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By far the best of the 2009 nominees, but I doubt it will win.
Today I went with three friends to a special showing of all the films nominated for the 2009 Oscar for Best Live Action Short. Oddly, the four of us were in pretty much agreement about the films. Our pick for best of the nominees was PIG ("Grisen"), though ON THE LINE ("Auf der Strecke") was a very good film and is nearly as deserving of the award. We predicted that TOYLAND ("Spielzeugland"), however, will win the award because it's the sort of the film the Academy tends to like AND because PIG might ruffle some feathers because it is not "politically correct". I'll update this review after the awards are given.
This story begins with an older man going to the hospital for a minor operation. Soon after undergoing some tests, however, he's told that the operation is more serious and he'll need to stay for a few days. The doctors suspect he may have cancer. However, oddly, before he's operated on, he becomes fixated of a painting of a cute pig that is in his hospital room--he just stares and stares at it.
When he wakes up from surgery, he notices that the painting is gone. Confused and upset that this apparent good luck charm is missing, he asks his nurse but she seems apprehensive to tell him why it just disappeared. However, eventually he learns that following his surgery, another patient was placed in the next bed and that the painting was removed because it being a pig offended the family of this Muslim man. Well, the old guy is angry--after all, his biopsy has not yet come back and he wants his lucky pig because he's scared and he finds it comforting. In desperation, he phones his daughter (who is a lawyer) and invites her to come see him. When she arrives, he announces he wants to sue the hospital! He also draws a picture of the missing pig and has her put it up on the wall where the original was hung. However, almost instantly, the son of the man in the adjoining bed rips down the picture and throws it away--saying that he WON'T have a pig picture in the room because it offends him. Up until then, the daughter thought all this was silly, but with the Muslim man's arrogance and unwillingness to even talk, she becomes enraged. Later, the hospital administrator arrives and tries to placate the situation. Finally, after everyone leaves, there is a funny and very ironic twist that you'll have to see for yourself. Plus, this twist leaves you thinking perhaps there is some hope in the world after all.
This was a wonderful and very timely film--especially considering that it came from Denmark. This is the same very peaceful nation that saw insane riots in recent years because a newspaper dared to run a cartoon that portrayed the prophet Muhammad. Now I am not saying that I or the film makers or the Danes wanted to offend anyone, but this film is great in pointing out that not once did the angry son discuss the problem--he just saw that HIS rights were being violated. I really loved the scene where this same guy said that everyone should just compromise and remove the picture!! Free speech and tolerance only seems to apply to some people--and the film made this point very well using great film making and a sense of humor. However, traditionally Hollywood seems unwilling to directly attack this issue--which is odd, as extreme Islamic teaching would condemn almost every film made in the West. While Hollywood has made many films and stars have made many speeches in favor of women's and gay rights and free speech, hardly anyone in this industry seems willing to talk about how some in the Muslim world are rabidly against these values.
PIG is a perfect little short film, as it addresses the fact that fundamentalist Muslim teaching and Western free speech cannot coexist unless there is some willingness to bend on BOTH sides of the issue. It makes you think and fills the viewer with passion.
I am sure that my review will offend some and I think it's time that the Academy stop worrying about political correctness and give the film the award it truly deserves. Offensive or not, PIG is a great little film.
UPDATE: It's official, TOYLAND is the winner. This didn't surprise me at all and it was well deserving of the award, though I was still pulling for PIG to take the honors.
Also, while the other two reviews (so far) that have been made for this film point out that a Muslim would not react that way to the pig, I think they might be missing the point. The pig is a metaphorical device and not meant to be literally offensive when in the form of a painting. The son in the film finds it that way, but you have no idea what the rest of the family thinks. The film does NOT say that all Muslims react so--it's just a plot device used to illustrate a deeper point--which I think it does very well.
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