Many theaters around the country have been showing the Oscar nominated short films – live action, documentary and animation. While I’m not interested in the animated shorts, I find the live action shorts to be dramatic and unique. This year there are 5 from different countries that range from a romantic comedy to a wartime tragedy set in Kosovo. The films are shown back-to-back and range from 12 to about 25 minutes.
My least favorite of the bunch is Basil Khalil’s Ave Maria. This film takes place on the West Bank where an Orthodox Jewish family’s car breaks down in front of a convent. It is supposed to be a comedy but I didn’t think it was very funny as we watch the nuns who have taken a vow of silence try to interact and communicate with the Orthodox Jews who can’t use their phone to call for help because it is the Sabbath.
Next is Patrick Vollrath’s Everything Will Be Okay a German film about a divorced father who tries to kidnap his 8-year-old daughter. The acting by both the father and the young daughter as his plan slowly becomes clear is outstanding. The story is gut wrenching.
The third film in the series is Jamie Donoughue’s Shok a wartime drama, based on real events and set in Kosovo. It is about two young Albanian boys who run afoul of Serbian soldiers. The story is a flashback with the beginning and ending tying nicely together. The acting by the boys was superb and the story filled with drama and tension amidst the tragedy of war with the end result being another emotionally devastating film.
Next up is the one film with a happy ending – Benjamin Cleary’s Stutterer. Unfortunately for those wanting a movie that is a little more upbeat, it is only 12 minutes long. The film showcases a young British man severely afflicted with a stutter who has a relationship with a woman on-line. When she comes to London and wants to meet him, he initially ignores her for fear of her reaction to his stutter. The ending has a special twist, which provides the one lovely moment in the 207 minutes duration of these five films.
My favorite of the group is Henry Hughes’ Day One, which is the story of an Afghan/American woman on her first day as an interpreter for the US Army in Afghanistan. She is called upon to deliver the baby of a terrorist’s wife without having any medical background. There is a male Muslim doctor who provides some verbal assistance but can’t go into the room to help when severe complications arise (because of his Muslim beliefs). How this plays out is riveting and emotionally exhausting and it is very unclear as to whether this woman ever returns for a second day.
On Oscar night I will be hoping that Shok or Day One take home the golden guy. If you get a chance to see these shorts, I’d recommend them.