Netflix is bulking up its documentary slate with three upcoming shorts that will premiere over the summer. IndieWire is exclusively announcing the streaming service’s upcoming documentary shorts, which will include the Sundance award-winner “John Was Trying to Contact Aliens.”
The 16-minute short, directed by British filmmaker Matthew Killip, focuses on John Shepherd, who has spent three decades trying to contact extraterrestrials from his Michigan home. He uses a enormous store of high-tech equipment to beam a variety of music — reggae, Afrobeat, jazz, and Eastern music — millions of miles into space.
“John Was Trying to Contact Aliens” won the Short Film Jury Award for nonfiction at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It will be available on Netflix August 20.
In July, Netflix will make available two other short docs: “The Claudia Kishi Club” on July 10 and “The Speed Cubers” on July 29.
“The Claudia Kishi Club” was an official SXSW selection this year. Directed by Sue Ding, the 16-minute film features interviews with Asian American creatives about the influence Claudia Kishi had on their lives and work. Kishi is a Japanese American character from the 80s-90s book series “The Baby-Sitters Club” and, as the documentary’s subjects note, Kishi’s status as a main character and loud style of self-expression broke the mold of Asian representation in pop culture.
The short will serve as a nice companion to Netflix’s new adaptation of the franchise; the streamer is premiering a new series based on the books on July 3. The doc features interviews with Naia Cucukov, executive producer of the series. (Momona Tamada plays Claudia in the new show.)
“The Speed Cubers,” directed by Sue Kim, is a roughly 40-minute exploration the friendship and rivalry of two competitive Rubik’s Cube champions, Max Park, 17, and Feliks Zemdegs, 23. The film dives deep into Park’s life and family, including how his parents struggled when their son was diagnosed with autism and ultimately coalesced around his extraordinary cube-solving abilities.
“Great documentaries come in all shapes, sizes, and lengths and we believe that the story should drive the format. We love collaborating with storytellers to discover which format is best to fully express their creative vision,” said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix’s VP of original documentary and independent features. “In the case of ‘The Claudia Kishi Club,’ ‘The Speed Cubers,’ and ‘John Was Trying to Contact Aliens,’ you have three highly engaging documentary short films which explore vastly different worlds. Documentary shorts are a wonderful gateway into documentary storytelling and we hope by discovering one of these stories our members will continue to explore this brilliant art form.”
Netflix’s continued growth in the awards-film space has included shorts. In recent years its titles “The White Helmets” and “Period. End of Sentence.” have won Oscars, while as well as Academy Award nominated titles Life Overtakes Me, End Game, Heroin(e) and Extremis. The company’s collection of original documentary shorts can be found here.