For most, talk of the Academy Awards is a once-a-year event where people comment on who is or isn’t hosting, whether the films up for Best Picture are deserving and who wore the best dress; but for filmmakers the road to winning an Oscar is a lifelong quest for recognition from their peers and to be honored as the best at their field for that year.
Hollywood producers and big-name directors going for Oscar gold can easily get their films in front of voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, but smaller filmmakers—especially those who make short films and documentaries—would find it near impossible to have their works seen by the right people without Oscar-accredited festivals like the Florida Film Festival (FFF) in Orlando, which runs April 12-21.
“We have been Oscar-accredited for many years now in shorts, live action and animated, and in the last few years became accredited for documentary shorts,” says FFF Programming Director Matthew Curtis. “It’s allowed us to showcase some really amazing films.”
The FFF is one of about 100 film festivals around the world that is accredited for Oscar categories Best Live Action Short Film and Best Animated Short Film, one of about 60 film festivals that are Oscar-qualifying for Best Documentary Short Subject, and one of only three—the Atlanta Film Festival and the Nashville Film Festival being the other two— in the southeastern U.S. accredited in all three categories.
“It’s one hurdle in many steps a filmmaker has to jump in order to get to an Oscar nomination but it’s an important one,” Curtis says. “The film must win a jury prize at the festival, it can’t be an audience award, so a festival like this is a really big deal for filmmakers.”
Curtis selects the film festival jury each year based on an array of qualifications with two main rules.
“I always make sure we have a diverse mix of people on the jury,” he says, “and I never pick the same jurors each year. I get calls from past jurors asking if they can be on it but I never repeat.”
One of the jurors for this year’s festival is Academy Award-winning filmmaker Cynthia Wade. Wade won her Oscar for her 2007 documentary short “Freeheld,” about a dying policewoman fighting to leave her pension to her female life partner. The documentary short led to the 2015 feature-length film of the same name starring Julianne Moore and Ellen Page.
Sixteen LGBTQ feature-length and short films will be playing at the FFF this year with six of them vying for a jury prize to get them one step closer to Oscar gold: four live action, one animated and one documentary. Here we highlight those films, so be sure to add them to your watchlist and check out what could be in a year’s time an Oscar-winning film.
The full list of all 180+ films playing at this year’s FFF—along with dates, times and ticket information—can be found at FloridaFilmFestival.com.
Directed by Brian Bolster and Jonathan Napolitano
USA, 2019, 11 minutes
Brian Bolster and Jonathan Napolitano, directors of 2017’s “The Carousel” and last year’s “Winter’s Watch,” look at the life of Trey Sebrell. Sebrell runs one of only a few funeral homes in Mississippi for those dying from HIV/AIDS-related conditions.
Directed by Joseph Sackett
USA, 2019, 19 minutes
When an alien species comes to our planet they use 10 Earthling men as host bodies to assimilate. But as the team’s “father” teaches them how to be men alien number 10 finds himself not wanting to be a man. “Dominant Species” is making its east coast premiere at the FFF.
Directed by Celine Held and Logan George
USA, 2019, 12 minutes
“Lockdown” looks at a teen in middle school who is struggling with her feelings for her best friend during the age of active-shooter drills. “Lockdown” premiered in competition at the Sundance Film Festival and is making its east coast premiere at the FFF.
Directed by Will Goss
USA, 2019, 4.5 minutes
In “Sweet Steel,” a film making its southeast premiere at the FFF, a man feeling hopeless and alone searches for a tasteful way to end his life.
Directed by Arthur Halpern
USA, 2019, 15 minutes
Making its world premiere at this year’s festival, “Touchscreen” looks at the culture of online hookups and one man’s challenge to overcome his past and step out from behind his laptop.
Directed by Michaela Olsen
USA, 2019, 7.5 minutes
Have you ever wondered what your neighbors do in their bedrooms after dark? In this claymation short, “Under Covers” looks at the sweet, salacious and spooky secrets of a small town on the night of a lunar eclipse.