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HollyShorts 2023: 5 Live Action Films to Watch

With the imminent arrival of the fall festival circuit, awards season campaigns will begin in earnest for many of this year’s most anticipated films. For contenders in the short film categories, however, one of the most important stops gets underway today in the heart of Hollywood. From August 10 to 27, the 2023 Hollyshorts Film Festival will showcase some of the best short films from around the world, with the top award winners earning Oscar qualification for Best Live Action Short Film, Best Animated Short Film and Best Documentary Short Film. Boasting an intimidating lineup of over 400 entries, however, audiences may not know where to start. But Awards Radar is here to steer you in the right direction as we highlight some of the most exciting selections. First up, here are our top 5 picks among the Live Action shorts:

Beautiful, FL

Bertie the Brilliant & Beautiful, FL

For a double feature of heartwarming Latino stories, you won’t want to miss Bertie the Brilliant and Beautiful, FL. Directed by Gabriela Garcia Medina and produced by Latino Public Broadcasting, Bertie the Brilliant tells the story of a young boy named Bertie, who dreams of emulating his favourite magician – the gender-fluid Maya the Magnificent. When Maya comes to town for a one-night only performance at the very casino where his grandma works, Bertie is determined to save the money to buy a ticket. Filled with music, love and laughter, Bertie’s adventure highlights the power of community.

Meanwhile, community is also central to Gabriela Ortega’s Beautiful, FL, written by Adrian Ferbeyre and Joel Perez. In this charming tale set in a trailer park, a teenaged girl races against the clock to perfect her tia abuela’s unwritten ice cream recipe and win a fast-approaching competition. After 2022’s Huella dazzled audiences, Beautiful, FL further solidifies Ortega as one to watch, delivering empowering Latino and queer representation in entertaining fashion.


If you thought short films couldn’t deliver rich character development, then Charles Whitcher should definitely prove you wrong with his latest short Mundo. Indeed, the sharp dialogue in this moody drama conveys a lifetime of regret, guilt and pain as a man returns home after serving ten years in prison. Bobby Soto turns in a bravura performance in the lead role, as he navigates the fractured relationships that defined his past and endanger his future. Stylishly directed as it channels neo-noir aesthetics through its nightclub setting, this tense film signals Whitcher as a major auteur in the making.

A still from We Were Meant To by Tari Wariebi. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

To the Death

There’s no denying that the plight of actors of color in Hollywood continues to be a hot topic in pop culture, as anti-woke sentiments threaten the already paltry opportunities afforded them. In her second outing behind the camera, actress Rose McIver tackles this issue with her satirical short film To the Death. This outrageous dark comedy sees a pair of Australian actresses of South Asian descent vying for a role at an LA audition, only to learn of a more sinister plan. As they are forced to fight to the death to the win the part, To The Death uses delirious humor and action to shed light on the toxic tokenism surrounding the industry’s belief that “there can only be one” when it comes to diversity initiatives.

We Were Meant To

While many of the films at HollyShorts will hope to make a strong first impression, Tari Wariebi’s We Were Meant To arrives at the fest already bearing laurels from the festival circuit. This ambitious and imaginative short envisions a world where Black men grow wings and their first flight is a pivotal moment in their coming of age. Unsurprisingly, this ability threatens the status quo, resulting in government policies that give new meaning to the ways American society clips the wings of Black men. Deftly mixing social commentary with high concept sci-fi, We Were Meant To offers both textured storytelling and captivating escapism.

HollyShorts 2023 screenings take place in person at the TCL Chinese Theatre from August 10-19 and virtually through BITPIX from August 10 -27.


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Written by Shane Slater

Shane Slater is a passionate cinephile whose love for cinema led him to creating his blog Film Actually in 2009. Since then, he has written for, and The Spool. Based in Kingston, Jamaica, he relishes the film festival experience, having covered TIFF, NYFF and Sundance among others. He is a proud member of the African-American Film Critics Association.

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