by Hope Madden
This year’s Oscar-nominated live-action shorts take on an international flavor. Entries from Hungary, Switzerland, Denmark, France and Spain talk culture, loneliness, oppression and racism in a spate of lovely dramas, comedies and romantic bits.
Enemies Within (Ennemis Interieurs)
Director: Selim Aazzazi
Running Time: 28 minutes
Enemies Within (Ennemis interieurs) from France’s Selim Aazzazi intimately examines a power struggle between two men – a French inspector interrogates an Algerian-born Frenchman looking to formalize his citizenship.
McCarthyism knows no geographic border, nor does terrorism, paranoia, or the fallout from all three. Two nuanced performances keep the work – also written by Aazzazi – riveting.
La Femme et la TGV
Director: Timo von Gunten
Running Time: 30 minutes
Switzerland’s La femme et le TGV, a slight but insightful pseudo-romance, follows an aging woman who clings to things as they are. “I’ve never sent an Internet and I never will,” she declares. A charming and sometimes poignant look at embracing change, the film also looks great.
Director: Aske Bang
Running Time: 30 minutes
A holiday piece on loneliness, longing and belonging, Denmark’s Silent Nights is the most sentimental of the shorts. Written and directed by Aske Bang, the film follows an immigrant from Ghana (Prince Yaw Appiah) and the homeless shelter volunteer (Malene Beltoff Olsen) who loves him.
Strong performances, especially from Olsen, buoy a solid if too tidy film.
Director: Kristof Deak
Running Time: 25 minutes
Kristof Deak’s entry from Hungary is equal parts sinister and triumphant as the new kid in school gets to join the country’s most successful children’s choir. Sing (Mindenki) follows Zsofi (Dorka Gasparfalvi). Befriended by popular Liza (Dorka Hais) and invited – as are all students – to join the world famous choir, Zsofi couldn’t be happier. Until she – and, by extension, Liza – learn something not quite right.
Deak articulates the logic of a child in a drama that offers as much tension and as welcome a resolution as most full-length films.
Director: Juanjo Gimenez Pena
Running Time: 15 minutes
Spain’s Timecode is the most charming of the lot. Two parking garage security guards see each other in person only at the beginning and end of each shift. Regardless, they develop a very particular friendship – one that is fun, funny, endearing and full of welcome surprises.