Black Sheep: B
End Game: B+
A Night at the Garden: B+
Life Boat: A-
Period. End of Sentence: A-

black sheep Black Sheep, the single nominated documentary short not from the U.S., is a 27-minute film from the UK with a sensibility all its own. This one examines racism and its effects one one young black man in a rural British context. Cornelius Walker, fantastically lit with his face against a backdrop as he speaks directly into the camera, relates his mother and father moving him to the country after another immigrant child was stabbed to death in their London neighborhood. Cornelius was immediately met with racist abuse in his new small town, until he goes out of his way to emulate and fit in with the very kids who initially tormented him -- right down to bleaching his skin to make it lighter, and purchasing blue contact lenses. Much of this is recreated with very well executed flashbacks, but what is most compelling is present-day Cornelius wrestling with the evolution of his identity. This is a truly unique perspective, albeit with a strangely abrupt ending.

end game End Game, as you might imagine is rather sad: it's a 40-minute Netflix documentary about palliative care for terminally ill patients at a fairly posh medical facility in San Francisco. The cameras focus on about five different patients and the imminent challenges they face, although particular focus is put on two of them. In its way, even as it slightly evades clearly important questions of class and access to care (even with a fairly diverse group of subjects, one Iranian and another Asian American), it's the most emotionally affecting of these five short films.

a night at the garden A Night at the Garden, at a mere 7 minutes, is by far the shortest, and arguably the most haunting, of this year's documentary short nominees. It's simply seven minutes of footage of a 1930 "pro-American rally" that occurred at New York City's Madison Square Garden. With 20,000 people cheering as police beat a man who attempts to protest, and a huge number of them engage in Nazi salutes, this might as well be called 1930 Trump Rally. It's hard to watch, but creepily illuminating -- a reminder of a dark history for our nation, which is clearly not relegated only to the distant past, and of the need to endless vigilance.

The 34-minute Life Boat both the longest and pehaps the best of this bunch: a look at rescue missions in the Mediterranean by Sea Watch, a European nonprofit that rescues as many refugees as they can as they flee persecution, war, and worse from their native African and Middle Eastern countries. I really waffled between whether I thought this or Period. End of Sentence was the best of these five films, and somewhat reluctantly settled on this one, which is very effective at putting human, individual faces on people far too easily generalized, stereotyped or outright ignored by the media and the rest of the world. These people appear to be doing incredible, heartbreaking work.

period. end of sentence And that leaves the cleverly titled Period. End of Sentence, the likely winner of the Academy Award in this category -- and it would not be undeserved. With the help of students in a school who helped fund the project, a group of women in a village outside Delhi, India utilize one man's invention to mass produce sanitary pads at low cost. They then sell them at local markets, to a rural population for whom menstruation is such a taboo (the "biggest tabboo in India," says one man) that they know very little about it. This is the seed of a quietly feminist revolution and it is undeniably exciting to witness.


Overall: B+