Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
Oscar Nominated Shorts: Documentary - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Oscar Nominated Shorts: Documentary
Body Team 12: B+
Last Day of Freedom: A-
Chau, Beyond the Lines: B
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah: B
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness: A

In the past, only the Live Action and Animated Oscar-nominated shorts were given theatrical release, at least locally here in Seattle -- but this year, while Landmark Theatres has still been offering those presentations at the Guild 45 in Wallingford, Sundance Cinemas is offering the Documentary shorts in their U District theatre. The downside is that they apparently think a cumulative run time of two hours and 39 minutes is too long (um, whatever), and they are splitting them up into "Program A," which features three of the shorts; and "Program B," which features two of them. This means you have to pay for a movie twice to see them all; the matinee showings I went to cost me a combined $23. Is that worth it? If you're a huge movie buff like me, then yes of course it is. Otherwise, though, you may be interested to know that two of these shorts are HBO Original Documentaries (Claude Lanzmann and A Girl in the River) that, while not currently available on HBO Go, likely will be before long. And one of those is easily the best of the bunch.

body team 12 Body Team 12 (Liberia, 13 minutes) is the shortest film among this group, but still doesn't fall short on impact. With impressive camera work, the team of the title is followed through a Liberian city as they collect the bodies of victims of the Ebola outbreak at its peak. The director focuses on the one woman on the team, and although it lacks a broad socio-political picture of the outbreak, this makes it quite effectively personal. There's a lot of talk about faith -- a recurring theme among these films -- but in a situation like this, what else do they have? Seeing the citizens of Monrovia mourn not just their loved ones but the lack of any means to bury them because the bodies have to be taken and cremated is heartbreaking.

last day of freedom Last Day of Freedom (USA, 32 minutes) brings things home, and is a wonderfully rendered animated documentary short, which is liable to leave you infuriated at the pervasive injustice that persists in the United States. It's much more complicated and nuanced than this, but it still all comes down to the death penalty -- which the subject of this film, the only man who ever speaks, references at the very beginning: he thought nothing of it until a family member was faced with it. So Bill Babbitt tells the story of his PTSD-afflicted brother Manny being sentenced to death after he "did the right thing" and turned him in, once he realized a murder had occurred. The more you hear Bill tell his story, the angrier you get. It could be that rendering it in animated line drawings makes it easier to take.

chau, beyond the lines Chau, Beyond the Lines (USA/Vietnam, 34 minutes) is the only one of these five films with any real hope or uplift to it, and ironically, it is also the weakest of the bunch. It's too bad so many documentaries with the greatest impact have to be so depressing. But this look at Chau, one of many Vietnamese children born with birth defects due to Agent Orange, is a bit overlong. This young man is a skilled drawer with aspirations to win a local competition, and perhaps one day make a living with his art. It's very much a hardship-overcoming-adversity story, but it also spends too much time in the beginning dwelling on his day to day life with other children in the center where he lives. There's a certain lack of polish in the editing, but at least this is one film that offers a reason to feel good about the direction someone's life is going.

claude lanzmann spectres of the shoah Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah (USA, 40 minutes) -- Did you know there was a nine and a half-hour documentary released in 1985, widely considered to be the definitive work on the Holocaust? I didn't. It apparently took the better part of a decade to complete, featuring interviews with witnesses to the horrors -- both survivors and perpetrators. This 40-minute documentary is about that documentary, but more specifically about how the making of it affected the writer-director. It's a fascinating angle, to be sure, although it does leave one with the sense that perhaps Shoah itself should be sought out and watched.

A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (Pakistan, 40 minutes) underscores the tragic, and even lethal, depths of misogyny in Pakistani culture. It's tempting to call this an indictment of Muslim culture, and to a large degree it is -- except this very same kind of shit happens in Hindu culture as well. (Pakistan and India aren't quite so different as they want to think.) The focus is solely on this one case, though, of a young woman who was shot in the face and arm by her father and uncle, because she married "beneath her" -- a man from a family poorer than them -- without her own family's permission. They dumped her in a river. But she survived, got reconstructive surgery, and returned to her husband. Her father and uncle were arrested. But this isn't so much about the story of her attempted murder as it is, quite literally, about the legal nature of "forgiveness" in her culture. The Pakistani legal system favors the men who engage in so-called "honor killings" if the victim or family of the victim declares they are forgiven, in an attempt to keep the peace in their community. Because without it, this young woman's husband's entire family would be shunned, and if her father is convicted, his family is "dishonored" and disgraced as well. It's beyond fucked up -- but, perhaps, the more people see films like this, the more young women's lives will actually be saved. A Girl in the River is the best of the nominated films and probably has a real shot at winning the Oscar. All of these films are important in their own right, but this one has the farthest-reaching implications.

a girl in the river the price of forgiveness

Overall: B+
Leave a comment