A Review of the Live-Action Shorts Nominated at the 93rd Academy Awards
The Letter Room (Dir. Elvira Lind) Actor/director power couple, Elvira Lind and Oscar Isaac, enlighten us to the discovery of compassion, even for those on death-row. Oscar Isaac plays Richard, a corrections officer who must cope with his newly assigned job of reviewing prisoners’ correspondence with the outside world. By reading dozens of letters and emails to and from the prisoners, Richard realizes the human side of criminals – that they feel, they grieve, and they love. The short reveals an unlikely moment of sympathy shared between prisoners and guards. This is surely a strong contender for best live action short this year. Two Distant Strangers (Dir.Martin Desmond Rowe and Travon Free) WINNER This short, led by Joey Bada$$, fuses the #BlackLivesMatterMovement with the classic “Groundhog Day” plot structure. Bada$$, who plays the role of Carter, attempts to leave the apartment of Perri, played by the charming Zaria Simone; yet, he can’t seem to avoid a trigger-happy racist cop (Andrew Howard). Director/writer Travon Free and his co-director Martin Desmond Rowe (2018 Cannes Lion winner) brilliantly portray the fear for black men grueling with police brutality in America. Feeling Through (Dir. Doug Roland) Doug Roland’s impactful short echoes Chris Overton’s 2018 Oscar-winning short, The Silent Child (currently on Argo) by exploring the hardships of deaf communication. Themes of empathy and redemption are embodied through the characterization of Tereek (played by Steven Prescode) and his chance encounter with a deaf-blind man (played by Robert Tarango.) Los Angeles-based director, Doug Roland, collaborated with the Helen Keller National Center to ensure an authentic form of storytelling. Not only is the filmmaking moving, but it also marks the first time that a man who is both deaf and blind stars in a leading role. This is truly a knee-jerker and a must-see. The Present (Dir. Farah Nabulsi) BAFTA winner The Present is British-Palestinian filmmaker, Farah Nabulsi’s directorial debut. The short follows the father-daughter duo of Yusef and Yasmine (played by Saleh Bakri and Maryam Kanj, respectively) as they navigate through overcrowded military checkpoints and Israeli soldiers. Nebulsi infuses her film with personal experience as a Palestinian: “The only fiction… is our protagonist, Yusef.” The result is a deeply moving short that earns its place as an Oscar-nominee. Compliment with Argo’s Fear and Loathing in the Levant playlist. White Eye (Dir. Tomer Shushan) 20 minutes can alter a life forever. In the single-shot short White Eye, we witness two lives irrevocably changed through the pursuits of justice and freedom. Omer, a young white man, gets the police involved when he discovers his stolen bike in the possession of Yunes, an Eritrean man working in a meat-packing plant. When the police become more interested in Yunes’ citizen status than the stolen bicycle, Omer realizes the consequences of his actions. Suddenly he feels the weight of another life and the guilt of shattering Yunes’ life over a bicycle. This is a story of unintentional consequences. Is Omer, in his quest for a bicycle, to blame for societally-affirmed white entitlement? Does this excuse the tragedy that has befallen Yunes? These are questions director, Tomer Shushan, has faced in his own experiences and now asks us to contend with.