An International Batch of Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts
Once again, ShortsHD is bringing this year’s batch of Oscar nominated Live Action and Animated Short Films to a global audience. In the United States, check your local Landmark theater to see if either Showcase is now playing. Here’s our rundown of the Live Action films, chiming in from all over the globe. Contributing reviewers include Taylor Blake, Erik Yates, Krystal Lyon, and Jim Tudor. Get an edge in your Oscar pool, and more importantly, be informed about some solid, if short, cinema that is being celebrated:
dir. Kristof Deak, Hungary, 25 minutes
Sing is just as unassuming as its lead, little Zsofí (Dóra Gáspárvalvi). As she adjusts to a new school, she’s a bit shy but thinks she’ll find a place she fits in the award-winning school choir. That is, until after her first rehearsal. Choir director Miss Erika (Zsófia Szamosi) pulls her aside and asks her to stop singing and start miming so her voice won’t drag down their chances of winning the upcoming national competition.
Sing (or Mindenki in its native Hungary) starts simple with the awkwardness of making friends in elementary school and escalates to the subversion of an authoritarian microcosm. Similarly, Kristóf Deák’s direction starts small with straightforward shots and a familiar setup then transitions to a lengthy, complicated pan around the playground and some fantastic performances from child actors. And with a satisfying, sucker punch of an ending, there’s more than one reason Sing stood out to Oscar voters.
– Taylor Blake
dir. Aske Bang, Denmark, 30 minutes
Inger is a kind Danish woman who has recently taken a volunteer position at the Salvation Army. Despite having to hold fast to the strict rules on how many people they can shelter each night, Inger’s heart goes out to each individual that she has the pleasure to serve. She is also having to care for her alcoholic mother whom she often has to collect at the bar and escort home, or clean the feces off of her when she awakes the next afternoon. One of the patrons at the Salvation Army is an immigrant from Ghana named Kwame. He is struggling to send home money to his family, yet the situation in Denmark, and in Europe is tough for the African immigrant. Despite the prejudice they face from the Europeans, they also receive it from Arab immigrants. When Kwame is the victim of an attack by Arab immigrants, it is Inger who finds him and helps him. As time goes by, she and Kwame fall for one another until a situation back home in Ghana causes Kwame to take some actions that threaten everything they have. Silent Nights is certainly a current event type of short-film as the European Union has been struggling in a poor economy and increasing amounts of immigrants heading to the European shores from North Africa and the Middle East especially. This short film captures many of the issues being faced by both immigrant and naturalized citizen alike. The script has a difficult time allowing for all of the red flags that come up through Kwame’s actions to be adequately dealt with in a realistic way due to the compressed time structure of a short film. That being said, the cast is able to create very sympathetic, and layered characters that will certainly bring out a larger conversation, especially within Europe. – Erik Yates
dir. Juanjo Gimenez Pena, Spain, 15 minutes
2016 was a heavy year for film. Topics of bullying, death and grief, racism in America and broken families dominated the Oscar nominations. And while each of those films is a delicate work of art and understanding, it’s great to take a break, a dance break. Timecode provided just that. It’s marvelous how dance can lift your spirits and make something so ordinary like a twelve hour shift at a car garage a place full of wonder. Director Juanjo Giménez confronts the mundane world that we all face, each of us has a spot that feels dull and monotonous. But there is magic in each of these spots, we just need to know where and when to look. And sometimes we need to take a chance, a small risk and put our pride out there and try something new. Timecode for the most part is a silent film. Dialogue is not needed. Through that silence Giménez shares a moment that seems real, it is a film of hope and joy! Make sure you see Timecode then look around your office, coffee shop or retail department for ways to connect and create magic with the people around you. – Krystal Lyon
dir. Selim Aazzazi, France, 28 minutes
When your short film is twenty-eight minutes of primarily two guys sitting at a desk, talking, you’d better be sure you’ve got the right actors. Such is definitely the case with filmmaker Selim Aazzazi’s tension-wrought dramatic effort, Ennemis Interieurs. Seizing on long brewing ill will in France towards the Arab community, the film tells the story of a seasoned Muslim man being aggressively drilled by a French customs official. Does he attend “meetings”? Who’s at these meetings? What is discussed? The threat of deportation looms over every response. Hassam Ghancy is a weary man simply looking to get his papers validated so he can travel. Or is he? That’s the suspicious question at the front of his interrogator’s mind (Najib Oudghiri). Interestingly, the interrogator’s own obvious ethnicity is not of the classic white European variety. That’s not the story, though. Mostly desk-bound, Aazzazi does a fine job of making the viewer feel as confined to that miserable office as the main character is. The place is reminiscent of early David Fincher, bearing a vibe of musty shadows with a touch of mildew and old paper. The subtle shifts in audience sympathy is admirable – Waitaminute… Is this guy a terrorist?? – although one wonders just how much current politics influenced this selection onto the Oscar ballot. It’s good, with standout performances. But it’s still a long time at a desk. – Jim Tudor
La Femme et la TGV
dir. Timo von Gunten, Switzerland, 30 minutes
This French short film hauls a lot of freight for its 30 minute runtime. Elise (Jane Birkin) is an older woman living in a small town in Switzerland. Everyday, Elise wakes up, throws open the shutters and coupling her Swiss flag, she prepares to wave the flag at the passing passenger train referred to as the TGV. She then gets ready for the day, riding her bike into town to run her long-forgotten bakery as the town has embraced a larger corporate bakery. To make matters worse, a man who Elise believes to be a rude, obnoxious driver, has opened up shop across the street with a dance studio. Even though he is kind and asks to be her customer, she refuses. One day, Elise receives a letter from the train’s conductor that thanks her for her daily flag waving. Even though he is going 300 km/hr., he is touched by her daily gesture. They begin a daily correspondence that begins to wake a desire within Elise that she can fully embrace life, even at her age. Despite her son, who used to wave at the TGV when he was a kid, wanting to put her into a nursing home, and the fact that her bakery is on the brink of closing. This sets in motion a series of events that will inspire everyone, young and old, that the little things we do actually matter, and that life isn’t speeding past us like the TGV. It is right in front of us now. – Erik Yates