Short films can be good training for future filmmakers, or they can be an artform in themselves. Each year the Academy awards Oscars to three short films: Best Animated Short, Best Live Action Short, and Best Documentary (Short Subject). The nominees for these categories come from around the world and represent excellence, just as all the other films nominated for Oscars do. Each year, prior to the awards, there are programs of the short films that play in select theaters around the country. To see where you can catch one or more of these programs, check Shorts.tv.
The category of Best Documentary (Short Subject) is probably the shorts category that is most available to viewers in that many of these films stream or have played on public TV. Here is my take of the films nominated for Best Documentary (Short Subject) this year.
Audible. (40 minutes, USA). A football player and his friends at the Maryland School for the Deaf struggle with the end of a winning streak, the suicide of a friend, relationships, and facing going into the world. Director Matt Ogens gives us a coming-of-age story that is at once universal and specific. For more on this film, see my review from its Netflix release. Audible is available to stream on Netflix.
Lead Me Home. (40 minutes, USA). Homelessness has reached emergency proportions in many places. Directors Pedro Kos and John Shenk takes us to L.A., San Francisco, and Seattle to see into some of the encampments and shelters and to meet a few of the unhoused people and hear their stories and struggles. On any given night, half a million people in America experience homelessness. The film is a good way of putting these people in front of us. Solutions, of course, would take far more than a short film to examine. Lead Me Home is available to stream on Netflix.
The Queen of Basketball. (22 minutes, USA). Lusia Harris was the greatest woman basketball player of her time. In college she won three national championships. She scored the first basket ever in Olympic women’s basketball (and won a silver medal). She was drafted in the seventh round by the NBA’s New Orleans Jazz—the first woman officially drafted in the NBA. She was the first Black woman inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. But so few people know about her. Director Ben Proudfoot allows Lucy to narrate her own story along with archival clips. There was no WNBA at the time, so she had nowhere to go after college, which created problems. [Lusia Harris died in January of this year.]
Three Songs for Benazir. (22 minutes, Afghanistan). Shaista is recently married and trying to find a way to make a living in the displaced persons camps of Kabul. He would like to join the National Army, but his family won’t agree to care for his wife or offer the guarantees required by the Army. HIs only other option is to take part in the poppy harvest. It is a reminder of the difficult lives people faced during the war in Afghanistan. Three Songs for Benazir is available to stream on Netflix.
When We Were Bullies. (36 minutes, USA/Germany). Director Jay Rosenblatt recalls an incident from fifth grade in Brooklyn when he took part in bullying a classmate. Looking back fifty years later, he contacts other former classmates and their teacher for their recollections. The film is both a study in the dynamics that lead children to bully each other, and a way of working through his guilt for his part in the event.
My favorites among these films are When We Were Bullies (which was my favorite short from the AFI Docs festival) because it reminds me of the ways I bullied and was bullied at that age, and Lead Me Home for making homelessness not just the tent encampments we drive by, but the people in those tents.
Photos courtesy of Shorts.tv.