Tag Archives: Oscar nominated live action short films

The Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts

by George Wolf

Fair warning: you’re not going to find many laughs in this year’s crop of Live Action nominees. But these fantastic short films come from all over the world to deliver important and consistently compelling statements.

Ala Kachuu (Take and Run)

Kyrgyzstan 38 mins. Writer/director: Maria Brendle

A young Kyrgyz woman (Alina Turdumamatova, excellent) has dreams of pursuing higher education with a scholarship. But when she’s kidnapped and forced to marry, her quest for freedom runs counter to long held traditions. Filmmaker Maria Brendle calls attention to a shockingly common practice with a stirring, sympathetic narrative.

The Dress

Poland 30 mins. Writer/director: Tadeusz Lysiak

In rural Poland, Julka (Anna Dzieduszycka, heartbreaking) works as a maid and dreams of a better life. A handsome truck driver (Szymon Piotr Warszawski) stirs hopes for romance, so Julka searches for the perfect dress for date night. In just 30 minutes, writer/director Lysiak delivers a fully crafted take on loneliness with a devastating final shot.

The Long Goodbye

United Kingdom/Netherlands 13 mins. Director: Aneil Karia Writers: Aneil Karia, Riz Ahmed

During a busy, laughter-filled family gathering, a TV news report delivers subtle foreshadowing about the brutality that will soon be at the family’s front door. The question is “Where are you from?” Karia and Ahmed deliver the answer is blistering, defiant fashion.

On My Mind

Denmark 18 mins. Writer/director: Martin Strange-Hansen

Henrick (Rasmus Hammerich) stops in to a nearly empty bar for some badly-needed shots of whiskey. He spots a karaoke machine, and will not be denied the chance to be filmed singing “Always on My Mind.” Have the tissues handy for this lovely take on love, death, and the power of great song.

Please Hold

United States 19 mins. Director: KD Davila Writers: KD Davila and Omer Levin Menekse

In the near (very near?) future, a young man named Mateo (Erick Lopez) is walking to work when he’s arrested by a police drone threatening force. Unaware of the charges and desperate to talk to a human being, Mateo is thrust into a completely automated justice system with a focus on profit and proficiency. It’s thought-provoking, darkly comic and completely terrifying.

Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action

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.

And if there was any doubt that movies are mirrors, check the pervasive theme that runs through this year’s live-action nominees. All are examples of the struggle to retain human dignity, to be seen simply as worthy. And in four of these five films, that struggle directly involves abuses by law enforcement officials.

Feeling Through 18 Mins. Writer/director: Doug Roland

A troubled teen (Steven Prescod) needs a place to stay for the night, but his search is interrupted by a deaf and blind man (Robert Tarango) who needs help crossing the street.

The fact that Tarango is the first deaf and blind actor to be cast in a film is reason enough to seek this out, but Roland has crafted a truly touching ode to the healing power of caring.

Prescod and Tarango are wonderful together, and our short time with both of them is nothing but rewarding.

Two Distant Strangers 32 mins. Writer: Travon Free Directors: Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe

Really? Another Groundhog Day premise? Yes, but get ready, this gripping slice of activism will rock you.

Carter (Joey Bada$$) and Perri (Zaria) are still flirting the morning after their first hookup. Shortly after Carter heads home to check on his dog, an aggressive cop (Andrew Howard) incites a confrontation, and soon Carter is dead on the sidewalk…until he again wakes up in Perri’s bed.

The scenario plays over and over, with Carter trying to come up with some way to change his fate.

Free, a former Daily Show writer making his film debut, lulls you with a comfortable device before lowering the boom. It’s uncomfortable, as it should be, but you’ll want to thank Free for the experience…as soon as you catch your breath.

The Letter Room 33 mins. Writer/director: Elvira Lind

The first thing that catches your eye here is a familiar face. Yes, that is Oscar Isaac, starring as Richard, a corrections officer granted a transfer to the facility’s letter room.

Letters from Rosita (Alia Shawkat) to Death Row inmate Cris (Brain Petsos) captivate Richard’s interest, until he’s tempted to cross some questionable lines.

Lind (Isaac’s wife) mines her powerhouse cast for a beautifully subtle layer of humanity. Everyone here is flawed, in different ways and by varying degrees. But Lind lets us see just how far a little empathy can go – even in the darkest places.

The Present 24 mins. Writers: Farah Nabulsi Directors: Farah Nabulsi and Hind Shoufani

On the morning of his wedding anniversary, Palestinian Yusef (Saleh Bakri) and his young daughter (Mariam Kanj) head out to buy a gift for his wife (Mariam Basha).

But the road to celebration is littered with soldiers and segregation, cages and checkpoints. As Yusef endures humiliation in front of his daughter, rising tensions increase the chance of a deadly altercation.

It feels somewhat surprising to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict funneled through a Palestine viewpoint. And though Nabulsi’s hand is never overly heavy, a universal power struggle emerges: authority flexes muscle against those trying to remain calm and grasp for options.

The Present offers hope that the children can one day find common ground.

White Eye 20 mins. Writer/director: Tomer Shushan

White Eye‘s search for humanity begins with a bicycle.

An Israeli man named Omer (Daniel Gad) spots his stolen bike locked up on the street. Immigrant Yunes (Dawit Tekelaeb) says he bought the bike fair and square, but Omer doesn’t want to hear it.

Once Omer alerts the police, the situation (you guessed it) escalates, and soon Yunes’s co-workers are in hiding and Omer is staring headfirst into consequences he may not have intended.

Gad carves out a 20-minute arc of awakening for Omer that feels achingly real. It’s a standout performance, and the driving force that makes White Eye linger with lasting resonance.