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2013 Oscar-Nominated DOCUMENTARY Shorts

February 22, 2013

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The Academy usually nominates documentary shorts have some kind of message and these five are following in that tradition. None of them will hit you over the head with their “importance” though. All of them possess a straight-forward directness with the kind of honesty that you hope for, one that respects you the viewer to arrive at some kind of connection to the people on-screen on your own terms. Many will be able to relate or connect to the people who are the subject of such themes as: homelessness, illegal immigrants, cancer, sick children, poverty and old age. As always, it’s a shame that these shorts can’t find a wider audience.

With five films nominated, it’s clear not all of them will be phenomenal, but they are legitimately  moving in some way. The only problem I had with these selections was that they are from USA. I find it hard to believe that no other countries are making compelling documentary shorts. Below, you’ll find my thoughts on this year’s nominees….

 

 

2013ShortsRedemption

 

REDEMPTION (USA) – directed by Jon Alpert & Matthew O’Neil

Set in various New York City boroughs, “Redemption” focuses on those often overlooked people who spend their days collecting bottles and cans all day. It’s a subcultural primarily made up of middle-aged (and up) individuals who used to work as cooks, teachers, or computer techs, who (for whatever reason) are now making the most of it, despite extreme poverty and homelessness. They were someone’s co-workers or relatives and now they live under the radar. The affective short follows a handful of these men and women (quite unintentionally entertaining in their own right) who depend on “canning”, some of them piling their collection six feet high in their shopping carts, as they make their living off the money they redeem from recycling. It’s a well-filmed and impressive short that isn’t out to offer any solutions, but rather provide a voice to an often marginalized working class. (35 min.) 

RATING: ***

 

2013ShortsKingsPoint

 

KINGS POINT (USA) – directed by Sari Gilman

New Yorkers permanently migrating to Florida is nothing new. Many who grew up in the Depression era started moving south in the late 1970s to escape the winters and retire to a life of leisure.  A good majority of them reside in Kings Point, a town in Palm Beach County, which is the focus of this short, particularly five seniors living in a retirement community and how they’ve dealt with loss, illness and a complete lifestyle change.  It’s filmed in a casual style that offers a sweet and heartfelt look at the daily activities of these often cantankerous folks, the short unfortunately falls a little too short. Although it covers somewhat familiar ground, “Kings Point” could’ve benefitted from focusing on one or two aspects of these lives (for example, their fear of getting close to people their own age), instead of a general overview. (40 min.)

RATING: **

 

 

2013ShortsMondays

 

MONDAYS AT RACINE (USA) – directed by Cynthia Wade

For me, this was the most touching doc in the bunch, introducing us to a couple of sisters who run a hair salon in Long Island named Racine, who offer their services on the third Monday of each month to women undergoing chemotherapy. Externally, these women have or are losing their hair, but there is also an internal loss of identity as well and that’s what this short covers with heartbreaking honesty. It’s an honest portrayal of what these women go through, taking us into their personal lives and how they deal with their fears and doubts along with the fractured relationships that develop due to their illnesses. Despite all that, it’s a documentary that utilizes its running time well (crucial for a short) and is ultimately one of hope and encouragement.

(39 min.)

RATING: ***1/2

 

 

2013ShortsOpenHeart

 

OPEN HEART (USA) – directed by Kief Davidson

Another heartbreaker, this time involving eight Rwandan children with serious heart conditions and what they and their family have to go through to get them the treatment they need. The parents of these children are told by one of the only cardiologists around that their children can receive vital heart surgery in Rwanda, but there are two conditions – the children have to travel without their parents, and if the child dies, their bodies cannot be sent back home for a burial.  Yep, there’s the heartbreak. Basically, the future of these families lies in the hands of blunt medical providers and corrupt government officials.  While this is the kind of doc which usually receives Oscar love, it felt overlong (yet it really wasn’t – what does that say?) and a little repetitious for a short. I may have been invested, especially during the explicit surgery scenes, but I couldn’t help wondering if this was still a short. (39 min.) 

RATING: **1/2

 

 

2013ShortsInocente

 

INOCENTE (USA) – directed by Sean Fine & Andrea Nix Fine 

Inocente Izucar is a 15 year-old undocumented homeless immigrant fending for herself in San Diego. She’s also an art prodigy whose story is told by the husband and wife filmmakers Sean and Andrea Nix Fine (both co-directed with her serving as cinematographer and writer), who introduce us to this quirky and shy Latina. At an early age her father was deported back to Mexico because of abuse, leaving Inocente with her mother and younger siblings. It wasn’t until advocates in the local art community supported the teen that she was able to move out of the volatile family environment and actually flourish as an artist. The short follows Incocente as she prepares for her very first gallery opening which will display her colorful and dynamic work to a larger audience. I found myself becoming a fan of Inocente the person more than her artwork. It’s easy to get swept up by her soft-spoken nature and obvious perseverance. The Fines (who made a nother Oscar-nominated documentary feature, “War/Dance”) have made a short that gives a voice to an artist and brings to light the amount of homeless teens as well as those who are undocumented immigrants. (40 min.)

RATING: ***

 

Those are the five nominees for Best Documentary Short. Find out which one will win the Oscar on Sunday, February 24, 2013.

 

 

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