The Oscars 2019: Canadians dominate the best short film category

By Devon Harvey

The Academy Awards are back on Feb. 24 and this year Canadians are dominating the short film categories. Bao, Weekends, and Animal Behaviour are some of the short films that are contesting to take home the gold.

Usually a majority of the awards are filled with American nominees, but this year Canadians are taking over. Filmmakers Domee Shi, Trevor Jimenez and David Fine are being praised in the film industry for having their work up for notable awards.

Canadians are nominated in the live action short film category and animated short film category.

For best live action short film

Jeremy Comte is nominated for Fauve, a short film set in a mine that details how two young boys go from playing seemingly innocent power games and having fun to being pitted against their surroundings with Mother Nature as their only witness.

Marianne Farley is nominated for Marguerite. This film tells the story of Marguerite (Béatrice Picard), an elderly woman who develops an unusual friendship with her caretaker Rachel (Sandrine Bisson). Through this friendship, Marguerite is able to confront her longing that she had hidden away and was able to make peace with her past.

In the animated category for best short film

David Fine and Alison Snowden are nominated for Animal Behaviour, this short film follows a group of animals through a group therapy session as they all attempt to come to terms and deal with the negative behaviours that come to them naturally.

A scene from  Animal Behaviour,  directed by   Canadians Alison Snowden and David Fine. (Courtesy  Animal Behaviour Trailer  via TIFF Trailers on YouTube)

A scene from Animal Behaviour, directed by Canadians Alison Snowden and David Fine. (Courtesy Animal Behaviour Trailer via TIFF Trailers on YouTube)

Domee Shi is nominated for Bao, a story about a Chinese mother who is experiencing empty nest syndrome because her son left home. She is given a second chance when one of her handmade dumplings comes to life. The story follows the mother through raising the dumpling as she did with her son. This film shows a mother’s love for her child through all stages of their lives.

In an interview with journalist Tracy Brown from the Los Angeles Times, Domee Shi spoke at great length about her short film Bao:

“My inspiration mainly came from my own life. Growing up I was that overprotected little dumpling for my Chinese mom. I was an only child living in Toronto with my parents, and they’ve always kind of watched over me and made sure I was safe — kept me really, really close. And I just wanted to explore that relationship between an overprotective parent and their child with a dumpling as a metaphor, as weird as that sounds,” said Shi.

When Brown asked Shi about the choice not to include dialogue in the animated short Shi said, “by taking dialogue out you’re really pushing and challenging yourself to tell the story with all the acting and emotion and actions of the characters...so your story could be understood by people of all ages and all backgrounds and all cultures.”

A scene from the short film  Bao,  directed by Domee Shi. (Courtesy  Cinema for Kids  via YouTube)

A scene from the short film Bao, directed by Domee Shi. (Courtesy Cinema for Kids via YouTube)

When Pixar picked up the Asian-Canadian short Shi explained that despite Bao was such a culturally specific film, overprotective parents learning how  to let go of their children and food bringing families together are universal themes with which people all over the world could identify.

Trevor Jimenez is nominated for Weekends, an animated short film that follows a young boy as he moves between his recently divorced parents’ homes. It couples dreamlike moments with the reality of a broken up family and home. The details of the reality of divorce and moving between parents’ houses and lives are portrayed through the eyes of a child.

I met and interviewed Trevor 12 days before the Oscars over Skype, he explained to me that the day he found out his film Weekends was nominated, his wife and him woke up really early, “The day of, was insane... it was our anniversary that day too...I almost felt like shock, like I couldn’t believe it”.   

When he finished the film just over a year ago Jimenez said, “I had friends who told me ‘Oh this is going to get nominated,’ and I never believed them...To have it do what it’s doing now is crazy.”

Jimenez said that every time he watches the film it’s different. “[it] depends on the crowd and how people react and the questions that come after. It’s always sort of shifting...I think the whole experience has shifted how I view it...For it to be validated in this way is a huge confine boost...It almost feels like a weird science experiment. It’s like oh the experiment kinda worked, like that’s how it feels. People connect with it and that’s kind of special,” Jimenez said about his short film.

When I asked him how being Canadian has affected his experience as a nominee Jimenez said, “I’m really happy that there are other Canadians, I’m very proud to be Canadian. Everyone is just really happy to be there whether or not you share that kind of nationality or not,” adding that all of the nominees are rooting for each other.

The 91st Oscars air live across the country Feb. 24th at 8 p.m. E.T.