A quick, cute tale of a black father’s struggle to style his daughter’s curly hair, Hair Love was made by American footballer-turned-filmmaker, Matthew Cherry.

Short films can go terribly wrong. Some Indian ones pack in so many dated middle-class stereotypes (and woke dadis), you wonder if the idea came out of a tin of Dalda Vanaspati. In shorts from central Asia, there’s always a goat (is there a goat union somewhere bullying everyone?). You can play bingo with animated-film clichés: dark frames, no dialogue, scrappy four-legged friends and slo-mo close-ups of plot-twist expression.

But when they go right, short films are a blast. They unravel at just the right pace, to tell just the right amount of story. This year’s Oscar shorts nominees, six each in the animated and live-action categories, come from all over the world. Four are streaming online for free.

Start with Hair Love, the six-minute animated short film that’s won, and already has 15 million views on the Sony Pictures Animation channel on YouTube. It’s a quick, cute tale of a black father’s struggle to style his daughter’s curly hair. For its length, it packs a punch, more so when you know it was made by American footballer, Matthew Cherry, who was in the NFL before he decided to become a filmmaker.

Move on to Kitbull, the one everyone’s talking about. At a little over eight minutes, it does have scrappy animals and plot-twist close-ups. But this Pixar film turns the clichés on their head. It has to. It is, after all, a tale of friendship between a stray kitty and a pitbull. The Sparkshots channel clocks 39 million views. But I think you might like Hair Love better. [embedded content]

Among the live-action films, the winner, The Neighbors’ Window lasts 20 minutes, but you’ll probably spend the rest of the day thinking about it. The plot revolves around a mother of three and her husband, who, one day discovers that their apartment window has a direct view into the home of a young couple across the street. [embedded content]

You know everything about the couple in five minutes. “All they do is host dance parties, sleep till noon and screw,” says the mother. That’s as much criticism as envy. There’s mild nudity in the beginning, but the film soon becomes something else, a comment on voyeurism, wanting, and on family. It’s written, directed and edited by four-time Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Marshall Curry, who streams the film on his YouTube channel. [embedded content]

Also online, on the Copa90Stories channel, is the hilarious Nefta Football Club, The Story Of Two Brothers & A Lost Donkey. It is, as the title says, a tale of two football-loving boys in rural Tunisia who find a donkey with headphones over its ears. The cargo the animal is carrying is strange, and what the boys decide to do with it is stranger still. Even without subtitles, it’s possible to glean that a stupid Adele-Hadel mix-up has disastrous consequences. I do wish this one was longer!

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