Tag Archives: Colette

Oscar Nominated Shorts: Documentary

by George Wolf

When I was a kid watching the Oscars, I remember always being perplexed by short film categories. How do people manage to see these shorts?

Good news, kids, it’s gotten much easier. In the last several years, all the nominated shorts have been packaged by category for theatrical showings. This year, of course, virtual screenings are available as well, making it more convenient than ever to find great films in smaller packages.

As usual, these nominated documentary shorts are often heart-wrenching, but able to speak necessary truths to power and our collective human experience.

A Concerto Is a Conversation 13 mins. Directors: Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot

Pianist and film composer Kris Bowers explains to his 91 year-old grandfather Horace (and to us) that a concerto is a conversation between a soloist and an ensemble.

But the conversation between the Bowers men is a moving work of art itself, as Horace recalls his life’s journey from a poor kid in the Jim Crow south to a successful business owner in Los Angeles.

And as Kris prepares for the premiere of his first concerto, the film becomes a beautiful expression of heritage, love, talent and courage.

Colette 25 mins. Writer/director: Anthony Giacchino

75 years after her stint as a member of the French Resistance, 90 year-old Colette Catherine is preparing to make her first journey to the concentration camp in Germany where her brother Jean-Pierre died.

She’s accompanied by the young Lucie, a history student and docent at France’s WWII museum, who regards Colette as a “national hero.”

As sobering and horrific as the subject matter suggests, Collette – the film and the hero – finds a redemptive power through defiantly shining a spotlight on an evil that still searches for dark places to take root.

Do Not Split 36 mins. Director: Andreas Hammer

Taking us to the front lines of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests of 2019, Do Not Split becomes a tense, indelible account of resistance against civil rights abuses that will look pretty familiar to U.S. audiences.

Hammer is blessed with a host of intimate footage, often featuring first person commentary from protesters while they are actively pushing back against tear gas and police escalation.

It’s gripping stuff. Without becoming overbearing, the film never lets you forget you are watching important and heroic history unfold.

Hunger Ward 40 mins. Director: Skye Fitzgerald

Part 3 of Fitzgerald’s Refugee Trilogy (along with 50 Feet From Syria and the Oscar-nominated Lifeboat), Hunger Ward‘s focus is the children – specifically those affected by the ongoing civil war in Yemen.

The images of wounded and starving children carry an understandably tragic weight, while real time footage inside a Yemeni memorial service being actively shelled is unforgettable.

And still, those committed to helping the children exhibit an unwavering and miraculous resolve.

The U.N. has labeled Yemen as home to the world’s “greatest humanitarian crisis,” and Fitzgerald’s unflinching call for action and empathy will leave your heart in your throat.

A Love Song For Latasha 19 mins. Director: Sophia Nahli Allison

A touching tribute to one victim of senseless gun violence, A Love Song…turns the focus away from the aftermath and toward the positive effect Latasha Harlins had on those around her.

In 1992, 15-year-old Latasha was killed by a store clerk in South Central Los Angeles. Framed by Allison (and Executive Producer Ava DuVernay) as a VHS tape memoir with sequences of animation, the film lets the narration from Latasha’s best friend Ty and cousin Shinise craft a warmly intimate profile.

A Love Song For Latasha wants us to know that these victims of racial injustice aren’t just statistics to be glossed over. In a short time, Latasha Harlins made a big impact. So it seems only fitting that a short film makes you glad to meet her.



by Christie Robb

Emotional, entitled, white men seem omnipresent these days. They’re on the news. They’re on social media. They’re on the big screen. At least with the biopic Colette, they are confined to an historical period safely a century behind us.

Colette gives us the origin story of French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (Keira Knightley), a Madonna-like figure of the early 1900s who emerged from a small provincial village to become the toast of Paris, reinventing herself over the years as a novelist, mime, actress and journalist.

She wrote frankly about women’s independence, sexuality and aging. She sparked a riot at the Moulin Rouge in 1907 when she performed a lesbian love scene in a pantomime. She was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. She wrote the book Gigi, which was adapted for the stage where she personally selected a then-unknown Audrey Hepburn for the leading role in 1951. The book then became an MGM musical that won nine Academy Awards in 1958 (including Best Picture). When she died, Colette was the first woman in France to be given a state funeral.

But before all that, Colette married a bully named Willy (Dominic West). Over a decade her senior, Willy was a popular writer who put out music reviews, stories and novels. Quite a bit were written by other people in a factory system where Willy provided the brand, but others produced the work. He compelled his wife to join the team, asking her to mine her childhood experiences so he could publish them under his name. Once the Claudine books became popular, he would lock Colette in a room until he was satisfied she had written enough.

The movie tells the story of Colette’s time with Willy and traces an arc from her awkward introduction into Paris salon society to an eventual break with the abusive hack and first steps toward an independent life.

Knightly is masterful inhabiting the multifaceted Colette, using her eyes to hint at the hurt she’s experiencing while wielding a bold bravado as a shield in her constant verbal fencing matches with her husband. West presents as a believable blowhard—initially charming, then volatile, narcissistic, abusive, and ultimately self-pitying, sniveling and weak.

Given the breadth of Colette’s life and its many acts, it makes sense that director Wash Westmoreland would focus on a distinct part of it. However, because of his desire to give screen time to so many of the big Personalities of the Belle Époque and to keep the focus squarely on the time period of the Colette/Willy relationship, the movie seems simultaneously thinly-sketched and agonizingly long. With so much of the movie involving Colette being shit on, the movie verges on indignity porn. How much can this woman take, before she snaps?

But when she snaps…it’s so good. Oscar-bait good.

Given this week, I’d have vastly preferred it if more of the movie had focused on the glorious and adventurous life Colette led after she dumped Willy and struck out on her own. But, even so, it’s a story of liberation and the claiming of a woman’s power. Something that’s needed.

I just hope there’s a sequel.