Oscar Nominated Shorts: Live Action

DeKalb Elementary: B+
The Silent Child: B+
My Nephew Emmett: A-
The Eleven O'Clock: B+
Watu Wote / All of Us: A-

dekalb elementary DeKalb Elementary (USA, 21 minutes) is an impressively tense short film for how spare it is in production design: a possible school shooter walks in with a gun, and all we ever see for all 21 minutes of the run time is the reception area where the young man spends his time. We never know whether he might actually shoot someone, but soon learn he has mental issues an is off his meds, and the entirely black staff, particularly an unlucky woman covering reception just for the day, helps talk him down. All of the action takes place exclusively in this one room, but the characters each effectively evoke their individual worlds outside of it.

the silent child What The Silent Child (UK, 20 minutes) lacks in resolution, it makes up for in messaging: this is about a little deaf girl whose parents don't quite understand the importance of teaching her sign language, and the young teacher who tries in vain to explain it to them. We learn at the end of this filn that while 90% of deaf children are born to hearing parents, 78% of deaf children attend hearing schools. This film has little chance of winning the Oscar, given the racially charged political climate tipping the odds in favor of the several shorts that address racial issues, but for this one, the win is truly just in getting nominated -- exposure to these issues is the key. This is the first of four shorts out of those nominated that shows footage of the cast and crew learning of their nomination. This one is well deserved, and in all cases it's fun and touching to see the filmmakers so excited.

my nephew emmett My Nephew Emmett (USA, 20 minutes) features a very slow and deliberate pace, and eases us into the realization that it's based on the true story of Emmett Till, a young black man murdered in Mississippi or simply whistling at a white woman. His 64-year-old uncle tries, ultimately in vain, to protect this boy visiting from Chicago where social mores are a little different. Soon enough to white man arrive at the house, armed, leaving the residents of the home powereless to stop them from taking the young man away. Needless to say, this one is a bit of a downer in the end, but it's no less powerful for it, and is the strongest short film among these five. It would get my vote for the Oscar.

the eleven o'clock Every year there has to be at least one live action short that is more light-hearted and fun, lest the whole bunch of them lure us al into a deep depression. The Eleven O'Clock (Australia, 13 minutes) is this year's example, a comic story of a psychiatrist seeing a patient who is convinced he is himself a pyschiatrist. It quickly becomes clear that we, the viewer, do not know exactly who truly is the psychiatrist and who is the patient. The inevitable twist at the end could not be more predictable, but the film is still a worthy bit of a good time.

Watu Wote / All of Us (Germany / Kenya, 22 minutes) closes out this year's live action set with what turns out to be the true story of a bus raided by Muslim extremists on the border between Kenya and Somalia. When the one Chrisian woman on the bus, whose husband and baby were previously killed by Muslims and thus made her deeply hateful, is protected by all the Muslims on board, it's tempting to feel the story is a little contrived. But, then you learn that this is based on true events, and it becomes more genuinely affecting. There's still a slight note of "can't we all just get along" to the proceedings, tense as they are, and it's also tempting to roll one's eyes at that. But once this relatively brief story is done being told, it proves more moving than expected.

watu wote all of us
Overall: B+