2024 Oscars: Best Documentary Short Predictions

The 96th Oscars telecast will be broadcast on Sunday, March 10 and air live on ABC at 7:00 p.m. ET/ 4:00 p.m. PT. We update predictions through awards season, so keep checking IndieWire for all our 2024 Oscar picks.

State of the Race

Hopefully, the increase in accessibility of short films has gained the Best Documentary Short category more of an audience, because this year, when most of the Oscar wins seemed so predetermined, this one is going to be a real nailbiter.

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Basic logic would suggest that “The ABCs of Book Banning” is the frontrunner, as its message about extreme censorship is one the artist community that makes up the Academy’s voting membership can easily get behind. More importantly, the short marks Sheila Nevins’ directorial debut (working alongside co-directors Trish Adlesic and Nazenet Habtezghi), and there is almost no documentary film enthusiast unaware of the current MTV Documentary Films leader, but longtime HBO Documentary head.

It should be noted though that Nevins’ influence did not translate as well last year, where MTV Documentary Films did make the shortlists under her watch, but did not ultimately receive any nominations. Its parent company Paramount Global has been going through restructuring for years, so if “The ABCs of Book Banning,” it would be because the greater MTV Documentary Films team is still finding its legs with Oscar campaigning.

Its main competition, however, is not. “The Last Repair Shop,” directed by Kris Bowers and Oscar winner Ben Proudfoot, is a Searchlight Pictures acquisition, and that is one Disney imprint that knows how to win awards. It has only been three years since the pair of directors were nominated together the first time for documentary short “A Concerto Is a Conversation,” so they are pretty well known among Oscar voters.

The breakout of the category is “Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó” director Sean Wang, who received an Oscar nomination the same week his feature debut “Dìdi” won the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The only aspect that holds it back is that it’s less of a message film than its fellow nominees. “The Barber of Little Rock” and “Island in Between” do not have the same momentum as it, but they made it into the category in the first place by artfully shedding light on current issues, an element often of high value in the documentary races.

Nominees are listed below in order of likelihood they will win.

“The ABCs of Book Banning”
“The Last Repair Shop” 
“Nǎi Nai & Wài Pó”
“The Barber of Little Rock”
“Island in Between”

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