Oscar Nom’d Shorts

by Glenn Lovell

As usual, a mixed bag in the live-action short category. Our hope is that Oscar will redeem itself this year and reward complex emotional interplay rather than slapstick and pat sentimentality.

“Ave Maria,” directed by Basil Khalil and Eric Dupont, is a broadly played farce about a family of West Bank Jewish settlers whose car breaks down in front of a Palestinian convent. The joke: the family is so annoying the nuns break their vow of silence to be rid of them. A Palestine-France-Germany co-production. 14 min.

“Day One,” directed by Henry Hughes, is about an Afghani-American translator who, on her first mission, must deal with an breech birth that’s further complicated by fundamentalist Islamic treatment of women. Ex-paratrooper Hughes served in Afghanistan and dedicated this rather predicable drama to his embedded interpreter. At 25 minutes, this one feels long, drawn out.

“Everything Will be OK,” a 30-minute drama from Austria anshortsd Germany, is easily the most harrowing of the quartet. It’s about a desperate father who uses an overnight visitation with his young daughter to flee the country, all the while hearing, “Daddy, I want to go home.” A strong calling card for director-writer Patrick Vollrath, who doesn’t shy away from the most intense confrontations. Resist the urge to look away.

“Stutterer,” from Ireland, is a bittersweet character piece about a young man who decides to take his online relationship to the next stage. He’s a “silver tongued” Lothario at the keyboard, a real smoothie, but less so in person. Directed, written, edited by Benjamin Cleary, this 13-minute vignette is genuinely touching and makes excellent use of sound editing, but it’s hurt by an ending that’s telegraphed from scene one.

Jamie Donoughue’s “Shok” (“Friend”), a UK-Kosovo co-production, is our favorite of the bunch. Set in Kosovo in 1998, it’s the tale of two Albanian boys whose war-zone profiteering has a tragic outcome. Obviously inspired by De Sica’s “The Bicycle Thief” and other neorealist classics, Jamie Donoughue’s 21-minute tale of uncommon sacrifice is both shocking and unforgettable.

Cleary’s most deserving “Stutterer” took home the Oscar.

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