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.