Film Review: 2019 Oscar Nominated Shorts (Documentary) **** Highly Recommended

Oscar nominated shorts will be screened at the Bell Lightbox from now (Feb 8th) till Oscar Presentation Day – on February the 24th.  There are 3 categories – animated; live action and live action documentary.

Watching shorts is a real treat and less tiring than watching a full length feature. Plus, not knowing what these shorts are about, one will surely be in for a nice surprise as well.

One thing about this program of shorts is that they are true stories about life and hardships.  The subjects of these docs are as different as night and day and range from the U.K. to India and Africa.  These are docs are both educational and entertaining and most will leave one teary-eyed as well.  Total length of program around 140 minutes.

BLACK SHEEP (USA 2018) ****
Directed by Ed Perkins

This gut-gut-wrenching emotional shocker has my vote for best doc short.  It all begins for rather innocently for a black kid Damilola Taylor returning from school.  A 10-year old school Nigerian boy has just been murdered in his neighbourhood.  Camilla finds his mother crying when he got home  The family move out of London (from Peckham to Essex) only for Damilola to find matters worse – in terms or racism in his new neighbourhood of all whites.  His first encounter is a young boy calling him nigger.  I understand and feel for Camilla as I experienced the same thing while in Ireland while walking when kids in a car made slanted eye faces at me.  The short works as what transpires is real and the enactment is terribly effective.  One can never predict how the narrative of the short will lead to making it even more intriguing.

END GAME (USA 2018) ***
Directed by Rob Epstien and Jeffrey Friedman

This doc follows medical practitioners and several patients as the patients live their last years of their lives.  The staff try their utmost best to make the patients comfortable and their last days meaningful., thus encouraging the audience to re-evaluate their own lives in the light of what is happening.  Many of the subjects in the film have now passed away.  END GAME is a very sad and needless to say, emotional film about life and death.

LIFEBOAT (USA 2018) ***

Directed by Skye Fitzgerald

This well intentioned short has the aim of informing audiences of the plight of refugees as they risk their lives for a better life.  The film has many disturbing scenes such as overcrowded raft lifeboats filled with refugees with their legs dangling over the side.  They have nowhere to do their business.  Many are sick with fever.  Many die  The short begins with  a search of dead bodies on a beach.  The film follows volunteers from a German non-profit organization as they risk the waves of the Mediterranean to pluck refugees from sinking rafts pushing off from Libya in the middle of the night.  LIFEBOAT puts a human face on one of the world’s greatest contemporary global crises and provides a spark of hope surrounding how civil society can intervene in the refugee crisis in a meaningful way.  Unfortunately, the narrative is fragmented resulting in the film seeming all over the place.  Still LIFEBOAT is quite the eye-opener.  This one will likely win the Oscar because its theme is the most current.

A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN (USA 2017) ***

Directed by Marshall Curry

This is a short, black and white short doc that is no less disturbing for its theme.  Assembled from archive footage, A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN  details a ‘German-American Bund’ rally held at the Madison Square Garden on February 20, 1939.  American Nazi leader Fritz Kuhn speaks to the gathered crowd when one man, 26-year-old Isadore Greenbaum, rushes the stage to protest the gathered National socialists.  What happens to Greenbaum is gut shattering.

PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE (USA 2018) ***

Directed by Rayka Zehtabchi

This feminist (in such a good way that it will leave even the males cheering the women) short starts of on the ignorance of Indians on menstruation and slides from topic to topic ending with the manufacturing of women’s pads.  The film centres o a few Indian women from a rural village outies Delhi, India who strive to do more as women.  One wants to join the police force.  Others make, sell and market women’s pads.  This is the lightest of all the documentary shorts but no less educational, informative and entertaining.

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