Docs

IDFA, SXSW, Tribeca, Silverdocs to qualify Oscar shorts

Short docs can now qualify for Oscar consideration by winning a top prize at one of 24 major film festivals, including Sundance, Hot Docs and Slamdance, under new rules introduced by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
March 28, 2013

Short documentaries can now qualify for Oscar consideration by winning a top prize at one of 24 major film festivals, including Sundance, Hot Docs and Slamdance, under new rules introduced by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).

Previously, short docs (40 minutes or less) could only qualify for Academy Award consideration in the Best Documentary Short category by having a seven-day commercial theatrical run in either New York or LA. Going forward, short docs will still be able to qualify for consideration this way.

However, a spokesperson for AMPAS has confirmed to realscreen that, in addition, short docs winning one of 24 awards at major film festivals – such as IDFA, SXSW, San Francisco and the Seattle International Film Festival – will now receive automatic qualification, providing those films meet the other eligibility criteria. In addition, the winner of Student Academy Awards’ Gold Medal for Documentary will also qualify.

The rule changes could significantly affect on the number of short docs that qualify for Oscar consideration. For the 85th Academy Awards, which took place last month, only 31 documentaries qualified and were considered eligible for the Best Documentary Short prize.

Those 31 were culled to a shortlist of eight, then narrowed to five nominees. The category was won by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine’s Inocente.

By contrast, the Best Documentary Feature category saw a massive 126 films qualify. This was whittled down to a 15-strong shortlist, followed by five nominees, from which Searching for Sugar Man emerged victorious.

The rule changes appear to reflect recognition from the Academy of the role film festivals play in the promotion and life cycle of short documentaries. It could also reflect the difficulty filmmakers were facing in getting theatrical distribution for short films, although AMPAS has yet to detail the thinking behind the rule change.

The full list of qualifying awards, courtesy of AMPAS, follows below. (It is important to note that winning one of the below awards does not guarantee a place on the Oscar shortlist, only an alternative method of qualifying a short doc without a theatrical run.)

THE ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES [Student Academy Awards]
Gold Medal – Documentary
www.oscars.org

BILBAO INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF DOCUMENTARY AND SHORT FILMS
Gold Mikeldi for Documentary
www.zinebi.com

CHICAGO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Best Documentary Short
www.chicagofilmfestival.com

EDINDOCS
Best Short Documentary
www.edindocs.com

FULL FRAME DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL
 Jury Award for Best Short
www.fullframefest.org

HOTDOCS
Best Short Documentary
www.hotdocs.ca

INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL AMSTERDAM
Best Mid-length Documentary
www.idfa.nl

KRAKOW INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
The Golden Dragon for Best Short Film
Silver Dragon for Best Short Documentary
www.krakowfilmfestival.pl

LOS ANGELES FILM FESTIVAL
 Best Documentary Short
www.lafilmfest.com

LA SHORTS FEST
Best Documentary
www.lashortsfest.com

LONDON INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL
 Best Short Film
www.lidf.co.uk

MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Best Documentary Short Film
miff.com.au

MORELIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Best Mexican Short Documentary
www.moreliafilmfest.com

PLUS CAMERAIMAGE
Golden Frog for Short Documentary
www.pluscameraimage.pl

SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Best Documentary Short
www.sffs.org

SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Best Documentary Short
www.siff.net

SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
Grand Jury Award for Short Documentary
www.slamdance.com

SILVERDOCS
Sterling Award – Best Short Film
silverdocs.com

SXSW
Best Documentary Short
sxsw.com

SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
Short Film Jury Award: Non-fiction
www.sundance.org/festival

TAMPERE FILM FESTIVAL
Best Documentary
www.tamperefilmfestival.fi

TRAVERSE CITY FILM FESTIVAL
Best Short Documentary Film
www.traversecityfilmfest.org

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL
Best Documentary Short
www.tribecafilm.com

USA FILM FESTIVAL
Best Short Non-fiction Film
www.usafilmfestival.com

VISIONS DU RÉEL, NYON
Best Short Film
www.visionsdureel.ch

 

 

About The Author
Meagan Kashty is an associate editor of realscreen, an international print and online magazine that covers the non-fiction film and television industries. Meagan is an award-winning business journalist. Prior to joining the realscreen team, Meagan was online editor of Canadian Grocer, named Magazine of the Year at the 2015 Canadian Business Media Awards. She can be reached at mkashty@brunico.com, and you can follow her on Twitter @MegKashty

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