All the films nominated for Best Live Action Short this year come from Europe. Most deal with the human search for joy, but then some deal with some of the darker sides of life. All tell their stories with skill and brevity. In alphabetical order they are:
Enemies Within (Ennimis Intérieurs) (France, 28 minutes, directed by Sélim Azzazi) In the aftermath of French colonialism, an Algerian-born man is being questioned at a police station about his desire to become a French citizen. He mentions that when he was born Algeria was a part of France, so he has always thought of himself as French. As the questioning evolves, he is pressed about people he has associated with. It is implied that he is protecting terrorists. Even though it is set in the 1990s, this has a very contemporary theme—one that fits American culture just as much as French.
La Femme et le TGV (Switzerland, 30 minutes, directed by Timo von Gunten) Every day Elise gets up in time to wave at the passing high speed train that rumbles by her house. She has done this for years. One day she finds in her yard a letter from the engineer, telling her what joy he gets from her waves each day. A correspondence ensues—until the route is cancelled. For Elise this brings a belief in something more than just the routine and stagnation of life that has evolved around her.
Silent Nights (Denmark, 30 minutes, directed by Aske Bang) Kwame, an immigrant from Ghana, struggles to get by on the streets in Denmark. When he meets Inger, a volunteer at the Salvation Army shelter, they begin a path that leads to love. But Kwame keeps important secrets from Inger. There are issues of racism in the film, but more than that, it deals with what love calls us to do—possibly even self-sacrificing.
Sing (Mindenki) (Hungary, 25 minutes, directed by Kristof Deák) Zsofi is the new girl in school, but quickly becomes friends with the popular Lisa. When Zsofi joins the choir which has a reputation for winning competitions, the teacher tells Zsofi to lip sync the songs—she just isn’t good enough. With a big competition coming up, Lisa learns of the teacher’s falsehood. How will the others in the choir (some of whom also only lip sync) deal with this?
Timecode (Spain, 15 minutes, directed by Juanjo Giménez Peña) Luna works as a parking lot security guard, mostly watch security cameras. One day, she comes across footage of her co-worker Diego dancing through the garage. Luna and Diego begin leaving little video presents for each other. It has a bit of a So You Think You Can Dance vibe to it.
All of these films touch me at some level. My favorite was Sing. It reflects the joy that can be found in singing, even when our voices are not good enough. (It should be noted that the Psalmist instructs us to make a joyful noise, not necessarily beautiful music.) It also serves as a parable about the forces of the world that would have us set aside the things that make us happy because it doesn’t fit another agenda. This is a film for everyone who has been told they aren’t good enough—but still want to follow their joy.
Photos courtesy of Shorts HD