Oscar Nominated Short Films, Live Action

Three of the nominated films are based on actual events that function as a poignant history lesson. One of the three is likely to win this year’s Oscar, though the other two follow close behind.

The first film is entitled DeKalb Elementary, a story of a mentally unstable tragic figure who takes an automatic rifle and a backpack full of bullets into a grade school. The entire film takes place in a Clerk’s Office where the gunman informs the kind school clerk to call the police. The gunman occasionally goes outside and fires his weapon and you are left wondering if he is going to shoot any of the children.

What unfolds is a gradual relationship between the clerk and the madman as she tries to help him overcome his own self-doubt. As you watch this caring woman try to help a threatening gunman who is admittedly mentally ill you find yourself empathizing in some strange way with both of them.

The third film shown is entitled My Nephew Emmett, which centers on the evening the black teenager Emmett Till was shot and killed by racists in Mississippi in 1965. The film centers on the little shack maintained by Emmett’s uncle, a man who knows the consequences of being an African-American living in rural Mississippi.

The movie leaves you with filled anger, bitterness and heartbreak as you watch two armed white men drag Emmett away for having the nerve to wink at a white woman. The performance of L.B. Williams as Emmett’s uncle rivals any performance on the big screen in this past year, and you know from the anguish on his face what is going to happen to the young man as he is hauled away in the back of a pickup truck.

The fifth and last film, Watu Woto/All of Us, a German film, takes place in 2015 on the terrorized border separating Kenya and Somalia. The film follows a Christian woman on a bus filled with Muslims who are attacked by Al-Shabaab terrorists. When all of the passengers are forced out at gunpoint, their lives depend on pointing a finger at the Christian woman in their company.

The film gives hope to us all as the Christian woman is disguised in an hijab and a heroic Muslim man, the father of four, challenges the gunmen to either embrace the true meaning of Islam or to kill them all.

The film is a splendid reminder that all human beings are living on the same ship known as Mother Earth regardless of our religious preference. Why can’t we simply find a way to turn the other cheek and embrace our fellow man?

The fourth film was a product of the United Kingdom entitled The Silent Child. Upon reflection it stands out as my favorite film of this year’s group. It tells the story of a five-year-old deaf girl, all but ignored by otherwise caring parents, who comes under the supervision of a social worker who is brought in to help her.

With a script by Rachel Shenton, who played the kind worker Joanne, you watch Libby, a very shy child, come out of her shell through the use of sign language. As Libby, played marvelously by Maisie Sly, begins to connect with the outside world under the guidance of Joanne, the movie turns reason on its head when the parents insist that she attend a school where sign language is rejected as an option.

You battle back your own tears as you watch Libby leaning against a wall at school as other kids play around her. You then see Joanne stare through a locked gate at her, using sign language to tell Libby “I love you”. Libby responds with the same words without an ounce of emotion on her face. That ending scene is as crushing as anything you will have seen in any film this past year.

The last film is an Australian comedy entitled The Eleven O’Clock that left members of the audience laughing from beginning to end. It tells the incredible funny story of a beleaguered psychiatrist whose new patient is an individual who adamantly believes falsely that he is a psychiatrist.

The exchanges between the two men are wildly inventive, and they both approach the other in a growing frenzy of frustration. It is a rollicking wild time that provided a welcome relief from the sorrow and bittersweet moments produced by the other films.

Let me close by making a comment about The Florida Project, a movie embraced by many critics across the country. While I reviewed it months ago, the simple fact is that it would have been a great film had it been edited to function as a live action short film. Like the movies referred to above, the film had great significance, but it unfortunately drowned in a length where nearly every important moment was unfortunately repeated.