(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, February 22, 2016

MD Reviews: Short Cuts 2015, Part 3


Once again, ShortsHD The Short Movie Channel (a.k.a. ShortsTV) has theatrically released this year's Academy Award nominated animated, live action and documentary short films. These special programs are usually the only way for most movie fans to see these otherwise illusive short film nominees that can make our break your office Oscar pool. In the last of three parts, Movie Dearest takes a look at this year's five nominees for Best Documentary Short.

Agent Orange, PTSD, "honor" killings, Ebola and (you guessed it) the Holocaust. This year's five Documentary Short nominees hardly lack for serious issues, perhaps even more so than their feature film counterparts.

As with their fellow nominees in the animated and live action short film categories, the doc short finalists come from all around the world. All but one of the filmmakers are first-time Oscar contenders, and three were produced by HBO Documentaries.  

Body Team 12, David Darg and Bryn Mooser (Liberia, 13 minutes).
Meet Garmai Sumo, the only female member of Body Team 12, a team of Red Cross agents who collect the remains of Ebola victims in Liberia during the 2014 outbreak. Unusually short (especially for an HBO documentary), Body Team 12 barely scratches the surface of this compelling story. Further exploration of the conflicts between the team and the families of the dead, who sometimes violently resist the removal and eventual cremation of the bodies, would have strengthened it.
Watch trailer.
MD Rating: B-

Chau, Beyond the Lines, Courtney Marsh and Jerry Franck (USA/Vietnam, 34 minutes).
In a Vietnamese care facility for children with birth defects caused by Agent Orange, we are introduced to Chau, an aspiring artist and clothing designer. Well-meaning, but it suffers from over familiarity due to the growing trend in this category of inspirational stories of disenfranchised youth in general (see previous winners Smile Pinki, Strangers No More) and those finding their voice through art in particular (see Music by Prudence, Inocente, also both winners).
Watch trailer, or watch the full short on Netflix.
MD Rating: B

Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah, Adam Benzine (USA/UK/Canada, 40 minutes).
Thirty years after the release of his epic nine hour-plus Holocaust documentary Shoah, director Claude Lanzmann recounts the grueling twelve(!) years it took to make what many call "a masterpiece". Lanzmann is described as a "megalomaniac" at the start of this HBO entry, yet one hardly gets confirmation on that by what follows, which frankly feels more like a DVD bonus feature than what should be singled out by Oscar. Perhaps the longer French television version plays better, but then, at 58 minutes, it would not be nominated in this category.
Watch trailer.
MD Rating: C+

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy (Pakistan, 40 minutes).
In Palestine today, over 1,000 girls and women are murdered by their families in so-called "honor" killings. 18 year-old Saba, who eloped with a man deemed unworthy by her family, survived being shot in the face and dumped in a river by her own father and uncle. HBO's A Girl in the River is her story, and it is a shocking, maddening polemic against this barbaric practice. Obaid-Chinoy (a previous winner in this category for 2011's similar Saving Face) presents an expertly level-headed and, yes, balanced view, calmly ending with a glimmer of hope. This is the one to beat.
Watch trailer.
MD Rating: A

Last Day of Freedom, Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman (USA, 32 minutes).
When Bill Babbitt discovers that his brother Manny, suffering severely from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following two tours in Vietnam, committed a terrible crime, he agonizes over turning him in to the police. Graphically told in stark black and white animation, Last Day of Freedom effectively conveys the conflicting emotions that surface when one realizes that they have the life of someone they love in their hands and what happens when they find that their trust in a just system is ultimately betrayed.
Watch trailer, or watch the full short on Netflix.
MD Rating: B+

Click here for part 1, the Animated Short Film nominees and click here for part 2, the Live Action Short Film nominees.

Reviews by Kirby Holt, creator and editor of Movie Dearest, The QuOD: A Who's Who of Who's Out and the Out Movie Guide.

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