I have my personal reasons for disliking award ceremonies, especially the Oscars. But today, I am not going to make that the highlight of this article. Instead, I’ll highlight the things that the Oscars wants to highlight (That’s a lot of highlighting going on). To be specific, I will be talking about the short films, which I think goes under the radar despite being chosen by the Academy. People usually tend to watch the feature and documentaries that get nominated. However, the short films? Not so much, even though they have so many messages and so much talent and creativity to offer. So, I will be sharing my thoughts on them/reviewing them categorically, and also telling y’all where you can watch them as well! See, I am so nice.
DOCUMENTARY (SHORT SUBJECT)
COLETTE (Available in The Guardian) – The titular woman is a French resistance fighter who goes to the German concentration camp where her brother breathed his last. She’s assisted by a student who wants to document the repercussions of fascism in the hopes that by seeing the horrors of what happened last time, it doesn’t happen again. The two bond over this process and their relationship come to a wholesome conclusion. But it’s not an easy watch and unless you are a heartless bastard who doesn’t care about human life, there’s no way you’re coming out of this without tears in your eyes and scars on your soul.
A CONCERTO IS A CONVERSATION (Available in The New York Times) – Kris Bowers, who is a noted music composer in Hollywood, sits down for a conversation with his ailing grandfather while crafting a concerto. There he tells Kris about his origins, how he tackled racism, how he met Kris’s grandmother, and how proud he is to see his grandchild flourish. But somewhere he hopes that he had something to do with it. And through the movie, Kris essentially shows him that if he hadn’t done any of the things he has done, Kris wouldn’t be where he is. It’s sweet, warm, and beautifully edited, with my favourite cut being between the pedal of a steam press and the piano.
DO NOT SPLIT (Available on Field of Vision) – Based on the Hong Kong protests against the law that has been now imposed by China where anyone can be arrested and be sent to Mainland China for an indefinite amount of time (I know that’s an oversimplification). It shows the protests from the perspective of students, teachers, and just regular people who are repeatedly asking the administration that how are they doing this without any regret or remorse in their hearts. It also illustrates the mental toll such oppressive actions take on people who just want to live. It’s harrowing and scary, especially for someone watching in India where the largest protest in the world is still happening.
HUNGER WARD (Available via website) – This short about the hunger ward of a hospital in Yemen is too difficult to watch. It’s too heartbreaking. Kids who should be in schools, growing normally, playing and whatnot are just dying of malnutrition because of the war being waged around them. It makes you think that what is the meaning of anything when generations and generations of people on this very planet are being annihilated for no reason whatsoever. No reason. All that shit that the politicians and armies spew, they mean shit. It is all shit and in no way “justifies” the killing of innocent lives. Nothing can justify war among humans. Absolutely nothing. It’s all manufactured so that a few people can make some money. That’s it. The rest is just damage we are bearing for nothing.
A LOVE SONG FOR LATASHA (Available on Netflix) – The United States of America thinks that they’ve done some radical by handing guns to everyone. The supporters of the law that allows people to own guns will give speeches and press conferences. But I seriously urge them to sit face-to-face with a victim of gun violence and give that same speech. I think they’ll shit themselves. Well, then the least they can do is watch this documentary and then see how sturdy the ground on which their arguments stand actually is. I am going to tell you how sturdy it is… It isn’t! The short features recreations, animation, and voice-overs, and that’s enough to crush you and make you think how far we’ve actually come as a society, and is this really progress?
SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)
BURROW (Available on Disney+ Hotstar Premium) – A bunny tries to make its home but is interrupted by many animals, causing it to dig away from them until, well, it can’t. I think that it’s a metaphor for depression and the need for isolation and how just asking for some help can reduce all the problems that initially seem unsolvable. I am a fan of 2D animation and this hand-drawn-esque style, coupled with not-so-fluid motions, really appealed to me. It’s simple and it’s effective.
GENIUS LOCI (Available on BookMyShow Stream) – 2D animation again. So, that’s already a win for me. And on top of that, it’s made of paintings. Like actually paintings. I think so. I don’t really know. But what I do know is that I don’t really know what’s the crux of the story. My best guess is that it is a very visual depiction of an anxiety attack that turns the protagonist’s world upside down, sends her down an emotional memory lane, and causes her to go on this wild streak. I might be wrong but I am right about the beauty of the animation. It’s too good!
IF ANYTHING HAPPENS I LOVE YOU (Available on BookMyShow Stream and Netflix) – At the time of writing this article, a school shooting has taken place in Knoxville, Tennessee. What else can I add to that? The reason for this short’s existence is right there. Although it has a positive outlook on things, expressed very brilliantly by its minimalist visuals and use of colours, it’s kind of a reaffirmation that things aren’t going to change unless guns are banned in the USA and since that won’t happen no matter which government comes into power, this kind of incidents will keep happening. And who’s going to bear the brunt of it? Kids and their parents.
OPERA (Available on BookMyShow Stream) – If there’s one short film out of all the short films in here that deserves all the attention and dissection in the world, it’s this one. Basically, it’s a microcosm of the society shown in the form of a pyramid where the higher-ups/elite class tips the scales now and then towards the two halves of the world to maintain the illusion of democracy. Whereas the reality is that the repercussions of that fight between the lower classes don’t even reach them. But that’s not just it. There’s so much symbolism in every layer and frame of this short and that’s what should be analysed like anything. I would’ve done it but I’m not that smart.
YES-PEOPLE (Available on BookMyShow Stream and The New Yorker) – You need something light to balance out all the heavy stuff. For that, there’s this short film whose animation style is almost stop-motion-like with a bunch of film grain on it to give it a very rustic and aged look. It follows the lives of a bunch of families living in a building who share brief moments together until life resets their routines again. It’s very funny and like every other animated short in this list, full of intricacies. There are so many little changes in colour, expression, and lighting. It’s fascinating to watch. Their lifestyles have deep implications for a more nuanced understanding. But even if you don’t, this is an enjoyable watch.
SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)
FEELING THROUGH (Available on BookMyShow Stream) – I am not very sure but I think that the protagonist here is either homeless or is trying to avoid going home because of some reason. I’ll bet it’s his ego. But his plans are disrupted by a blind man who he tries to help but gets stuck with. And while trying to get him home, he learns about humility, empathy, and the importance of going home. There’s a hug at the end of this film and it’s going to hit you hard. It’s an overall simple story that features some great acting from its stars. And sometimes that’s all you need in your short film.
THE LETTER ROOM (Available on BookMyShow Stream) – Oscar Isaac is in it. Do I even need to explain why you should watch this? How does this man ace every role he takes? I mean the simple answer is that because he’s that talented. But a little mysterious ambiguity doesn’t hurt anybody, does it? All the Oscar Isaac gushing aside, it’s a great short about humanity and the little things that you can do to make someone feel better and not alone in this world, even if your white lies get caught. Isaac channels real grandma energy and brings a sense of awkward warmth to the table which is both hilarious and relatable in nature.
THE PRESENT (Available on BookMyShow Stream and Netflix) – Set around the Palestine border, the story revolves around a father and a daughter trying to go through an army checkpoint and back again. The tension and irritation is palpable and I am not going to lie, if I could’ve reached through the screen and pummeled those guards to death in order to reduce the father and the daughter’s harassment, I would have. But that will reduce the collective humanity of this world and that’s technically what the movie is about. It says that assholes are going to be assholes until the infrastructure supports them. What’s the point of lowering ourselves to their level?
TWO DISTANT STRANGERS (Available on BookMyShow Stream and Netflix) – At the time of writing this, there’s are massive protests going on in Minneapolis after a 20-year-old African American, identified as Daunte Wright, was shot to death by police office Kim Potter. The excuse being given right now is that Potter wanted to go for her taser gun but she went for her real gun. Yeah. What about this short film? It’s about a Black man stuck in a time loop with a White police officer who kills him every day. I think you get its relevance.
WHITE EYE (Available on BookMyShow Stream) – One-takes. Always appreciate one-takes. Or even the ones that maintain the illusion of a one-take. What’s it about though? It features a man who has found his stolen bicycle near a meat shop. So, he tries to reclaim it and catch the “thief”. And just when it seems that there’s going to be an amicable solution, it goes south really quick, thereby making him think if all the effort for the bicycle was even worth it. That’s all I can say about the plot. Even the theme is spoiler-y. Therefore, I let you figure that out.. As for everything else, it’s pitch-perfect. I do and don’t want to know how many reshoots did it take to get the take that we see here. I mean, either way, it’s going to blow my mind. So, if anyone knows about it, hit me up with that info.
That’s the list, folks. I know that a lot of Oscar-nominated movies and shows, or those that are talked about during awards season, are usually not available here in India. But this time, due to the rise of OTT platforms, I think a sizable number of them can be viewed if you search around a bit and invest a little in these OTT platforms. However, if you’re not in the mood for that, you can go through the aforementioned short films. In fact, you know what, I insist you to. You’ll come around to the feature films now or later because they stay in the public consciousness for a long time. I can’t say the same for short films. And since all of the ones that I have talked about here are incredibly important and beautifully made, I think that you should give it a watch.
Note: The movies on BookMyShow Stream will be available from April 16 and the rest are available right now.
Cover artwork by Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India