Four of this year’s five documentary shorts nominated for the Academy Award open Friday (Feb. 17) a the Tivoli Theatre.
And a more powerful handful of short films you’d have a hard time finding.
(The fifth nominated film, “God is Bigger Than Elvis,” about Elvis Presley co-star Dolores Hart and her decision to become a Benedictine nun, is not being made available for commercial presentation as part of the Oscar shorts package.)
Some of these titles are hard to watch. All are important.
“THE BARBER OF BIRMINGHAM: FOOT SOLDIER OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT” My rating: B+
Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin’s film centers on 85-year-old James Armstrong, a barber in Birmingham, Alabama, who marched for civil rights with Martin Luther King Jr. and now watches the election of America’s first black president.
He’s a lovely old fellow. His barber shop’s walls are covered with old news clippings about the Civil Rights movement and a sign advises patrons: “If you don’t vote, don’t talk politics in here.”
Armstrong is a churchgoer who says with pride that “I’ve been in jail six times…in this city.” He drives a car literally held together with duct tape.
“Barber of Birgmingham” cuts between archival footage from the ‘60s, interviews with veteran marchers (now in their 80s), and shots of political activity as the 2008 presidential election heats up.
The film isn’t particularly well organized — Fryday and Dolgin seem content to throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks — but still it contains moments of breathtaking power.