Filmmakers often bring us the things we may read about in the news in a very personal manner. That is the case for all the films nominated for Best Short Documentary. Three of the films cover very similar territory but each has a different perspective. The films, in alphabetical order are:
4.1 Miles (26 minutes, directed by Daphne Matzlaraki). In the last few years, hundreds of thousands of immigrants have attempted the deadly voyage between Turkey and the Greek island of Lesbos, seeking safety and life. This film focuses on a coast guard boat that goes out each day seeking to rescue many of those. It reflects the chaos of the rescues and the pathos of the dangers and loss.
Extremis (24 minutes, directed by Dan Krauss). Within a hospital ICU this film shows us the angst involved in making decisions about end of life issues. As a doctor tells us, “Here’s the reality: We’re all going to die…. It’s good to have a little bit of say in how.” These can be ethically challenging issues. It can also be a time when faith may play an important role in the decision making for families. This film can currently be streamed on Netflix.
Joe’s Violin (24 minutes, directed by Kahane Cooperman). 91 year old Holocaust survivor Joe Feingold donated his violin to a school music program. It found its way to a seventh grade student, Brianne Perez. Their stories and the history of the violin are a reminder of the hope and joy that can be found in music—and in giving.
Watani: My Homeland (39 minutes, directed by Marcel Mettelsiefen). This film shows us glimpses over a three year period of a family from Aleppo, Syria. The father is a commander in the Free Syrian Army. As the war progresses, the mother takes the four children to Turkey, and eventually Germany looking for a new, safe life. As they are leaving their home, one of the daughters says, “We love you Syria. Forgive us.” Even in the comfort of their new home in Germany, they continue to think of Syria as their homeland.
The White Helmets (41 minutes, directed by Orlando von Einsidel). Also set in Aleppo, this film focuses on a few of the civilian volunteers who rescue people from the rubble after the frequent bombings the city as suffered during the Syrian Civil War. The ones we meet are a former builder, blacksmith, and tailor. Now they spend their days in the humanitarian struggle. As one says, “Any human being, no matter who they are, or which side they are on, if they need our help, it’s our duty to save them. But even as they work to rescue others, they fear for their own families as well. This film is currently streaming of Netflix.
There is power to all these films. Those dealing with the Syrian Civil War and the refugees associated with it are especially timely and provide a way for us to personalize the tragedy that may overwhelm us by the numbers involved. But my favorite among them was Extremis, because it is a very emotional film that shows the difficulty doctors and families face in very trying times. It is a setting that many have found themselves in, and many more will surely confront.
Photos courtesy of Shorts HD