2015 Oscar Circuit: Best Documentary Short



Our annual look at the individual Oscar categories. If you miss a piece, click on the tag titled Oscar Circuit 2015. You can also see the official Oscar Predictions page for Best Documentary Short.

The three toughest categories to predict for most Oscar fans are the short film categories. So, let’s try and handicap this a little bit for everyone as we take a look at the contenders for Best Documentary Short. You can also check out our guides for Best Live-Action Short and Best Animated Short.

Here are the contenders for Best Documentary Short:

  • Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1
  • Joanna
  • Our Curse
  • The Reaper
  • White Earth


Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

The story of people working crisis hotlines spoke to the Academy this year as “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” joins “The Phone Call” in Best Live-Action Short as not only a nominee, but one of the favorites to win in its respected category. “Crisis Hotline” has the specific focus of people who help veterans struggling with PTSD. Compared to the other nominees, this is actually one of the more uplifting tales of the bunch, so its status as a favorite is a solid one.



“Joanna” is the story of a mother who is diagnosed with late-stage cancer and imparts her values to her five-year old son. Certainly a powerful subject matter, this one will have Academy voters likely reaching for their tissues, but as we’ve seen in recent years in this category and with Best Documentary Feature, it is the uplifting films that take home the prize more often. Still, many pundits believe that “Joanna” is a formidable contender on Oscar night.


Our Curse

In a similar position to “Joanna” is “Our Curse.” The film shows a married couple after they learn that their newborn son has been diagnosed with Ondine’s Curse, a disease that stops the baby’s breathing as he sleeps. The disease will stay with the child for his entire life, requiring the use of a ventilator whenever he sleeps. “Our Curse” is the simplest of the docs in terms of production, but that sometimes works in a film’s favor, to simply allow the story to shine.


The Reaper 

We all try to separate work from our personal lives, but that task proves to be even more difficult for the subject of “The Reaper.” Following the butcher of a Mexican slaughter house who kills 500 bulls a day, 6 days a week, for the last 25 years, the doc shows the butcher’s strive for inner piece outside the nature of his work. Featuring actual footage of the animals being slaughtered, this one might have been difficult for voters to sit through, so it is probably the least likely to win.


White Earth

With the cold winter of North Dakota as its backdrop, “White Earth” may be the most interesting of the nominees to look at, but that’s often not enough to win here. The doc is about the people affected by the North Dakota oil boom; compared to the rest of the nominees its subject isn’t as naturally appealing, and when you only have a short time to get voters attention, that will definitely count against it.


With screeners of all the shorts now being sent out to voters, it is easier than ever for all the nominated films to be seen. However, that’s a double-edged sword as now voters are on the honor system to vote, rather than scheduled screenings require voters to sign-in. That is why these categories remain the hardest to pick. But, here goes nothing.

Will Win: Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

Could Win: Joanna