.

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Allison, there’s a scene near the end of “I, Tonya” where LaVona comes to see Tonya after the Nancy Kerrigan incident, and we think we know exactly where that scene is going — it’s going to be a reconciliation where we see that mom loves her and is sorry for the way she treated her.

JANNEY Yeah. Yeah.

And then we find out that LaVona is secretly taping Tonya to get an admission she can sell. It completely short-circuits our expectations. JANNEY That was a really hard scene to play. I played it a couple of different ways, and I finally decided that LaVona goes there to get her daughter to admit that she did it on tape. And in order to do that, she has to show a side of herself that she doesn’t ever show Tonya, which is the side that says, “I’m proud of you, you did good.”

I think she actually does mean that. But coming from an abusive family herself, she doesn’t know how to show love. So when Tonya hugged her, it made her so uncomfortable that she didn’t know what to do with her hands, so she just reached in her pocket and turned on the tape recorder and asked her the question. I mean, it’s a twisted scene.

Photographed by Ben Duggan for TheWrap

 You’ve all done a lot of television. Do you find that there are more and better roles for women over, say, 45 on television than in film?
HUNTER Well, I will say this: I did the television series “Saving Grace.” It was a great role. Loved that part. It was a celebration of a woman over 50 who never even mentioned her age. She had sex with anybody she wanted to. I was an ageless female on screen, and it was so much fun for that not to be part of the conversation.

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And when I finished the show in 2010, I had a rude awakening when I went back into the real world. The feature film world was like, “Yeah, we don’t need you, honey.” It was difficult to realize how there was no demand for what I had to offer. And to a degree, it’s still like that. Let’s face it, the world of feature film is not forgiving to a woman over the age of 40. And I’m almost 60. Television offers women far more content. And then something comes along like “Lady Bird,” or “The Big Sick,” or “I, Tonya,” or Fran McDormand in “Three Billboards.” You get the richness of women over 40 expressing things. It’s enriching to the culture.

JANNEY Right now, especially, there are so many great roles for women on television. I was just talking to Nicole Kidman about “Big Little Lies,” and how she and Reese created that because they weren’t getting the roles they wanted on film. It’s an unbelievable time for women on television.

And I think, thanks to certain directors — I’m thinking of Paul Feig, who I love so much, and Judd Apatow — who realize the gold mine there is in female-driven movies, hopefully that will become a reality in movies just as it is in television.

Also Read: Paul Feig Trades Ghosts for Supermodels in New Comedy at Paramount

It does feel as if we’re at some sort of tipping point …
JANNEY Yes, it does.

… where the dangers and abuses that can happen in an industry in which men have all the power are becoming increasingly apparent.
JANNEY I do think we’re at a point where things have to change, especially in light of everything that’s coming to the forefront now. The abuse of power is pandemic, not just in Hollywood, but all over the world in every industry. It’s something that has always been a reality, and to think that we could be on the precipice of great change would be incredible. I hope we can move through it and change as a culture.

Laurie Metcalf, Holly Hunter & Allison Janney photographed by Ben Duggan for TheWrap

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‘The Silence,’ ‘American Paradise’ Take Top Prizes at TheWrap’s Shortlist Film Festival 2017

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Farnoosh Samadi and Ali Asgari’s “The Silence,” a tender story about a young girl and her Kurdish mother, won the Industry Prize at TheWrap’s Shortlist Film Festival on Wednesday.

Joe Talbot’s “American Paradise,” a dark comedy about race and bank-robbing, took the Audience Prize at a ceremony at IMAX headquarters in Playa Vista, California.

And “Fanny Pack,” a story by a USC student about a young Indian woman hilariously clashing with her conservative father, won the first-ever ShortList prize for a student film.

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Selected for the Industry Prize by a distinguished jury of entertainment industry experts, “The Silence” tells the haunting story of Fatma and her mother, Kurdish refugees in Italy. Teenager Fatma, who speaks English, must help her mother navigate a bewildering modern world. But even the world-wise Fatma isn’t equipped to handle passing along a devastating diagnosis to her mother, even when time is of the essence.

The jury called the film “a simple, beautiful and entirely human drama about a mother and daughter in a quiet moment that will change both of them forever. We loved this film as much for what it didn’t say as what it did.” The filmmakers won a week-long RED Epic Dragon $6,000 rental package provided by RED and AbelCine.

The jury also awarded an honorable mention to Hu Wei’s “What Tears Us Apart,” which follows a young woman, Camille, who was adopted by French parents after her Chinese parents gave her up as a baby because of China’s one-child policy. The jury said the film, which features Oscar nominee Isabelle Huppert, was “intimate, artful, exquisitely acted and left an enormous emotional impact on us.”

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Talbot’s “American Paradise,” a twisted fairy tale out of Trump’s America inspired by true events, won the most votes in an online poll to claim the Audience Prize and a $5,000 in cash.

The film follows a desperate white guy who disguises himself as a black man to rob a bank. The characters in the short will be featured in the upcoming Sundance-supported feature, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco.”

For the first time, TheWrap expanded the ShortList to include a student film category selected by TheWrap’s readers during a two-week online voting period. This year’s award went to USC student Uttera Singh’s short “Fanny Pack.” The  comedy centers on a young Indian-American girl who wants to follow her dreams and a fanny-pack-clad Indian father who chases his daughter through an airport hoping that she will follow.

Now in its sixth year, the ShortList Film Festival, elevates the best in short filmmaking as the format has exploded across every device in the age of streaming. The contest selects 12 of the best award-winning short films that have premiered at a major festival in the past year, making this the most highly competitive film festival of its kind.

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The ceremony on Wednesday included screenings of the prize winners as well as panel discussions with the filmmakers and jury members moderated by Sharon Waxman, editor-in-chief of TheWrap. The evening wrapped up with a reception with music from DJ Alex D, beverages supplied by Hint water and production support from Mirrored Media.

The 12 films in the main competition were a mix of foreign language, comedy and stop-motion from filmmakers that hail from around the globe including China, France, Italy, Poland, Germany and the U.K. The finalists include prize winners from the Sundance Film Festival, Cannes Film Festival and South By Southwest Film Festival,

The eight student films from top colleges and universities listed in TheWrap’s ranking of film schools included filmmakers who studied at UNCSA, USC, UCLA, AFI, LMU, Chapman, Emerson and SCAD.

The 2017 Shortlist jury included Lisa Bunnell, President of Distribution, Focus Features; Lesley Chilcott, Director (“CodeGirl”); Misha Green, Writer and Showrunner (“Underground”); Ryan Heller, VP Acquisitions, First Look Media;  Matt Ross, Actor (“Silicon Valley”), Director, Producer (“Captain Fantastic”); Alec Shankman, Senior VP & Head of Alternative Programming, Digital Media and Licensing, Abrams Artists Agency; and Stephen Ujlaki Dean, Loyola Marymount University School of Film and Television.

TheShortlist Film Festival is presented with the generous support of IMAX, Focus Features, RED, Abelcine and Topic.

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ShortList 2017: ‘Wednesday With Goddard’ Explains the Meaning of Life in 5 Minutes (Video)

Read on: TheWrapTheWrap.

Wednesday with Goddard (2016) from Nicolas Ménard on Vimeo.

People spend their entire lives searching for what the main character of Nicolas Menard’s “Wednesday With Goddard” found in a single afternoon. But Menard, a London-based artist and animator, manages to compress one man’s quest for meaning — and subsequent existential crisis — into a five-minute film.

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“Wednesday With Goddard” is one of 12 finalists in TheWrap’s 2017 ShortList Film Festival. In it, during one rainy afternoon, the main character (an unnamed man) emerges from his house to admire the rain. He says the beauty of the rain makes him believe in God, but that he can’t believe in something he can’t see. So he goes on a quest to find God.

Every person the man asks for help locating God laughs at him — that is, until Evelyn comes along. She knows where to find God and offers to lead the man to the top of a mountain where he lives. In the process, the man falls in love with Evelyn, proclaiming, “You are by far my favorite human, and I want to die by your side.” But when God appears, he appears as a red face inside of a flower and swallows up Evelyn. The man then goes home and is left crying in his shower.

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The most beautiful aspect of “Wednesday With Goddard” is how it contrasts simplicity with complexity. The blocky, cartoonish human characters look nothing like the beautifully hand-drawn fruit, plants and birds of the landscape. Through these clunky, two-dimensional characters, Menard opens a window into the devastation and uncertainty that come with love lost and an existential crisis. The film says so much about the complexities of life and emotions in less than five minutes. At the end, we’re left wondering how the man will recover.

Watch the short film above. Viewers can also screen the films at any time during the festival at Shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote from Aug. 8-22. Presented with support from IMAX.

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