A divorced father picks up his eight-year-old daughter Lea. It seems pretty much like every second weekend, but after a while Lea can't help feeling that something isn't right. So begins a fateful journey.
"Things are tough all over" seems to be their collective message, but these five films have some creative ways of showing it.
I love movies – all kinds of movies, and I take film very seriously – whether I'm enjoying what I'm watching or not. I also like to try and predict the results of the Oscars, which requires seeing a lot of movies. For all of those reasons, I was very happy to be able to catch the Shorts HD presentation "The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2016: Live Action" (NR, 1:25). Below are brief reviews of each of the five films nominated in the "Short Film (Live Action)" category for the 88th Academy Awards.
"Ave Maria" (Palestine-France-Germany, 15 min.) – In Israel's West Bank, a family of Jewish settlers accidentally crash their car into a statue of the Virgin Mary in front of a small Arab Christian convent inhabited by nuns who have taken a vow of silence. The family, who is fighting amongst themselves, also has to deal with communication difficulties between them and the nuns – and the fact that the Sabbath has just begun – in their efforts to get home safely. With understated but clever comedy, this film brings to light the daily difficulties of Jews, Arabs and Christians sharing lands that all claim as their own. "B"
"Day One" (USA, 20 min.) – In Afghanistan, a young female interpreter experiences an especially dramatic first day on the job working with U.S. soldiers. She starts off on the wrong foot by using the shower at the wrong time, then struggles to understand the expectations and procedures of her new environment. On her first mission with the squad to which she is assigned, she delays their march when she has to stop to urinate, she's almost killed by an IED, she has to translate during a heated exchange between her squad's leader and an Afghan man who is a suspected insurgent and then she is forced to help the man's pregnant wife when she suddenly goes into labor and the first part of the baby to emerge is its arm. Written and directed by a former U.S. Army paratrooper as a tribute to one of his unit's former interpreters, this is a personal and powerful look at the challenges of modern warfare. "A"
"Everything Will Be Okay" / "Alles Wird Gut" (Germany-Austria, 30 min.) – A divorced father picks up his young daughter from his ex-wife's house for a 24-hour visitation and then uses that time to finalize preparations to leave the country with her. He lies to and manipulates his daughter and others in order to bring his carefully-laid plans to fruition, becoming increasingly stressed and unstable and making his daughter more and more upset throughout this very eventful day. This film's powerful testimony to the emotional pain of all parties when a marriage breaks up otherwise doesn't have much of a point. "C"
"Shok" (Kosovo-United Kingdom, 21 min.) – Two young Albanian boys who are best friends try to better their lives in Serb-dominated Kosovo in 1998 during the Kosovo War. One of them saves his money and buys a bike that he may have trouble holding on to and the other is trying to make some money dealing with Serbian soldiers. As each boy gets caught up in the activities of the other, they discover that their greatest accomplishment will be simply to survive to adulthood. This film is a heart-breaking and haunting look at the toll that war and sectarian strife take on even its most innocent victims. "A"
"Stutterer" (United Kingdom-Ireland, 12 min.) – A young man who has a severe stuttering problem is involved in an online romance with a kind and beautiful young woman in another part of the country. When the opportunity arises for the two of them to finally meet face to face, the young man is nearly paralyzed with fear over how his speech impediment will affect the possibility of the couple's flirtations turning into an actual love affair. This slight, but sweet and creative little film uses very little dialog to pack a surprising amount of character development and poignancy into its very short running time. "A-"
For more information on the 2016 Oscar nominees for Best Live Action Short, go to the following URLs: