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Award-Worthy Shorts You Can Stream Now

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Short films are an art form and the perfect stepping stone for people who want to make indie movies. A very different beast than a feature, shorts make filmmakers distill their ideas and vision into the most basic elements so they can work in a short amount of time. You use few resources and hopefully transcend limitations. It's a low budget film with moderate risk and big rewards. The best director you can think of started with the briefest format.

As disciplined film enthusiasts, we know prizes are nice, but the movie is the thing. These also-rans available to watch now on Popflick may not have won the prizes they were in the running for, but they are worthy of your attention. They also bring some lessons you can apply to your budding film career - and show you a few pitfalls you can avoid. If you are just a film lover looking for a quick fix, you will also be well-served by these award-nominated shorts. Enjoy!

A Little Action, A Lot of Drama


Beautiful surfaces are the stars in Gregory Horupian’s compact and fun thriller. First, there is the setting, one of those amazing New York apartments that could not be inhabited by the young people on camera unless they are stinking rich trust-fund babies. Two girls have a banal conversation about their lives just so one of them, the owner of the flat, can slip in a key piece of information: she is getting some shoes delivered, and her uncle Gabe (Robert O’Gorman) will do her the favor of being there to receive them up. “What does your uncle do?” asks the friend. “We don’t ask him questions about that,” answers the girl. “Bayonet” exemplifies how you can hint at a larger story with so few elements, hints, and elisions.

The plot kicks in later when a hazmat suit-clad figure stealthily enters the empty apartment. The outfit tells you she doesn't want to leave pesky DNA behind her, so we are not surprised when she assembles a high-caliber weapon. Her face is uncovered, so we can see she is as beautiful as a fashion model (Tammy McNeil is the deadly agent Delta). Any movie buff will recognize the setup and execution as a homage to 007. A soundtrack of radio reports from assorted agents with coded names hints at a larger operation, following good old Uncle Gabe until he reaches the apartment.

"Bayonet" is pure unadulterated fun. It was nominated for Short Grand Prix at the Warsaw International Film Festival.

Like a Bolt From The Blue

Fans of “Degrassi Junior High,” this one is for you. Erin (Amreeta Leedy) is a teen in a romantic crisis. Boyfriend Tony - played by writer and director Michael Antonio Keane - seems done with the romance and talking trash with a clique of friends that have swiftly turned against the girl. Is this a bump on the road or a relationship-extinguishing event? The movie is appropriately amateurish, which makes it surreptitiously honest about the experience of the characters on the screen. Just like their fictional counterparts, the kids are finding their bearings in life and filmmaking.

“Like A Bolt From The Blue” earned Michael Antonio Keane a nomination for Best Director at the Fresh Film Festival, 2023. He was also nominated for an Honorable Mention at the Student World Impact Film Festival 2023


Many film festivals focus on particular issues or artists’ ethnicities, which certainly gives an exponential advantage for inclusion over general-interest events where everyone competes with everyone, and certainly white, well-connected, and educated filmmakers have an advantage. The asymmetries built into society and the industry allow a privileged few access to resources that help present a more polished product. As a beginning filmmaker, you might be well served by applying to festivals that cross over with your identity and preoccupations. Your chances of getting in will improve. Begin by scanning our primer on Film Festivals around the US.

This is a roundabout way of saying that Tommy Garcia’s “Discretion” is a little rough, which did not prevent it from getting into the official selection of the BFI Flare London LGBT Film Festival and the Rio Gender and Sexuality Film Festival. Derek (Colin Lawrence) and Franz (Tim McCord) are a content middle-aged gay couple devoted to each other and their adorable daughter. At least until Derek sets eyes on Trysten (Zach Gillette), a young and muscular student who arrives late at his creative writing class. The stage is set for a dramatic love triangle.

"Discretion" wants to have its cake and eat it too. That is, Trysten's. The camera ogles him with the lust of a soft-core movie on late-eighties Cinemax - if they had ever strayed from their hetero ways - and then punishes Derek for indulging. An abrupt sex scene is one full-frontal shot away from porn. The video camera aesthetics downgrade the production, but this no doubt budget-oriented choice brings more lessons for up-and-coming filmmakers. Maybe it's best to scale down the scope of your production and secure the best technical resources possible. At 35 minutes, "Discretion" feels too long for its story. A shorter script with fewer scenes and a higher-grade camera might have pushed it to the next level.

Alas, Lawrence and McCord have a nice chemistry - they look so much like Billy Eichner and Josh Hamilton that it can be disorienting -. At its best moments, “Discretion” puts aside the dramatic machinations and lets them paint a compelling picture of a long-time couple in the doldrums of routine. It’s almost comforting. Gays can be bored in a loving relationship, too!

No, they are not Billy Eichner and Josh Hamilton: Colin Lawrence and Tim McCord face the doldrums of a long-lasting marriage in "Discretion" / Photo courtesy of Tommy Garcia.

No, they are not Billy Eichner and Josh Hamilton: Colin Lawrence and Tim McCord face the doldrums of a long-lasting marriage in "Discretion" / Photo courtesy of Tommy Garcia.

Short Laughs, Enduring Merriment

Jill and Jack

The writer-director Nick Calori serves a charming, shaggy-dog story about urban loneliness. Alastair Kiron and Lara Hesketh are a couple of strangers who, on one crisp autumn afternoon, coincide on a park bench. Their brief conversation about how people miss out on never talking to strangers creates a chain reaction of friendly outreach throughout the city. Would it circle back to reunite them and make a love connection?

It may look twee, but it staves off cynicism thanks to the fleetness of the form. You can imagine the premise stretched to fill the running time of a feature film, and it would be unbearable. As it is, it's a lovely piece of entertainment, with the good - British - sense of closing on a bittersweet key. "Jill and Jack" was a Best Foreign Short nominee at Cannes's Indie Short Awards. They were also nominated for Best Short Film and Best Foreign Short at the Canadian International Comedy Film Festival.

The Cocktail Party

A few years before “Polite Society” (Nida Manzoor, 2023) brought martial arts to the sophisticated setting of social events, this delightful short film from Jessica Saunders deployed the same trick, adding a layer of American-style class struggle awareness. Charlotte Taschen is a waitress working a cocktail party at a stylish modernist mansion. The swells in attendance are obnoxious. Their hostility and entitlement escalate until the only reasonable reaction is a well-placed karate chop.

Saunders packs a lot of action in just 5 minutes, using camera placement and editing to power through the acrobatics. It never looks like she is cheating. "The Cocktail Party" is like “John Wick,” but funnier, sunnier and shorter. Official Selection, Tribeca Film Festival, 2021

Little Morsels of Horror


A single-location, full horror movie distilled in 8 minutes. Dani (Kally Khourshid) wakes up in a dark basement. Two girls materialize, like out of thin air, and gently command her to remember what happened. This eases us into Dani’s exposition-heavy narrative that reveals them as prey of a serial predator who has a type. The three women are white and dark-haired and could pass as sisters. Fear seeps out of the movie as the victims gang up, seeking retribution.

“Haunts” made it into the Official Selection of the Burbank International Film Festival.

The ghost in you: Kalli Khourshid awakes in a cold, dark basement in "Haunts" / Photo courtesy of Absurd Hero Productions.

The ghost in you: Kalli Khourshid awakes in a cold, dark basement in "Haunts" / Photo courtesy of Absurd Hero Productions.


Polished cinematography and production in this horror short, coming from Kazakhstan, go a long way in making it work - as much as it does. A corrupt policeman (Kuat Kassembaev) and his ne’er-do-well brother (Margulan Malikov) gang up to steal from a mentally disabled butcher (Daniel Ukrainskiy). They find him at his home, an old airplane on a grassy plain, where the boy shacks up with her mother (Kristina Zinchenko). She is suspiciously hospitable, asking them to come in for a bite of carpaccio.

The biggest problem with “Metzger” is that three of the four actors look way too young for their roles - only Ukrainsky makes sense as the butcher boy, a soul brother of Leatherface -. The protagonists look like kids in disguise. They could be in one of those in Max Fisher’s theatrical productions in “Rushmore” (1998). And the old hag is not a day above 20.

The technical proficiency of the whole endeavor is not mirrored in the dramatics. The hoodlums try to trick the woman into believing they are out collecting mushrooms, and to prove it, they produce a packet of mushrooms the cop took as a bribe. They are still on a foam tray covered with plastic wrap. Maybe it’s not carelessness but cheekiness. You may fall for this bizarre little film if you enjoy watching children putting on a show.

“Metzger” was a finalist at the Fear Faire Film Festival. It entered the Official Selection of the Soundgrounder Film Festival.

Don't eat the meat: Kassembaev and Malikov try to scam Ukrainskiy and Zinchenko in "Metzger" / Photo courtesy of Oleg Woit.

Don't eat the meat: Kassembaev and Malikov try to scam Ukrainskiy and Zinchenko in "Metzger" / Photo courtesy of Oleg Woit.


This sun-drenched horror short will remind you of an episode of “The Twilight Zone” in a good way. Odessa Young is Hester, a teenage fugitive hitchhiking her way through the Australian desert, armed with a Walkman tuned in to a radio station transmitting from somewhere in the future. She gets picked up by a family on a station wagon. Their eccentricity takes center stage until her prophetical radio lets her know they are driving toward a mortal accident.

“Highway” is a solid production, deploying first-rate production values at the service of a tight, brief anecdote. Check out that fantastic storm approaching over the desert, a single shot that puts to shame the recent F/X output of moneyed blockbuster candidates - I’m looking at you, Marvel -. If you want inspiration for your first money, leave epic ambitions for later in your career.

“Highway” was nominated for Best Short Film at the Cleveland International Film Festival in 2018, Best Short Film Under 15 Minutes at the Palm Springs International ShortFest in 2017, and Best International Short at the HollyShorts Film Festival in 2017

Art School Dropouts Hit the Art House

What Probably Would Have Happened if I Hadn’t Stayed at Home

German director Willy Hans invokes the ghost of Jean Luc Godard in this short film about young - and not-so-young - adults philosophizing, smoking, and boring themselves to death while the world is burning outside their door. Or rather, a couple of hooligans destroy a car for undisclosed reasons. Maybe they are sore at capitalism, or they are demanding more bike paths. The movie is divided into chapters, but no dramatic structure exists beyond that. We are mostly trapped in a room with art school cast-offs; their rantings are interrupted by camera zooms into the indoor domestic plants surrounding them while the sounds of airplanes, helicopters, and artillery fire take over the soundtrack. Is it Vietnam? Ukraine? Or “War” as an eternal by-product of humankind.

Your mileage may vary with openly artsy exercises like this one, but the craftsmanship that Hans deploys is solid. “What Probably Would Have Happened, If I Hadn't Stayed at Home” was nominated for the Venice Horizons Award, Best Short Film, Venice Film Festival, and the Short Film Grand Prix International at the Cork International Film Festival 2020.

Short Docs: A Little Bit of Reality Goes A Long Way

Michael Malone, Portrait of An American Organic Farmer

An interesting subject goes a long way in documentaries. A case in point is this amateurish portrayal of Michael Malone, a veteran farmer harvesting organic produce from the Hungry Toad Farm in Ohio. The charming old coot speaks directly to what appears to be a cellphone camera handled with absolutely no cinematic pretensions. He draws out his life story, philosophy, and a couple of cringy anecdotes that remind you older people say the damnedest things.

"Michael Malone…" looks like a product of cable access by way of YouTube. The editing is rough, with many personal photos scanned, panned, and zoomed in digitally. Everything would be forgivable if it didn't keep hinting at something more interesting. There are many references to how the farm has become a shelter for wounded people, but you don't get into their stories. Some are only introduced by a photograph. Somebody could do a good documentary or a fictional story based on it. It is like the video a civilian makes to show at a relative's birthday party.

Despite it all, “Michael Malone, Portrait of an American Organic Farmer” became the Official Selection of Venice Shorts and the London Indie Short Festival. What are you waiting for? Fire up that cellphone camera!

Watch "Michael Malone, Portrait of An American Organic Farmer" free on Popflick

Greenhouse effect: portrait of an environmentalist by trade in "Michael Malone, Portrait of An American Organic Farmer" / Photo courtesy of Ten-In-One Productions.

Greenhouse effect: portrait of an environmentalist by trade in "Michael Malone, Portrait of An American Organic Farmer" / Photo courtesy of Ten-In-One Productions.

Down and Out in Latin America


Among Latin American countries, Chile remains one of the richest and most stable democracies in the region, but it's not without its troubles. Georgina Perez Fernández's "Arise" (Levantar) begins with a text referencing the May 2011 earthquake and how, a year afterward, some are still under duress. If it were not for these words, you would think Luis (José Espinoza Ardouin) and Ale (Romina Pagani), brother and sister, are standard victims of poverty. They rent quarters at a cousin's home while she looks for a job, and he rambles around their half-demolished town. Scavengers looking for iron and copper take over the demolition started by the quake.

There are no attempts to whip up more drama than what’s implicit in the ruins and the tense, muted exchanges between the characters. The cousin is warm and friendly with Luis but rough with Ale. There is a frisson of sexual tension not explored further. Many short films end up hinting at larger stories, which is the case of “Arise.” The characters, suspended in stasis, play second fiddle to the filmmaking. The star is the camera, observing lives of quiet desperation with clinical detachment. By now, this is an Art House movie standard gesture, as is the disruption created by including cellphone footage, purportedly filmed by the characters. Here, it’s a silly, barely-there trick performed with an empty Coca-Cola bottle. In dire straits, you must find your merriment when you can.

“Arise" was nominated for Best Short Film Award, Fribourg International Film Festival, 2015.

Ombligo de Agua

Before wowing film festivals worldwide with her feature film debut “Daughter of Rage,” Nicaraguan filmmaker Laura Baumeister made the rounds with this drama following Alina (Stephanie Arce), a privileged teenage overachiever with a nasty crack habit.

The script falls into the trap of the "poor rich girl" narrative, charting Alina's degradation by dealing with the plebes. She gets drug-garnished casual sex from her horse trainer (Francel Toledo) and hangs out at the miserable shack where her dealer lives (Sofana Arce). The well-to-do don't come out unscathed. Her mother (Stephanie Franceries) is coded as frivolous, loving Alina's equestrian achievements more than the girl herself. Dad (Roy de Montis) is obsessed with her getting into an Ivy League University in the US. You don't get more Latin American Upper class than that. No wonder poor Alina is hitting the rock! Alas, Baumeister's sensible direction elevates the material, making it more interesting than the cliches suggest.

"Ombligo de Agua" (Water Navel) entered the Official Selection of the International Film Festival Rotterdam and the Festival Internacional de Cine de Morelia, 2018. It was nominated for the Best Short Film Award at the Fribourg International Film Festival in 2019 and Best Short Film at the Uppsala International Short Film Festival in 2019.

Watch "Ombligo de Agua" free on Popflick.

Cracks in the facade: Stephanie Arce is a rich girl in the throes of addiction in "Ombligo de Agua" / Photo courtesy of Tanacatana Films.

Cracks in the facade: Stephanie Arce is a rich girl in the throes of addiction in "Ombligo de Agua" / Photo courtesy of Tanacatana Films.

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