Wednesday, February 10, 2016

One Category at a Time: Live-Action Short

Over in the Live-Action field, we're presented with another rich cultural cross-section ranging from Palestine to Kosovo to Germany to Afghanistan and the UK. Recently, voters have shown greater willingness to go for weepy offerings in this category than in animation, but I wonder if we're due for a more uplifting winner for a change.
If you prescribe to that instinct at all (and you probably shouldn't), it makes Benjamin Cleary's Stutterer look like a solid bet. In a brisk 12 minutes, it conveys the lonely life of a young man with a socially crippling stutter, carrying on an online relationship with a witty literature student. All fine on that front so long as he can text her, but when she floats the prospect of meeting him in person, it causes our sympathetic hero no shortage of anxiety. Even if you can smell the story's O. Henry-ish twist from a mile off, that doesn't diminish the film's skillful execution and economical storytelling. It's quite lovely, and the warm fuzzies it instills could certainly help it stand out from the more dour entries on the list.

Among those unhappy players, the most formidable is probably Jamie Donoughue's Shok, which details the harrowing coming of age of two young Albanian friends as Serbian troops intensify their offensive in the Kosovo War. It's well acted by its two young leads, and wrings an awful lot of tension out of its increasingly dangerous scenarios before landing its final gut punch.

Then there's Henry Hughes' Day One, which follows an interpreter (the excellent Layla Alizada) on her first mission with American forces in Afghanistan. You can imagine the sorts of horrors she encounters, but the film focuses primarily one, and asks its audience to endure a lot of it as it unfolds in real time. However sturdy the productions values, all the tears and suffering and such may be a bit much for some voters.

Ditto Patrick Vollrath's Everything Will be OK, although that one earns its concluding dramatics with a more subtle, patient build. A divorced father takes his daughter out for the day, as it's gradually revealed to us that he's planning to kidnap her. What makes the premise so compelling is that Vollrath dares us to empathize with him and his tragically misdirected love for his daughter, rather than cast him as a villain. It held me all the way, but seems like it didn't really know how to end.

The only one that can claim to be at all lighthearted is Ave Maria, Basil Khalil's comedy of clashing religious customs. A Jewish family runs their car into a convent in the West Bank, forcing both them and the nuns to break with dogma in order to solve the problem. It's a slight but entertaining piece of work, and that charm may help it stand out against its straight-faced competition.

Will win: Stutterer
Runner-up: Shok

Should win: Stutterer

No comments:

Post a Comment