2017 Oscar Nominated Short Films at various venues
In advance of this year's Oscars, which will be given out this Sunday, the SHORTS HD channel once again is screening all 15 of the nominated short films theatrically around the globe, as well as making them available on multiple VOD platforms.
This year's nominees are a typically impressive and diverse lot, and this year some are very topical, especially the documentaries. Two films in that category (The White Helmets and Watani: My Homeland) are about the seemingly never-ending Syrian civil war, and another, 4.1 Miles, concerns the European refugee crisis.
Here are some of the standouts in each category:
Ennemis Intérieurs (Sélim Azzazi, France) - The title of this film translates as "Enemies Within," and it is built around an interrogation of a French Algerian man who is applying for French citizenship. The initially innocuous questions by the immigration officer quickly turns into a third-degree inquisition, during which the French Algerian is suspected of having information on possible terrorists. Even though this film is set in the 1990's, the parallels to current events are obvious.
La Femme et le TGV (Timo von Gunten, Switzerland) (pictured) - Starring the actress and cultural icon Jane Birkin (who has intimated that this may be her final screen role), this film is based on a true story about a woman, played by Birkin, who has a daily ritual of cheerily waving a Swiss flag at the TGV express train that passes in front of her house every morning. This leads to a written correspondence between the woman and the train conductor, which abruptly ends when the train line gets cancelled. Birkin is immensely charming and luminous, as is the film itself; she's brilliant as a lonely woman who soon learns to open up her world.
Timecode (Juanjo Giménez Peña, Spain) - This little gem is about two parking lot security guards, a man and woman, who work opposite day and night shifts, and who don't speak to each other beyond banal pleasantries as they relieve each other on duty. However, they find an unusual way to communicate via the CCTV security cameras.
The White Helmets (Orlando von Einsiedel, US) - This follows the titular group of volunteer rescuers in Aleppo, Syria who get together to try to save civilians from fallen buildings and other dangers from the war. The film focuses on three of these "White Helmets," who daily risk personal danger from the war as well as targeted attempted killings by terrorists and government forces. Intense and often heartbreaking, The White Helmets conveys the daily existence of Syrians under siege with visceral immediacy.
4.1 Miles (Daphne Matziaraki, US/Greece) - Part of the New York Times' impressive "Op Docs" series of shorts, the title of this piece refers to the stretch of water that separates the Greek island of Lesbos from the Turkish mainland. Hundreds of refugees daily make this treacherous crossing to escape war and other calamities to find safe haven in Europe. The film follows a Greek coast guard captain who is in charge of rescuing these people who attempt to make the dangerous trip to the shore. Some don't make it; the images of the drowned, desperate, and starving, the bodies of the dead, as well as the toll this all takes on the captain and his crew, are vividly palpable.
Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Robert Valley, Canada/UK) - The longest, as well as the most impressive overall, of the animated shorts this year is this wild autobiographical tale, based on Valley's own graphic novels and animated using Photoshop. It tells the story of Techno, an impulsively self-destructive childhood friend of the narrator, who must go to China to get a liver transplant to replace the one shot by many years of excessive drinking. Fueled by great rock tunes and filled with the same kind of crazy energy, this film is a delight to watch.
Blind Vaysha (Theodore Ushev, Canada) - Employing a striking animation style resembling moving woodcuts, this film tells the strange story of Vaysha, a girl born with different-colored eyes, the left one seeing the past, and the right one seeing the future, with the present as a blank blind spot. This is a very short, but very haunting piece.
NYC screening venues include IFC Center, Alamo Drafthouse Downtown Brooklyn, Nitehawk Cinema, and BAM Rose Cinemas. Click here for schedules and other info.