2023 Oscar? Nominated Short Documenaries

Each year there are Oscars?  awarded in three categories of short films: Live Action Shorts, Animated Shorts, and Short Documentaries. Programs of these shorts can be seen in various places around the country. Check at 2023 Oscar? Nominated Short Films – ShortsTV for more information. Short Docs take us to the real world to discover interesting people or issues that we may or may not have known about. They may give us new perspectives or teach us about our world in new ways.   Here are my thoughts on this year?s nominees for Best Short Documentary.

The Elephant Whisperers (41 minutes, directed by Kartiki Gonsalves). Bomman and Bellie live in a remote elephant camp in India. They care for a young orphaned elephant, Raghu, and later another named Amma. They work tirelessly to bring him to health and help him grow over a period of years. We see the rich emotional bond that grows between the animals and their care givers.

It is easy to fall in love with Raghu and Amma. We see that they are very intelligent and emotional animals. Bomman and Bellie see the elephants as their children and care for them accordingly. It was interesting in a ceremony where Raghu is presented to Lord Ganesha (a elephant headed god) that Bomman speaks of being able to see God in the elephants. The Elephant Whisperers can be seen on Netflix.

Haulout (25 minutes, directed by Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev). On a remote coast of the Siberian Arctic, a scientist waits in a weather-beaten hut for others to arrive?and arrive they do. The empty landscape soon becomes a densely populated colony of about 100,000 walruses. The man documents their stay and the sad aftermath of their time there.

The reason behind this massive gathering is the lack of sea ice due to global warming. The walruses have no where else to go and end up coming out of the ocean in these large numbers. Many will perish. It is an example of the cost of global warming on the natural world.

How Do You Measure a Year? (29 minutes, directed by Jay Rosenblatt). Each year on his daughter Ella?s birthday, beginning when she turned two, Rosenblatt filmed her siting in the same spot and asked her questions?mostly the same questions from year to year. As we work through snippets of those interviews, we get a chance to see just what happens from year to year until she turns eighteen.

This is a sweet documentary as we watch a toddler grow into a young woman about to set off into the world. It is heart-warming to see the father-daughter relationship evolve along the way. For Ella?s part, this exercise might be of value to understand herself. For the rest of the world who watches, it is a time to remember how we and those we love change over time.

The Martha Mitchell Effect (39 minutes, directed by Anne Alvergue and Debra McClutchy). During the Nixon Administration, one of the most interesting and perhaps misunderstood characters was Martha Mitchel, wife of Attorney General John Mitchell. At a time when everyone of power was male, Martha Mitchell was not a quiet wife. She would call the press to make it clear what was really happening. In the aftermath of Watergate, she often spoke out about how high up the wrongdoing went. She was ridiculed and called insane. Yet we learned later, she was right.

The title comes from a recognized situation in which people are deemed delusional, and later discovered to be telling the truth. This may seem like just a history lesson about fifty years ago, but in a world where ?gaslighting? is named the word of the year, it gives us a new understanding on the political processes that are still happening.

Stranger at the Gate (30 minutes, directed by Joshua Seftel). ?Mac? McKinney, a 25 year Marine veteran, saw Muslims as a threat to his community and family. He planned to bomb the local mosque in Indiana. We hear McKinney tell his story. We also meet his wife and daughter. He expected to have to stand trial, and he wanted to have a clear case to support his action, so he went to the mosque to learn more about Islam, There he met Saber and Bibi Bahrami and others. They immediately welcomed him. They treated him as someone in need. It changed not only his plan, but his life.

The Islamophobia that McKinney had is in some ways understandable given his military experience, but he discovered that Islam was far more and far different from that experience. This story shifts from being about a possible horrendous crime to a story of forgiveness and redemption. We may all need to learn the power of kindness and a welcoming spirit and they can touch the lives of the people we meet each day.

My favorite of the nominees is How Do You Measure a Year? In just a half hour we get a chance to see an overview of child development as well as a relationship that grows deeper from year to year. And I?m always a sucker for father/child stories. The Elephant Whisperers is also very enjoyable as we see how gentle these giant animals are as well as how much like us. And, it is also a bit of a parent/child story.

Photos courtesy of ShortsTV.

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