In our announcement Tuesday I mentioned my skepticism in finding any of the Short Film Oscar nominees online, but you, our readers, did not share my defeatist attitude and unearthed a couple! Thanks go out to Hans and Sam, now you can watch one film from each of the 3 short film categories: Documentary Short Subject, Short Film (Live-Action) and Short Film (Animation).
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Documentary Short Subject—The Warriors of Quigang: A Chinese Village Fights Back
In Quigang, a tiny hamlet of 1,900 people, a nearby chemical plant is polluting the land and water. Qiugang’s residents — working with a fledgling environmental group, Green Anhui — began to try to do something about it. The filmmakers, Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon, previously won the 2006 Oscar for Short Subject with another China documentary, The Blood of Yingzhou District.
The film is long by short film standards, 40 min, and how you feel about it is dependent on your attitude towards documentaries in general. It is not particularly lovely to look at, nor does it have any novelty factors that mark successful recent documentaries like Exit Through the Gift Shop or Catfish. Instead it is straight old-school in style—take a camera and shoot people talking and going about their day—and the story they tell is an old one of corporate malfeasance that we’ve seen many times before.
That said, I really liked it. The filmmakers definitely put in their time—3 years was this short in the making—and familiar stories are always inspiring in documentaries as a sign that we as humans can rise up and meet the standards set by our cinematic heroes. Zhang Gongli is that hero in this film, a 60 year old man who steps up when no one would to spearhead his village’s efforts against the chemical factory and local government. It is a great story on a micro-level, and when Zhang takes a trip to Beijing to attend an environmentalist conference, the macro-implications are fully appreciated. The drama of the film is not played up to the extent it could have, and it does not possess much style or panache, but if you feel a documentarian’s job is not to be an artist, but to simply identify a good story and let the people tell it, Ruby Yang’s film is an unqualified success.
Short Film (Live-Action)—Wish 143
Ian Barnes directs this 23 minute film commissioned by the BBC_Network, and therefore available on their website. The blurb: “An Oscar®-nominated drama about a fifteen-year-old boy with only months to live, who is granted one final wish from the Dreamscape Charity. But David doesn’t want to go to Disneyland or meet Gary Neville; what he really wants is an hour alone with a naked woman.”
I was dreading watching this film a little bit based on the tagline. Its not an especially original idea for a story, and is one that can easily be botched in terms of tone. That said, now that I’ve seen it, I really recommend Wish 143. It nails by biggest underlying worry—tone—very thoughtfully balancing comedy and sentimentality, while not neglecting the complex emotions of fear, anger and disappointment that a person in David’s position must grapple with. It even resolves the sticky issue of the film’s conceit in a satisfactory way.
Winner of the Audience Award at the prestigious Palm Springs Shortsfest, this is an accomplished effort from director Ian Barnes off of a great script by Tom Bidwell. However it is Sam Holland as the dying boy who steals the show. Good flick.
Short Film (Animation)—Madagascar, carnet de voyage
Bastien Dubois’ animated travel-diary has been featured on the site before, where I gave it a glowing review.
Told in the form of a animated scrapbook, Dubois crosses 3-D with 2-D aesthetics to bring you into a visual journey of Madagascar’s people and country that is unlike anything seen before.
BAFTA Short Film (Live-Action) Nominee—Turning
As a bonus, here is a BAFTA nominee, Turning by filmmaking duo Karni and Saul that I uncovered and shared last weekend on Twitter and Facebook.
BAFTA’s tend to be a bit more off the wall than Oscar noms, as previous winners we’ve featured, My Wrongs # 8245 – 8249 & 117 and The Banker indicate. Turning continues that tradition. The tagline: “On his sixth birthday Robert receives three beautiful broken old birds in his mother’s sitting room.”
Blending animation and live-action in a lovely way, the film is offbeat but not really in a good way, as I was pretty bored throughout the film’s 10 minute runtime. You might be perplexed at the end by what the film is trying to say also, but that said, I have to say I’d never seen an elderly lady’s crotch mocked up as a zoetrope before!