The majority of the live action shorts nominated at the 95th Oscars share a common theme: Connection. How the characters within them come together, though, is unique to each film: Estranged brothers reunite to cope with loss, a young girl will stop at nothing to locate her sister, two strangers become allies in the face of prejudice, and a rebellious schoolgirl finds companionship with her classmates thanks to a bit of custard; the films here range from drama to dark comedy to thriller.

The category is something like a little — or shorter, as it were — sibling to Best International Feature Film this year, with the nominees hailing from Ireland, Denmark, Italy, Norway, and Luxemburg, respectively. With runtimes ranging from 15 to 37 minutes, the shorts reflect the global nature of the film industry and approach serious themes like abuse, discrimination, grief, and racism through their distinctive worldviews.

Below, watch the nominated Best Live Action Short Films and hear from the filmmakers behind each.

An Irish Goodbye

On a farm in rural Northern Ireland, estranged brothers are forced to reunite following the untimely death of their mother. But when the pair discover an unfulfilled bucket list belonging to their late mum, their pained reunion takes an altogether different course.

What was the first kernel of an idea that became An Irish Goodbye?

Tom Berkeley (writer/director): After some years of struggling to afford to live in London together, Ross and I decided to move back to our respective hometowns, Belfast and Gloucester, in order to have more time to dedicate to filmmaking. This new chapter soon had us contemplating themes of leaving home and returning home, and the often fractious reunion of the family unit.

Simultaneously, I happened to attend a football match with my Dad, and became fascinated with a pair of adult brothers sat a couple of rows ahead of us watching the game. Their relationship, fiery and combative as many brothers are, had an interesting extra dimension to it, as the younger of the pair had Down Syndrome, with his older brother his carer. This added layer of responsibility, and its juxtaposition with the typical sibling rivalry, was a dynamic I found really compelling.

Those brothers became the early blueprints of Lorcan and Turlough. We found fertile soil in these two lost souls who see the world in different ways, and quickly became interested in watching them reunite under the painful but poignant circumstances of losing their mother. 

How did making this film change you as filmmakers, or what is something you learned through this process?

Ross White (writer/director): An Irish Goodbye was actually the first screenplay that Tom and I wrote together, so it came from a very instinctive place. Sensing that we weren't quite ready as debut filmmakers to handle the scope of the script we'd written, we shelved the project and decided to make another, more contained short called Roy first. Having well and truly caught the filmmaking bug, we moved full steam ahead on prep for our sophomore short.

This story has now been a part of our lives for almost three years, and in that time, it has had a profound impact on our lives — both in the making and in the sharing. We were blessed to work with such a talented and generous cast of James Martin, Seamus O'Hara, Paddy Jenkins, and Michelle Fairley. The detail, humanity and humour that they all brought to this story is the film's beating heart and something that we, as filmmakers, are extremely proud of.

What does it mean to you to receive an Oscar nomination for this film?

Berkeley: I couldn't even describe this as a dream come true, because it's something we never even thought to dream about in the first place — it all just seemed too far away. We've all grown up watching and following the Oscars every year, not only as film-lovers, but for its impact in the cultural calendar. To think that our film will forever be a small part of cinematic history is something that brings me immense pride and gratitude for everyone who worked on it. Short film is a beautiful medium, and to be amongst the outstanding company of our fellow nominees will serve as a constant reminder of the great journey this wee film has enjoyed.

This is a big year for Irish artists, with your film, Paul MescalThe Banshees of Inisherin, and The Quiet Girl. What does it mean to have so many of your fellow Irishmen and women recognized alongside you?

White: Our brilliant cast member, Seamus O'Hara, said to me recently that he thought Ireland was 'the world's smallest cultural superpower,' and I think he's bang on the money. To witness such an historic year for Irish cinema at the Oscars is emotional enough as it is, but to actually be a part of it is just mind boggling.

Both myself and Tom are longstanding Martin McDonagh fans, right from his early plays that were all set in the West of Ireland, so it was such a treat to see him return to this landscape with Banshees, and it's no surprise that it’s another masterpiece. Similarly with An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl), it's been absolutely joyous to watch this little independent film with a massive heart make history as the first Irish-language film to be nominated. And the very fact that a quarter of the acting nominees are from Ireland… roll out the green carpet!

What's next?

Berkeley: Ross and I have just finished post-production on our third short film, The Golden West. Set in 1849, it follows two warring sisters who flee the Irish famine to seek their fortunes in the Gold Rush. It is a female-led, Celtic Western, with all the usual dark-comedy undertones that we enjoy to play with. It was a cold, gruelling shoot in the mountains of North Wales — and our first time shooting on 35mm film — but we're really excited to bring it to the festival circuit before hopefully moving on to develop a debut feature. 


Ivalu is gone. Her little sister is desperate to find her. Her father does not care. The vast Greenlandic nature holds secrets. Where is Ivalu?

It's been nearly a decade since you won your Oscar for Helium. When you think back, do you have a standout memory from that night?

Anders Walter (writer/director): Hearing my name read out still stands as the standout moment of that night. It was such an explosion of feelings that doesn't quite compare with anything else. Thinking back on it still gives me the chills. Another great memory was meeting Meryl Streep at the Oscar Luncheon :)

What does it mean to you to be nominated again with this film?

It means that the film gets to travel the world. Addressing incest and child abuse in fiction is such a taboo, and it makes me very proud on behalf of everybody involved that we made it this far.

How did the graphic novel first come to you, and what made you want to adapt it into a film?

A friend of mine recommended it. Right from the very first moment I got to read it, I knew I wanted to turn it into a short. The book was so poetic. Especially how it never forced the story on you, but took its time to slowly let the audience understand the perspective of the children and the loneliness they experience.

What was the biggest challenge you overcame making Ivalu?

It was a challenge directing in a different language than my own. I was so dependent on my co-director, Pipaluk Jørgensen, and her ability to translate everything to me. Normally, I like to improvise with my cast, but I couldn't on this production. But it was a wonderful experience working so closely with another strong directorial voice.

What's next?

I just finished my second feature, a Danish world war two epic, Before It Ends. It will come out in the Fall.

Le Pupille

A tale of innocence, greed and fantasy, about desires, pure and selfish, about freedom and devotion, and about the anarchy that is capable of flowering in the minds of girls within the confines of a strict religious boarding school at Christmas.

What was the inspiration behind this story, and to tell it as a short film?

Alfonso Cuarón (producer): I wanted to reinvigorate the form, and make a collection of short films with filmmakers I admire, all focused on a particular theme. I understand the definition or concept of a short film, but I don't necessarily agree on the current definitions of a long feature film and a short film — in the sense that I think that an unfair importance or weight is given to long films over short films. For example, it is a common saying that young filmmakers have to do a short film to prove that they can do a long film. But cinema, at its root, in its essence, is a short film. Film cinema started as a short film. The first film was 50-something seconds long and for a long time, for many years, that was the length of films, with the Lumiere Brothers and others.

Alice Rohrwacher (writer/director): It was inspired by the Italian novelist Elsa Morante, who sent a letter to her friend, Goffredo Fofi, to describe a dinner scene at Christmas that revolves around a special cake. Everything in the film came from this letter but I wanted to add how it arrived at the orphanage, because the letter doesn't tell us that. I thought that the cake could be a gift which was brought to the orphanage, and that it should have a specific motive. In this case, it is a highly superficial one — love. At a time of war, when you should only ask for what's important, Miss Rosa (played by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi) brings this huge cake, all for love. I liked all of these layers, the idea that something superficial is very important, the idea that it's a gift with a motive behind it. I felt that it all perfectly meshed together as in a texture, in a fabric, representing a picture of what Christmas means to me. It’s lighthearted, playful and with a touch of irony, which also applies to the way we shot the scenes and the ways in which the girls act.

What did your collaboration with one another look like, and as filmmakers and artists, what did you take from working with the other?

Rohrwacher: Everything came together because of you, Alfonso! This film is the result of our meeting and, in a way, our relationship, because it wouldn't exist if you hadn't called me in the middle of the pandemic to ask me if I wanted to write a story about Christmas. You had this idea to tell stories through short films in various parts of the world, stories which were related to holidays, and specifically, in my case, to Christmas.

Cuarón: Yes, the amazing thing was how how fast the process was for you. It was just a matter of days when you call me and said, "Hey, I have this idea," and you send me Elsa Morante's letter; it's clear that you had everything already in your head and your imagination. It's really impressive is how underneath the film's tone in which you beautifully combine realism with a certain sense of wonder, like in your other films, you also manage, with this simple image of the cake, to interweave so many different themes, including some things that don’t have a clear answer but instead raise other amazing possibilities, how it's kind of circular, but it's like a labyrinth of circles, and I really love that. Questions like what is generosity, what is kindness, what does it mean to rebel, is that a good thing?

When you look back on filming, do you have a standout memory that's come to encompass your experience making Le Pupille?

Rohrwacher: Yes, before we started filming, we cast these 17 young girls without knowing who would play the main character of Serafina, but they all had such expressive eyes, which was essential for the story. "Pupil" means eyes, but, in Latin, it also means "little girl," so they all had to embody that double meaning. This was during COVID, so once we had our acting troupe selected, we spent several weeks together rehearsing and letting all the girls try each role. They didn't necessarily know who the protagonist was, as they all had a chance to experience the story from many perspectives. We were also shooting on film, so we didn't have the luxury of many digital takes, so teaching them the importance of conserving film and making the most of every scene was a wonderful way to learn about the film industry and making a movie. It was such a fun and memorable time for me as they all rehearsed together in so many variations and really became a little family.  It wasn't until they saw the film on the screen that they fully understood Serafina's journey.

What does it mean to you to receive an Oscar nomination for this film?

Rohrwacher: It's wonderful. It was such a joy to make this short, because I worked with my crew, the same people I always work with, these wonderful women in the production design, editing, script and others who work with so much care and attention to detail. Sometimes it felt like we were making a cake, a big beautiful cake with such a degree of care. So, I would like to say you have this film because I have wonderful people I work with, and we have wonderful actresses who worked on the film with the same attention and the same care.

What's next?

Rohrwacher: The next film I'm working on is a tragic but also funny story. It's my attempt at telling a story that's about all of our selves. It's about a great sorrow, but it tries to do so in a fun way. In a cheerful way almost. I met amazing actors like Josh O'Connor, Isabella Rossellini, and my sister also has a role here. I also worked with non-actors here. I tried to blend in people here who in normal life would never meet up, but they do meet each other in the movie.

Night Ride (Nattrikken)

It is a cold night in December. As Ebba waits for the tram, an unexpected turn of events transforms the ride home into something she was not expecting.

What does it mean to you to receive an Oscar nomination for this film?

Eirik Tveiten (writer/director) and Gaute Lid Larssen (producer): We are thrilled to be nominated for such a prestigious award and excited that our film — and the subject it raises — receives this huge recognition!

What was the initial inspiration that birthed Night Ride?

It was inspired by true events, and the tram was a great location to frame the main story and the central theme we wanted to address: Harassment and courage.

How did you cast Sigrid Kandal Husjord and Ola Hoemsnes Sandum, a complete newcomer, and what was it like collaborating with them as actors?

Sigrid was a complete surprise. We had an audition call for a woman, without any criteria other than that. Sigrid came and just nailed it. She made a very powerful impression, so we discussed what it would bring to the story having her onboard. Ola was new to us. A friend recommended her after seeing her in a local play. She also turned out amazing. In spite of her young age (16), she showed extraordinary self confidence and a strong screen appearance.

As the fight for trans rights and safety and against discrimination continues, what do you hope this film means coming out now?

We hope the film creates more awareness to all individuals and groups who fall victim to prejudice and harassment around the world and that perhaps we all will feel a social responsibility of helping others in need.

What's next?

We are working on several projects together. We have another short in the pipeline with Eirik at the helm and a feature in development.

The Red Suitcase

Luxembourg Airport. Late in the evening. A veiled 16-year-old Iranian teenager is frightened to take her red suitcase on the automatic carpet. She keeps pushing back the moment to go through the arrival gate and seems more and more terrified.

What does it mean to you to receive an Oscar nomination for this film?

Cyrus Neshvad (writer/director/producer): The most important for me is that through this nomination, The Red Suitcase will have more visibility, and this brings also more visibility to what's happening in Iran right now. I feel proud to bring support on my level to the Iranians fighting right now in the streets of Tehran for their freedom.

As an Iranian filmmaker, why was it important to you to tell this story at this time, centering on a young Iranian woman?

In Luxembourg in 2020, my mother told me that lots of women in Iran were disappearing for saying their opinions or not wearing the headscarf correctly. That terrified me, because it was happening and nobody was talking about it. I wanted to do something. Anything. I decided to do a short movie starring an Iranian girl who decides to stand up for her rights by taking her headscarf off: Her free will to choose. Today, after Mahsa Amini's death, the whole world knows what’s going on in Iran and I am really relieved about that.

What conversations do you hope the film will inspire in viewers?

What is the price you are ready to pay for your freedom?

How did making this film change you as filmmakers, or what is something you learned through this process?

During the process of the shooting, sometimes I was so much in the point of view of this young Iranian girl that I felt the reality of what this girl could have gone through. It felt so real by being physically in her place that for some moment, in the airport, I was terrified of this feeling to not be free. After the shooting, I learned to be more grateful for the freedom I have.

What's next?

We work on a script telling the story of a 6-year-old Iranian boy escaping the revolution of Iran with his mother. They find shelter in a camp in Luxembourg. There, the boy befriends an old Russian woman. A friendship grows between these two people who are different in every way and who don't even speak the same language. It's a very beautiful story.


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