In honor of the Academy Awards, ShortsHD has once again made all three (animated, live action, documentary) of the the Oscar Nominated Short Film programs available to audiences around the world.
The documentary short collection was released to theaters on January 29th, a month before the Oscars presentation on February 28th. However its availability is much more limited than the animated and live action categories. Check here to see which of your local theaters is playing them: http://www.shorts.tv/theoscarshorts/theatrical-release/
Three of the features have been acquired by HBO Documentary Films and will also premiere on the cable channel on each of the following dates:
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness – March 7, 2016
Body Team 12 – March 14, 2016
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah – May 2, 2016
Chau, Beyond The Lines and Last Day of Freedom are both currently streaming on Netflix.
I’ve ranked the shorts in order of how effective they are in presenting their individual stories. This category always seems to favor depressing subjects. This is a pretty downbeat lot. If you do decide to see these one after another, be sure to go with a loved one so you can hug each other after it’s all over.
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Director & Producer: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
This is a disturbing report concerning “honor killings” in Pakistan. The practice is defined as the homicide of a family member due to a dishonor believed to have been brought upon the family by the victim. The murder is seem as a way to restore reputation back to the family.
Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is a Pakistani filmmaker whose similarly themed documentary short Saving Face won the award in this category in 2012. This is the story of Saba, a 18 year old Pakistani woman who fell in love with a man. They ran away to get married. She is brutally beaten, shot and left for dead by her own father and uncle. However she miraculously manages to survive and bear witness to what happened to her. In a year with some pretty cumbersome titles, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness is the most unwieldy, but it’s also the most affecting. (8/10)
Last Day of Freedom
Directors & Producers: Dee Hibbert-Jones & Nomi Talisman
The most offbeat of all the documentaries, this account uses filmed footage of Bill Babbitt rendered in black and white animation. He remembers his brother Manny, who suffered brain damage from a childhood accident. Later Manny endured two tours of duty in Vietnam which further compounded his mental health issues.
Not sure if it’s the animated style or his compelling words, but I was transfixed by Bill’s recounting his brother’s story. What happens next is dreadful. Bill struggles between doing the right thing and the familial bond with his sibling. Powerful and heartbreaking. (7/10)
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Director: Courtney Marsh
This chronicle begins on a sorrowful note as a story regarding a Vietnamese care center for children born with birth defects. The U.S. use of Agent Orange in Vietnam over 40 years ago is the cause. However the sad narrative develops into an inspirational saga about one particular teenager, Chau, who dreams of becoming an artist.
The record follows Chau for several years and we can see him develop his talent over time. It’s a touching (and ultimately uplifting) portrait. (6/10)
Body Team 12
Director: David Darg
The West African nation of Liberia experienced an epidemic of Ebola virus disease in 2014 and 2015. This chronicle focuses on Garmai Sumo, the only female member of a medical team whose job is to prevent the spread of disease by removing the bodies after they have died.
Director David Darg is a humanitarian first responder known for his documentary work in natural disasters and wars. His approach is to present the outbreak from her perspective and the unique challenges she faces when dealing with this work. For example, the deceased cannot be given a grave without a severe risk of contamination. She must convince family members to allow her to take their dearly departed loved ones. Direct contact with the body is dangerous so we see the precautions she and her team take to protect themselves. It’s a window into a very difficult job. (6/10)
[I could see any one of these nominees taking the award, but this is the apparent front-runner.]
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
Director: Adam Benzine
Shoah was a landmark 9+ hour documentary covering the Holocaust released in 1985. This explores director Claude Lanzmann’s arduous 12-year endeavor to put together that seminal work.
This reexamines why it is such an important film about the Holocaust. In essence, a 40 minute trailer that persuades the audience to watch the original feature. (6/10)