BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT:
The first of two documentary shorts produced by Netflix, Extremis follows the day of a doctor in an Intensive Care Unit. Over the course of 24 minutes, Director Dan Krauss confronts the most difficult decision anyone can make for their loved ones.
As the film begins, Dr. Jessica Zitter tries to get a response from a patient. Since he’s unable to write, Dr. Zitter has him point at letters. We see her meet with patient after patient in critical condition, trying to care for them as best she can. At the centre of the film are two patients; Donna and Stella. Donna is in such terrible condition; the doctors must strap her arms to the bed to prevent her from pulling out the tubes. Stella is unresponsive to her family. For both patients, their loved ones are faced with a difficult choice; Keep her on a ventilator or allow her to die peacefully. It’s an impossible decision to make.
To call this film heartbreaking would be one hell of an understatement. This film will emotionally tear you apart. Throughout the film, we bear witness heart wrenching moments of patients’ coping with unbearable suffering while their loved ones try to console them. The most unforgettable comes from a 38-year-old woman, whose told she may to be put to sleep and placed on a breathing tube. Hearing her cry “I’m 38. A new grandma. I don’t want to give my life away” was so devastating, just writing that line brings me to tears. It will especially overwhelming for those who just went through a loss.
Can you imagine how doctors and nurses cope with these tragedies every day? Throughout the film, we see Dr. Zitter trying to communicate with patients and sit with their loved ones about difficult decisions they might have to make for their loved ones. For each patient, she’s faces the challenge of ensuring she makes the right decision that causes the last suffering. She recalls one time as a young attending that taught her a hard lesson on not subjecting patients to unnecessary suffering.
If you check this film on Netflix, be prepared to stop the film halfway to collect yourself.
Between 2015-2016, 600,000 Migrants crossed 4.1 miles of water between Turkey and the Greek Island of Lesbos. Praying on the refugee’s desperation, smugglers set a big price then blackmail them into travelling as quickly as possible. Then they are forced to take their chances in the vicious waves, crammed in overcrowded, shoddy boats.
Enter the coast guard of Lespos to save them. 4.1 Miles looks at the heroics of those coast guards. Over the course of 24 minutes, we are brought right into the action of each rescue mission. In a race against time, the guards throw ropes and tubes to the refugees as the boat sinks. At one point, they find 200 refugees overboard with no life jackets.
This really brings a human face to the refugee crisis. With each rescue, we see the look of traumatized, desperate people. As the coast guard would say “When I look into their eyes, I see their experiences of war.” Children and adults are in tears. Then we find children unconscious, and the guards must race to land to save them. At one point, things get so desperate the cameraman puts his camera down to help the guards.
4.1 Miles is an intense look at a Coast guard’s heroics and the suffering of people fleeing war.
With this violin contains the legacy of Joseph Feingold. With only a packet of cigarettes as currency after surviving the holocaust, Joseph chose to purchase a violin instead of warm clothes or food. He had played it for decades through his move to America, his work as an architect and his marriage to Regina. Now, at the age of 91, he’s decided to donate the instrument to the WQXR Instrument Drive Foundation. Joseph’s violin comes into the life of Brianna, a tween student from the Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls. Soon Joseph and Brianna form a bond over this violin.
Each person has a life story fascinating enough for their own shorts. In a school where violin practice are as important as science class, a lot of immigrant children or children of immigrants attend. The non-profit organization expected to only receive 1000, but got over 3000 instruments donated, each containing a fascinating life story. Joseph of course, had the most fascinating and tragic of the film. Growing up in a family centered around music, he had been playing the violin since he was a kid. He was forced to leave his instrument when his family were fleeing the Nazis. Of course, the Germans caught up with them and sent his family to prison labour camp. Music was his hope and that is what that violin came to be.
Joe’s Violin embodies the hope that keeps survivors going through their lowest point and the bonds formed by survivors
Click this link to watch the documentary.
Filmed over the course of three years, Watani: My Homeland looks at the ordeal of the Ali family. As the only family living in war torn Aleppo, every day is a fight for survival for Abu, his wife Halal and their children Hammoudi, Helen, Farah and Sara. It’s especially dangerous when Abu’s a Free Syrian Army Commander. Seeing them walking around demolished buildings and ransacked rooms is heartbreaking.
When Abu is captured by ISIS, the family’s forced to take refuge in small town in Germany in hopes of a better life. We see them adjust to their new school.
I was unable to see this movie.
Another original Netflix documentary, this short film considers the lives of those who stayed behind in Syria to rescue those in need.
For 5 years, Syria has been at war with itself. Through those years, over 400,000 Syrians have been killed and millions have fled their homes. Then in 2013, the Syrian Civil Defense group was formed. Residing in 120 centres across the country, they are the first responders when Russian launches its air strikes. They are known as the white helmets.
This documentary follows three of the 2,900 members; Khalid Farah, a former builder raising his daughter Amal in the wreckage. Abu Omar, a former blacksmith, and Mohammed Farah, a former soldier who found more value in saving a soul than in taking one.
From the first minute, we brought right into the line of fire. We travel with our heroes along dangerous grounds, often while there are still explosions. Seeing them dig a baby out of some rubble is unnerving. Plus, knowing they are targets of Isis makes you worry for them.
We also see White Helmets going through training in Turkey. Since most of them have no medical training, they are required to take a month of medical training.
Despite these horrors, our heroes remain hopeful since it’s all they have.
Who Will Win?
It looks like Joe’s Violin will be duking it out against one of the Netflix documentaries. The academy usually favours the Holocaust documentary so the odds are in Joe’s favour. Plus, the documentary has a feeling of hope, which academy voters love.
But there could be a chance one of the Netflix documentaries could steal away the award. Extremis leaves the most emotional impact, but The White Helmets brings out the most heroics. But that chance is not that strong.