When it is time to award the best in films each year, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences include three categories of short films in their Oscar® presentations. Most people don’t get to see many shorts. They play at festivals, and occasionally in front of a feature film. But short films are an art form worth attention. Many (probably most) feature filmmakers started out making short films. To tell a story in such a brief format takes skill. All the Oscar®-nominated short films will be playing in theaters and on virtual cinema in special programs.
Let’s take a look at the Oscar®-nominated short documentaries
Colette (25 minutes, directed by Anthony Giacchino). At 90 years old, Colette is one of the last remaining veterans of the French Resistance. She has never, in the years since the war, stepped foot in Germany. Now, with a young researcher, she is going to the Concentration Camp where her brother died. It is an emotional trip for both women. It makes the story of the Resistance and of her brother very personal.
A Concerto Is a Conversation (13 minutes, directed by Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot). Kris Bowers is a rising star among Hollywood composers. But he sometimes wonders, as an African American if he is “supposed to be in the spaces that I’m in.” As he talks with his grandfather, he hears of growing up in the Jim Crow south, and finding a way to a better life in Los Angeles, which shaped the family Bowers was born into. This is a bit of a celebration of family, and especially the bond between Bowers and his grandfather.
Do Not Split (35 minutes, directed by Anders Hammer). In the spring of 2019, when the Chinese government proposed extraditing Hong Kong people to China, protests began. By September (when the documentary joins the protests) these protests had gotten very large and filled with violence, by both protesters and police. This film takes us into those protests. It shows us the passion of the young people involved. But we really don’t get a lot of context to fully understand all the issues that come into play.
Hunger Ward (40 Minutes, directed by Skye Fitzgerald). In Yemen, war and famine have resulted in large numbers of children starving. This is a look into two clinics and the doctors who are trying to save the lives of these children. The film is a brutal experience—not because of violence, but because of the near hopelessness of the situation. Viewers should know they have to steal themselves for some of these scenes, which include children dying. It’s also important to note that the US is a key supporter and supplier of the Saudis who have blocked aid from reaching Yemen.
A Love Song for Latasha (19 minutes, directed by Sophia Nahli Allison). “Say her name” has become an important phrase in our culture as we remember the deaths of African Americans needlessly killed. Fifteen year old Latasha Harlins, was killed trying to buy Orange Juice. That event became a focal point in the 1992 Los Angeles uprising. This film, related by a cousin and a friend of Latasha does more than say her name. It tells of a life. It is not about a victim, but about what has been lost.
My favorite among these is A Concerto Is a Conversation. It points to the struggle people have endured, but also shows a bit of hope that we can do better. I hesitated to call Hunger Ward a “favorite”, because it is very difficult to watch. But it is a powerful and important story that much of the world is overlooking.
To see trailers or to find where you can see these shorts, go to https://shorts.tv/theoscarshorts/