OSCAR-NOMINATED DOCUMENTARY SHORTS Overall rating: B+ (Opening Feb. 17 at the Tivoli)
No MPAA rating
“EXTREMIS” (USA, 24 minutes) 3 1/2 stars
Dr. Jessica Nutik Zitter works in the ICU of Highland Hospital in Oakland CA. Her job is to help people die.
Dan Krauss’ “Extremis” provides almost unbearably intimate access to patients facing their final hours, their families, and the physicians who care for them.
At its heart is the agonizing decision to prolong a life with extraordinary and often painful extreme measures. The patients must make that decision; if they can’t, it’s up to family members.
It’s a gut-wrenching situation. And this doc explores profound questions with fly-on-the-wall immediacy.
Pleasant? No. But most of us one day will deal with this precise situation.
“4.1 MILES” (USA, 22 minutes) 4 stars
Today the words “humanitarian crisis” are so frequently invoked that they’ve almost ceased to have any power.
Daphne Matziaraki’s brutally powerful “4.1 Miles” reminds us of just what they mean.
Her film follows a Greek coast guard crew led by Kyriakos Papadopoulos. They patrol 4.1 miles of open sea between Turkey and the island of Lesbos.
The doc begins with the rescue of a boatload of Middle Eastern refugees swamped by high waves. Surrounded by wailing women and sobbing children who cover almost every inch of his deck, Papadopoulos works frantically to perform CPR on two children found floating with their mother.
(Do they survive? We don’t know…and neither does the coastguardsman. As soon as he delivers them to an ambulance on the pier Papadopoulos turns his boat seaward where more refugees are floundering.)
Basically he’s on 24-hour call. The Turkish smugglers who traffic in human misery don’t care about weather reports; they’ll take refugees out in the worst storms knowing that the Greek coast guard will be there risking their own lives to effect rescues.
Papadopoulos is a man of action. But in reflective moments he’s a study in sorrow.
“When I look in their eyes,” he says of the refugees, “I see their memories of war.”
“This is a nightmare. This is agony.”
“JOE’S VIOLIN” (USA, 24 minutes) 4 stars
Get out your hankies. “Joe’s Violin” will have you in tears…but that’s a good thing.
Kahane Cooperman’s doc is about the violin owned by Joseph Feingold, a Polish Holocaust survivor who bought it at a German flea market after the war (he traded a carton of cigarettes for it).
Feingold moved to New York and played the violin intermittently over the years, then donated it to a musical instrument drive sponsored by a classical radio station.
It ended up in the hands of Brianna Perez, a seventh grader at a Bronx school for immigrant girls. She cherishes the instrument, not just for the beauty of its sound but for the story of hope and triumph it represents.
I’d write more about this terrific little movie, but I need to blow my nose.
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