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Alice Herz-Sommer, aged 109 and the world's oldest Holocaust survivor, tells the story of how music saved her life: both during her time at Theresienstadt concentration camp and in the years afterwards.
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Excellent but not my choice for Best Documentary Short
Today is the day the Oscars are announced and it's also one of the days that the Documentary Short nominees are being shown in theaters across the country. This is the first year such a show was shown and I must say that all the nominees were exceptional...though generally rather depressing as well. I didn't mind that, as the films were intended to point out societal problems--and that is not what I'd consider 'fun'.
Of the five nominees, I think that "Poster Girl" is probably my least favorite--but it still is an excellent film and I can see why it's nominated. It's the story of one particular combat vet from the Iraqi war and here difficulties that have arisen from her moral objections to the war as well as her Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The film is strongly anti-war and makes quite an emotional impact on the viewer. I can't imagine anyone who is in favor of the war not feeling some sort of turmoil as a result of seeing the way this experience damaged the subject of the film--a very troubled young lady whose life seems to be a complete mess since coming back home. On this level the film is very compelling.
However, and here is my main objection to the film, is that it left way more questions in my mind than it really answered. Yes, I understand that war sucks and this morally vague one worse than most. But I couldn't help but feel that much of Rybynn's story was missing. They said in the film several times that she had physical injuries from her service--but what they were and how she got them was inexplicably missing. We know she had some sort of back problem and some other problems but I just kept thinking about the lack of clarity. The same, to a smaller extent, was true of her emotional injuries. All too often it seemed like a lot of what she experienced was left unsaid.
Another potential difficulty, and you can't blame the film for this, is that because this is the story only of one particular individual, you never really get a handle on how typical or atypical her experiences were. Yes, you do see her with a few anti-war activists here and there--but you only see at most a dozen at a time. I would like to see a 'big picture' film one day about this.
So how do I think the voting will go? Well, I am obviously not very good at guessing based on the last several years of watching all the shorts and predicting the winners! But, I assume that since Hollywood is generally to the left politically, I'd assume the film has a strong chance of winning. And, if it does, it certainly was a very good film. My votes, if I had them, would be for "Warriors of Quigang" or perhaps "Killing in the Name" (whose message is, at times, the opposite of "Poster Girl") or even "Strangers No More"--three films that just seemed more complete and which seemed to offer more answers.
UPDATE: The Oscar winner was "Strangers No More". I wouldn't have picked it since it was a rather tame and non-controversial film but it was uplifting and nice.
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