For the past ten years, ShortsHD™, the global Short Movie Channel (www.shorts.tv), has worked with Magnolia Pictures to bring the Oscar Nominated short programs (Live Action/Animation/Documentary) to theaters, giving audiences a chance to see the nominees prior to Hollywood’s Big Night. This Friday, the five nominees for Documentary short film will play as one program Denver, CO at the Sie Film Center.
Visit http://www.denverfilm.org/filmcenter/detail.aspx?id=27220 for screening times, ticket prices and additional info.
All photos courtesy of ShortsHD.
Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 (USA/40 mins/2014)—Last year it was Lone Survivor, this year it is American Sniper, both based on real Navy Seals, both of which include a montage of the grueling training Navy Seals undergo. While watching what these men must go through to condition themselves for combat, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What training do they receive to come home?” If this statistic: “Since 2001 more U.S. troops have taken their life than have died on the battlefield,” is any indication, the answer is not much. There are people who help, and in upstate New York, a team of 250 have fielded 22,000 calls from soldiers who suffer from PTSD and are in despair. Not all of the calls end well (a statistic informs that there are an average of 22 suicides a day), but they are a dedicated team that truly care about their cause, even if that means four responders have to work one case for five hours to make sure the soldiers gets the help they need. It’s a pity that this doc isn’t being programmed alongside American Sniper. At the very least, they could put up the number: 1-800-273-8255, Veterans Press 1.
Directed by: Ellen Gossenberg Kent
Produced by: Dana Perry
Joanna (Poland/40 mins/2013)—Joanna Sałyga died in 2012. Before she died at the age of the 36, she allowed the intimate moments of her life to be documented so that her son would have something to hold on to. Those moments are Joanna, and they are powerful. Devoid of talking heads, exposition, framing devices, and melodrama, Joanna plays more like mumblecore than heavy-handed drama. When Joanna visits the doctor and receives a damning diagnosis, the scene is played entirely on her reaction while her son’s voice is heard on the soundtrack. Why? Because we already know what she is being told. When Joanna and her husband tell their son, the camera is removed from the scenario, placed outside the home and quietly observes through the kitchen window. Why? Because we know exactly what is being said and felt. Joanna is not a documentary about a woman succumbing to cancer, but a document of a mother and a wife. One that will live much longer than Joanna did, solidifying her place in the world.
Directed by: Aneta Kopacz
Produced by: Adam Slesicki
Written by: Aneta Kopacz, Tomasz Średniawa
Our Curse (Poland/27 mins/2013)—Tomasz Śliwiński and his wife are suffering from a unique and devastating problem. Their newborn son, Leo, stopped breathing one night and now has to live the rest of his life on a ventilator. The disease is a very rare and incurable form of sleep apnea, referred to as Ondine’s Curse (or CCHS, congenital central hypoventilation syndrome). For the rest of Leo’s life, he will sleep with a ventilator. With nowhere else to release their pain and fear, Śliwiński turns the camera on himself and his wife as they try as best they can to cope with the hand they have been dealt. There are many who consider the birth of a child and blessing and a miracle, despite any physical, mental, or genetic defects—but with Our Curse, Śliwiński bravely documents the real-life burden these defects create. Both emotionally and financially.
Written & Directed by: Tomasz Śliwiński
Produced by: Maciej Ślesicki
The Reaper (Mexico/29 mins/2013)—It opens with a series of abstract shots: cow eyes, chains, pulleys, a door being raised and lowered, hooves, blood on the floor… Each shot, more sinister than the last, until finally, we hear the voice of Efrain, almost a full seven minutes into The Reaper. Efrain is The Reaper; a nickname that he did not want, but was given to him (his choice was Pinocchio) and it is an apt title. Efrain has slaughtered 500 bulls a day, six days a week for 25 years. Difficult to swallow, but that body count that does not escape Efrain, weighing his voice down as he explains in voiceover his relationship to the job and his feelings on death. Shot primarily in close-ups and edited to give the feeling of detachment, Efrain and the bulls are reduced to body parts and process. The process of trapping the bulls, the process of gutting the bulls, the process of cleaning the carcasses, cleaning the blood from the floor, cleaning the blood from workers and so on. Everything appear rote, until the final shot, where in one unbroken and unflinching take, we see the slaughter in all of its compassionless cruelty.
Directed by: Gabriel Serra Argüello
Produced by: Henner Hofmann, Liliana Pardo, Karla Bukantz
White Earth (USA/20 mins/2014)—The U.S. oil boom in North Dakota has caused workers to flock there with unrealistic expectations. Yes, there is work to be had, but it’s not as lucrative as many think. Nor is the cost of living as cheap as they might hope. A deadly combination for those who exist right on the edge of poverty. Told not from the worker’s point of view, but from the children and a Hispanic immigrant, White Earth is a documentary by way of Terrence Malick, where naturalistic voice-over accompanies languid landscape photography, creating an air of melancholy.
Directed & Produced by: J. Christian Jensen