BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT:
- BODY TEAM 12 –
Body Team 12 is truck with employees faced with the traumatic and dangerous responsibility of transporting dead bodies inflicted with Ebola. From HBO, we look into the days in the lives of the people faced with this responsibility.
- CHAU, BEYOND THE LINES –
Chau is a 16 year old boy inflicted with malformed limbs. During pregnancy, Chau’s mother was exposed to Agent Orange. As you can probably guess, this is the reason Chau can’t walk normally. Despite his limitations, Chau’s taught himself to draw and dreams of being a costume designer. All around him, people keep discouraging him from reaching his dream. Chau refuses to give up.
- CLAUDE LANZMANN, SPECTRES OF THE SHOAH–
Shoah is not only considered one of the best films about the holocaust, but it’s also considered one of the best documentaries of all time. With a 9 Hour runtime, the film interviews countless survivors, locals who lived near concentration camps and even former Nazis (using hidden cameras). From the first scene of an old man singing on a boat, the film surprisingly kept me interested throughout the whole time, offering lots of perspective with the events of the holocaust.
This documentary reveals how Claude Lanzmann made the movie. Originally intended to be an 18 month work to create a two hour film, Claude Lanzmann spend 6 years filming over 350 hours of footage and spent 5 years putting it together. The making of the film is almost as fascinating as the documentary itself. Lanzmann faced a lot of challenges with this film. He went in knowing he was losing years of his life he could have made other projects. He couldn’t get former Nazis to be filmed, so he used secret cameras. On top of that, the French director couldn’t speak either German or Hebrew.
- THE GIRL ON THE RIVER: THE PRICE OF FORGIVENESS
Over 1000 Pakistani women are victims of “honor killings.” The title girl is one of the few who survived. Though horribly scarred, the girl finds love.
- LAST DAY OF FREEDOM
Ever since a childhood car accident, Manny Babbitt had to struggle with mental illness. His struggle’s made worst after the Vietnam War. But then one day, he commits a horrendous act.
But focus isn’t so much on Manny but his brother Billy. Billy’s faced with many internal conflicts. First of all, Billy has always supported the death penalty. But Manny’s committed an act horrendous enough for the death penalty. Which makes Billy wonder what the right thing to do is; turn his brother in or protect him from the law?
The film contains a lot of issues, from mental illness to racism.
Who Will Win?
It’s between Body Team 12 and The Girl on the River. Both center on brutal subjects happening today. The former focuses on people placing their lives on the line for the good of the community. The later has a person survive a twisted idea of “honor” and learning to move on with her life. It’s a hard choice. I’m going to go with Body Team 12 because of the heroics involved
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT:
- AVE MARIA
From Palestine comes a stinging sendup of religious practices.
A group of nuns find their oath of silence broken by an explosion. In a dark and hilarious note, they continue eating lunch. In a brilliant movie, it cuts to a destroyed statue of Mary apparently bleeding from its decapitated head.
The “explosion” is actually a Jewish family accidently crashing into the statue. Hijinks ensue when the patriarch tries to use their phone to call a cab. Hijinks ensue.
The film pokes a lot of fun at both religions’ rituals. The patriarch won’t touch the phone due to it being Sabbath (even though he was driving a car) and tries to keep his cranky mother from drinking non-kosher water. A young nun tries to communicate with the other nuns using sign language because breaking an oath of silence is punishable with forty “Hail Mary’s” and an “Our Father.”
- DAY ONE
Based on an interpreter he knew serving in Afghanistan, writer-director Henry Hughes gives us a look into Feda’s (Layla Alizada) first day on the job. In the midst of a divorce, Feda enters a world where you can’t ride a motorbike without the risk of hitting a mine.
In her first day, she helps interrogate a bomb maker. But things go out of whack when the suspect’s pregnant wife goes into labour. Thinks take a desperate turn when Feda’s forced to do something unthinkable to save the woman’s life.
The first looks at Feda getting used to routines, especially shower schedule. When that explosion happens, the short kicks into high gear and keeps it going through to the end.
- EVERYTHING WILL BE OKAY (ALLES WIRD GUT)
A divorced father (Simon Schwartz) picks up his daughter Lee (Julia Pointner) for a weekend together. It starts of as an ordinary day at the carnival. But when the father sells his car and books tickets, Lee realizes something’s not right. A weekend isn’t enough for him. He intends to keep her as long as he can.
A little like this ironically means everything’s about to turn to shit. I can’t give too much away, but I will give credit to Pointner for delivering a believable performance for such a young age. Schwartz portrays the father not as a monster but a pathetic man who commits reckless acts in a misguided act of love. It never excuses his behavior, which makes you kind of want him to stay away from Lee. You still understand where he’s coming from.
A bike on the road triggers childhood memories in Petrit (Kushtrim Sheremeti). Growing up during the Serbian War, Petrit (Lum Veseli) was an Albanian boy who spent his days with his best friend Oki(Andi Bajgora). Secretly, Petrit has been making trades with Serbian soldiers in hopes of earning enough for a bike. But one night, Petrit makes a decision that nearly costs him his friendship.
Then he learns the cruelties of war when he and his family becomes a target of lethal discrimination by the same Serbian soldiers he had been trading with. It becomes a harsh lesson of loyalty.
Greenwald’s (Matthew Needham) a typographer with a severe speech impediment. The words are crystal clear in his mind, but they come out as sputters. He learns sign language as to avoid communicating with people. The only place he can communicate with people is online, where he meets Ellie Parks (Chloe Pirrie).
When she announces she’s coming to London to meet him, he’s forced to confront his communication skills.
The strength of this short comes from Needham’s performance. He has a charming presence to keep our interests throughout the film. His internal monologues make Greenwald sound like a smart guy. It’s sad to see him unable to reveal that side of him.
The best scene comes from the moment he’s about to meet Ellie. You hear jumbles of thoughts overlap each other, knowing he’s trying to find the right words to begin with.
Who Will Win?
It’s a choice between Day One and Shok. I’ll admit my personal favourite was Ava Maria because of how hilarious it was.
But in terms of emotional impact, these two are the most powerful. I want to give it Day One because it’s a true story. But I’m going to go with Shok because it deals with a devastating subject from a child’s perspective.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT:
- BEAR STORY
From Brazil comes a bittersweet little fable.
In a world of anthropomorphic bears, one lonesome toymaker makes a bunch of windup toys to cope with the loss of his wife and son.
With these toys and a small box, Papa Bear heads to the streets to delivers a fable via automaton diorama. Within this box is a mini theatre telling a tale of a family of bear. This family’s happy life is ruined when mysterious hooded figures break into houses and abduct a variety of anthropomorphic animals, including Papa Bear. Taken away from his family, Papa Bear’s placed in a circus and forced to perform for an audience. After living through brutal conditions, Papa Bear escapes on a motorcycle and races to his family.
In terms of animation, this one looks the most amateur compared to most CGI short films nominated. But what this film lacks in professional look it makes up for in creativity. The automaton presentation looks impressive with dioramaesque stylization. I especially find it interesting that Papa Bear’s gears are exposing where the heart is.
The bittersweet tone comes from the fact that no matter how the theatre presentation ends, the real Papa Bear will still be alone.
The film centres on a battle between two Spartan soldiers and two Athenian solders. And that’s it. It’s just two naked men in a violent battle with two robed soldiers. And yes, you do see genitals. What makes this film special is the animation. Of all the short films on the list, this one is the most beautiful. The person thank is director and animation legend Richard Williams.
You might not know director Richard Williams, but animation enthusiasts consider him a legend. The work he’s most famous for is leading the animation of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. His work also includes a TV version of A Christmas Carol, the ultra-bizarre Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure and a Christmas specials starring Ziggy. He is also a man determined to push animation to new levels. This guy spent 26 years making his magnum opus The Thief and The Cobbler. To know more about the making of this film, I’d recommend the documentary The Persistence of Vision.
You can certainly see his drive in Prologue. Before the film truly begins, we see stacks of 8,640 pages required to make this film. He deliberately keeps the story as simple as possible to place more focus on the animation. The film uses this ultra-realistic animation style drawn on paper. He takes it further by having drawings move around the environment like a camera moving across a setting. The result not only looks beautiful but gives it a cinematic feel.
From the image of a bee pollinating a flower, this film just hooks you in its visual. The battle scene is beautiful, but it’s also brutal. The most grotesque is a solder getting a sword shoved up his ass. Then it ends with a close up of a little girl watching the horror and crying to her grandma.
- SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM :
This Pixar short was shown before The Good Dinosaur. The movie was conserved one of Pixar’s weaker entries, especially compared to Inside Out. But this short film is a definite high point.
Director Sanjay Patel tells a semi-autobiographical look at a boy growing up in a Hindu family. Sanjay’s father, devoted to his religion, taking time to meditate to figures of gods. Little Sanjay would rather watch superhero shows than meditate. Fed up with the TV blaring full blast during his meditation, Papa forces Sanjay to meditate with him.
During meditation, Sanjay daydreams of a superhero story. In a blend between tradition and pop culture, Sanjay’s superhero team consists of Hindu gods Vishnu, Durga and Hanuman and battle against Hindu villain Ravana.
The film has a lot of fun with this premise, with a combination of artistic animation and fun action scenes. It’s like a mini Kung Fu Panda. At the same time, it feels close to the heart, capturing the generation gap between father and son.
The one problem is the character designs of the humans, which is a bit too cartoonish. Which is kind of weird because the human designs of other Pixar films find that proper balance between real and cartoony, making them more appealing. Still, you get used to it quickly.
- WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT COMOS
This one’s definitely the silliest of the nominated films. In this goof fest, two astronauts compete for space travel. Through their physical tests, these two develop a strong bond via the title book. They find their friendship tested when one of them gets lost in space.
Though they are both in their thirties, these two behave like children. They actually jump on their beds like kids and one of them literally hits the roof. They seem to regard scientists like a child would a grown up. What makes them both lovable is their childlike enthusiasm for space, which you could argue gives them plenty of drive for success.
With no dialogue, there are sight gags galore in this film, from scientists patching a human size crater in the ceiling to one astronaut making many faces crossing window after window.
- WORLD OF TOMORROW
A little girl named Emily (Winona Mae) plays with a futuristic database when a woman appears on the screen. She says she’s a third generation Emily(Julia Pott), cloned and inserted with first Emily’s memories. She takes little Emily into the future where the little girl gains the memories of future Emily.
This film’s probably the strangest of the nominated short films. The animation style consists of the most amateur styles. The characters are all stick figures with giant overbites. The back ground is mostly one colour with more stick drawings. When the Emilys go into memories, the background often consists of CGI settings so amateur they wouldn’t pass for PlayStation graphics. And yet director Don Hertzfeldt uses this amateur design to add 2001-esque artistry to it.
Even stranger is the world they inhabit, which ranges between satire and surrealism. In the future, heads of dead loved ones are placed on robots for interaction. A museum display consists of a man stored in a tube so people can watch him age in real time. And then there’s Future Emily, who keeps falling for inanimate objects.
The funniest thing is how indifferent Emily is to all this. Future Emily’s delivering all of this philosophical and scientific information the kid’s too young to care about, let alone comprehend. She’d rather play with toy cars.
Hertzfeldt also made the critically acclaimed It’s Such a Beautiful Day. Both of these films use amateur animation and surreal humour to discuss philosophies on memories, mortality and technology. Both films offer a lot to talk about after each watch.
Who Will Win?
Usually, I’d give this to a Disney or Pixar short film. But World of Tomorrow’s leading the charge for this award, so I’m casting my vote for this one. Sanjay’s Super Team still has a chance to win because it’s Pixar.