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Posts Tagged ‘2018 OSCAR-NOMINATED DOCUMENTARY SHORTS’

2018 OSCAR-NOMINATED DOCUMENTARY SHORTS  Overall rating: B+ 

 143 minutes | No MPAA rating

“BLACK SHEEP” (UK, 27 minutes) B
In “Black Sheep” a young black man named Cornelius Walker describes how as a child he was uprooted from his multicultural London neighborhood (his Nigerian parents feared urban violence) and relocated to a tiny burg in Essex.
There he encountered worse racism than he’d ever experienced in the big city. He was cursed and beaten and, in a desperate effort to gain acceptance, even bleached his skin and wore blue contact lenses.
And it worked. Over time Cornelius was taken in by his one-time persecutors;  ironically, to please them he found himself imitating the same violent and racist behavior he sought to escape.
“I wanted love, so I made friends with monsters,” he says.
Ed Perkins and Jonathan Chinn’s doc is about 1/4 talking-head interview with Walker; the rest of the film consists of dramatic re-creations employing actors.  Thirty years ago this format would have earned the contempt of documentary purists. But times change. The result is a devastating look at racism and human nature.
“END GAME” (USA, 40 minutes) A
Movies don’t get more real than “End Game,” Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s gut-twisting/transcendent look at life in a hospital ward dedicated to dying.
Epstein and Friedman  — whose resumes include films as diverse as “The Celluloid Closet,” “Paragraph 175” and “The Times of Harvey Milk” — turn their cameras on the medical professionals, patients and families living and dying in the University of California Med Center in San Francisco.
Over its 40 minutes we get to know a good many of these folk who — unlike the rest of us — can no longer ignore the ultimate reality of death.  They have to decide how they are going to die — not just the medical side but the human side.
“Every moment is still a gift” says one patient; even so, not every patient is willing to endure debilitating treatments in order to gain a few days or weeks.
As you’d expect, the material is explosively emotional. One is left with the utmost respect for the individuals (and their families) who were wiling to share the intimacy of their last days…not to mention the realization that the things happening on screen will undoubtedly happen some day to each and every one of us.
“LIFEBOAT” (USA, 40 minutes) B
Every year thousands of North Africans flee poverty, war, persecution and famine by clambering aboard waterlogged small boats for a dangerous trip to Europe.  One in 18 of them drowns.
Skye Fitzgerald and Bryn Mooser’s “Lifeboat” looks at the efforts of the German non-profit Sea-Watch to rescue these hapless immigrants. Their cameras are aboard one rescue vessel when it comes across three boats carrying more than 1,000 refugees.
It’s an instant humanitarian emergency.  These travelers suffer from dehydration, heat stroke, sea sickness…and there’s a slew of pregnant women, some of whom have gone into labor.
In the relative calm after they’re taken aboard several of these refugees explain where they come from and how they came to be on an overcrowded boat in the middle of the Mediterranean.
The captain of one of the rescue vessels says that with just one turn of the historical cycle the comfortable Western countries could find themselves living a Third World existence…and at that point their residents would become the riffraff that nobody cares about.
“A NIGHT AT THE GARDEN” (USA, 7 minutes) B+
Despite a running time of only 7 minutes, Marshall Curry’s “A Night at the Garden” packs an emotional and intellectual punch that leaves  viewers reeling.
In effect, Curry offers us documentary footage of a 1939 rally in Madison Square Garden attended by 20,000 Nazi supporters.
Not Germans.
No these were red-blooded American citizens who stared lovingly at banners equating George Washington and Adolf Hitler and wildly applauded bombastic make-America-great-again rants from swastika-bedecked orators. At one point a protestor somehow gets onto the stage and is beaten for his efforts while the crowd roars its approval.
One assumes that Curry has edited and shaped this archival footage…or perhaps he just threw it up on the screen as he found it.  In the end it doesn’t matter. “A Night at the Garden” reveals a disturbing bit of American history that today looks all too familiar.
“PERIOD. END OF SENTENCE”  (India, 26 minutes)  B+

The lowly sanitary napkin hardly seems like the flashpoint for a revolution. That is, until you visit parts of rural India, where ignorance of the female anatomy and psyche is so complete that a young man, asked about menstruation, answers: “It’s a kind of illness right? Mostly affects girls?”

Rayka Zahtabchi and Melissa Berton’s “Period. End of Sentence” is about Kotex coming to the sticks.  Or at least a locally-produced sanitary pad, hand-crafted by women (for most, it’s their first paying job) in a small factory and distributed to customers who initially have no idea what it is or how to use it.

Only 10 percent of Indian women use sanitary pads, we’re told.  Which explains why every farming community has a vacant lot or field  littered with hundreds of bloody rags, the result of the female population dealing with their periods in the age-old manner.

In a paternalistic society where menstruation is a taboo subject and girls are told that the prayers of a menstruating female will not be heard, something as seemingly retro as readily available sanitary napkins can become the spearhead of a feminist movement.  And that’s the sort of uplifting momentum
“Period…” sets in motion.

The next generation will be even more informed.

| Robert W. Butler

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