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A still from the animated short “Animal Behavior.” COURTESY OSCAR SHORTS

Oscar Shorts — Celebrate the Underdog

10th annual film festival featuring 15 Academy Award-nominated short films
Saturday, Feb. 16, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Buzz Aldrin Middle School, 173 Bellevue Ave.
OscarshortsMontclair.com

By GWEN OREL
orel@montclairlocal.news

There’s a reason why you haven’t seen the 15 short films nominated for Academy Awards this year: they aren’t playing anywhere.

And Academy voters only vote in their field, with the exception of the Best Picture, which is open to all voters.

Only the filmmakers who have been nominated or won short films vote in this category.

But it doesn’t mean you can’t see them.

Corinna Sager and Jeanne Reilly have been bringing the Oscar Shorts to Montclair since 2010.

This year, the 10th iteration of “Oscar Shorts — Celebrate the Underdog” will take place on Saturday at Buzz Aldrin Middle School.

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CORINNA SAGER

Sager, who is originally from Germany, co-produced an Oscar nominated short film, “Ferry Tales,” in 2004. She has been to the Oscars, and walked the red carpet. “It was a lot of fun,” she said with a smile.

Reilly and Sager met when Reilly was a member of the now-defunct Montclair Arts Council. The MAC established advisory boards, and asked Sager to participate in the advisory board for film. Reilly, a film lover, suggested showcasing the Oscar Shorts, after seeing a screening Sager had done of documentary shorts in New York City.  

The first Oscar Shorts was challenging to put together then: each filmmaker had to be contacted individually. Today they are able to get them through one distribution company.

All 15 films will screen on Saturday, including five animated shorts, five documentary shorts, and five live action shorts. There is a 20-minute break and then a lunch hour. BAMS sells baked goods. Sager will introduce groups of films.

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A still from “Bao.” COURTESY OSCAR SHORTS

LITTLE GEMS

Short films “should be acknowledged, because it takes a lot of effort to make a short film,” Sager said. “And it’s very different filmmaking. And they’re interesting stories that lend themselves only to a short.

“Not every subject lends itself to a long film. You could try to stretch it but you lose the essence of things. If you look at the short films, in documentary, they are often times subject matters that are intense, powerful, and serious: you can’t do more than 40 minutes. The subject matter doesn’t lend itself to it.”

Short films can run between two and 40 minutes,  she said. The animated shorts are 30 seconds to 10 minutes, Reilly said. Live action and documentaries are typically 25 to 40 minutes.

Typically, theaters do not screen them, so viewers only have a chance to see them on the Festival circuit. Montclair’s “Underdogs” is one of the few places to see them before the

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JEANNE REILLY

Oscars air.

“We call them gems,” Reilly said.

They often take a long time to make, because they’re made on a shoestring. The films come out of a passion to tell a story. Some of the histories of the films involve years of work.

“You get to see a lot of diversity. Because they aren’t the commercialized versions of things, but they are passion projects, you see much more diverse and interesting filmmaking than you would often see on the big screen,” Sager said.

For awhile, Oscar Shorts screened at MSU, but more recently they’ve been at Buzz Aldrin.

The Broadcast department of BAMS supports this program, Sager said.

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“We really wanted this to be a community, and a discussion about these films,” Reilly said. And they have succeeded, Sager added. “You look at the audience, and it’s like ‘hello,’ ‘hello.’ A friend of mine, she’s a Real Estate agent, she comes with her husband…“ Not only film makers, but movie buffs attend.

“It’s really film enthusiasts who are interested in the world and what’s happening in the world,” Reilly said.  

Neither woman has seen the films yet. They read the synopses, so Sager can research the films and give some background to the audience.

Sager is intrigued by the animated short “Animal Behavior,” about animals in therapy, adding that all of the documentaries sound fascinating.

“Now, I just have to start doing research on all of them,” she said.

The research Sager shares is “ insight you really wouldn’t have otherwise,” Reilly said. “You’re learning. So when you see a particular animation you have a little knowledge about what went into that. Or about the filmmaker, and why he or she was inspired to make a film about it. Part of our mission is for people to learn.”

Like the films themselves, Underdogs is a labor of love: it is not affiliated with Montclair Film or with any other group.

“We just do it,” Sager said.

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A still from “Lifeboat.” COURTESY OSCAR SHORTS