Good things, small packages | Movie previews

Opening this week are the Oscar-nominated short film programs, the popular annual showcase of animated, live-action, and documentary short films nominated for this year’s Oscar at the Oscars. The nominees for 2020 constitute a remarkably strong collection of films, and in a year the Academy has once again made the news for not nominating a filmmaker for its directorial category, it is heartening to see so many female directors represented in each of these programs.

As usual, the short films are divided into separate programs according to the category (the short documentaries will be screened together instead of being split into two programs as in previous years).

Animated shorts

Melancholy drama by Moscow filmmaker Daria Kashcheeva “The girl” explores the relationship between a woman and her estranged father. Sitting with her ailing father by his hospital bed, the woman recalls her memories, focusing on a moment of childhood misunderstanding that has had a resounding impact on their relationship over the years.

The sweet, funny and sincere “Hair love” from directors Matthew A. Cherry, Everett Downing Jr. and Bruce W. Smith, focuses on the relationship between an African-American father and his daughter, as he faces one of his greatest parenting challenges at this time. day: combing your hair for the first time.

The adorable
is one of the first films created under Pixar’s SparkShorts program, which provides young artists in the studio with limited resources to produce their own independent passion projects. Director Rosana Sullivan uses a simple yet wonderfully expressive 2D character design to show the unexpected bond that forms between a stray kitten and a gentle pit bull.

Bruno Collet’s Dark “Memorable”
offers a heartbreaking window into the mind of a painter with Alzheimer’s disease. Objects melt and metamorphose, and the footage in the film becomes more and more surreal as man’s deteriorating memory leaves him lost in a strange, unattached reality.

Song of Siqi “Sister”
finds a man recollecting his childhood memories of growing up with a pesky little sister in 1990’s China. Told through a black and white stop-motion marker reminiscent of the fuzzy texture of childhood memory, the film leads to a surprisingly emotional conclusion.

Short documentaries

Chronicle of the murderous sinking of the Sewol ferry in South Korea in 2014, the heartbreak of Yi Seung-Jun “Without,” uses salvaged footage of the sunk ship and interviews with surviving family members to fiercely condemn the leadership and communication failures that have led to the needless deaths of hundreds of people aboard the ship.

In “Learn to skate in a war zone (if you are a girl)” Director Carol Dysinger trains her camera on the day-to-day operations of a girls’ school in Kabul, where students learn to read, write and, somewhat unexpectedly, skateboard. It’s an inspiring story of courage and how education can be its own unique form of resistance.

John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson “Life is beyond me” focuses on three refugee families living in Sweden, each with a young child with ‘resignation syndrome’, a mysterious and dissociative illness that causes them to withdraw in an unresponsive and coma-like state for months. A sobering look at a little reported effect of the global refugee crisis.

“Saint Louis Superman” follows Bruce Franks Jr., a Ferguson activist and combat rapper who became a member of the predominantly white, Republican Missouri House of Representatives. Directors Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan recount Franks’ efforts against the gun violence epidemic in his town, as they capture a moving portrayal of one man’s struggle to make a difference.

Directed by Laura Nix, originally from Fairport, “Walking Running Cha-Cha” tells the touching story of Paul and Millie Cao, who fell in love as a teenager in Vietnam but were too quickly separated by war. Years later, they finally reunited in California, and after decades of working to build a new life together, they discover a shared passion for ballroom dancing.

Live action shorts

An emergency telephone operator receives a call from a woman trapped in her kidnapper’s moving car in “A Sister”. A bit of the Danish feature film of 2018 “The guilty”, Delphine Girard’s thriller is nonetheless a masterclass of economic storytelling and escalating tension.

In the austere drama “Fraternity,” a shepherd living in the Tunisian countryside with his wife and two sons is deeply moved when his eldest son returns home after fighting in Syria, accompanied by his pregnant wife. It’s well done, but the artificial storytelling – the characters withholding crucial information for no clear reason – ends up fatally reducing the impact.

The only comedy in the live action crop, the winner “Nefta Football Club” finds two young brothers on a donkey wearing helmets and tied up with a huge amount of cocaine while wandering the desert. When a brother decides to use his discovery for his own benefit, this story takes delightfully unexpected turns.

At Bryan Buckley’s “Saria”, two sisters dream of escaping to a better life while facing abuse and daily hardships at the Virgen de La Asunción Safe Home, an orphanage for Guatemalan girls that became the scene of a real tragedy in 2017. A gripping story, but one that I couldn’t help but think would get a feature film treatment.

Two harassed New York City parents face crisis when young, free-spirited couple move into apartment across from theirs “The neighbors window.” As they find themselves increasingly obsessed with observing the couple’s carefree life, Marshall Curry draws a lot of emotion, humor and heart from this “the grass is always greener” story.

Adam Lubitow is a freelance writer for CITY. Comments on this article can be sent to [email protected]

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