This year’s collection of Best Live Action Short Film nominees at the Academy Awards all hail from Europe and range in topic from absurd quirkiness to thought-provoking meditations on immigration and identity. As per Academy requirements, all of these films have run times of less than 40 minutes; and were screened either commercially or at a qualifying film festival.
Mindenki (Sing) – 7/10
- 2017 Academy Award Winner – Best Live Action Short Film
- 25 Minutes
Sing, directed by Kirstóf Deák, tells the story of two young school girls participating in their award-winning school choir, and face the dilemma of speaking out against injustice within their ranks, or remain silent. At 25 minutes, Deák does a good job at fully fleshing out the story and provides sample reason to care about our two protagonists, Zsófi and Liza. Young actresses Dorka Gáspárfalvi (Zsófi) and Dorottya Hais (Liza) each bring a unique personality to their characters and subtle nuance to their performances. The tone of this film deftly seesaws between light suspense, adolescent embarrassment, and in the end – much needed (and rather comical) justice.
Ennemis Intérieurs (Enemies Within) – 8/10
- 27 Minutes
French filmmaker Sélim Azzazi draws from personal experience to deliver a socially-conscious and timely story of an Algerian-born man seeking French citizenship. Confronting the complicated relationship between France and it’s former (Muslim-majority) colonies, Enemies Within is reminiscent of the extended conversation sequence between Michael Fassbender and Liam Cunningham in 2008’s Hitchaboo-winning Hunger. The citizen interview between ‘Le demandeur’ and his interrogator quickly becomes a duel between acid-tongued combatants over race, identity, and culture. This is the most well written of the nominees, and delivers enthralling back-and-forth with an appropriately murky conclusion.
Le Femme et le TGV (The Railroad Lady) – 4/10
- 30 Minutes
The Railroad Lady is the feel-good true story of a lonely widow who lives right up against railroad tracks in rural Switzerland. Her son grown and gone, her small bakery stagnant, and left behind by the technology of the 21st century; she has focused her day around the twice daily crossing of a commuter train outside her window. Over time, she quirkily develops a sort of ‘relationship’ with the anonymous train conductor. While definitely sweet, and not without its filmmaking merits; Le Femme et le TGV misses the mark in meaningful viewer engagement.
Silent Nights – 9/10
- 30 Minutes
The Danish short film Silent Nights is the most balanced candidate among the Live Action shorts; squeezing a feature’s worth of plot into a succinct 30 minutes. Kwame, played by Prince Yaw Appiah is a Ghanaian immigrant scraping by in the unforgiving winter of Denmark. Kwame becomes acquainted with Inger (Malene Beltoft), a volunteer at a local homeless shelter Kwame patronizes. Striking up an easy friendship, feelings soon develop between Kwame and Inger. Things continue rosily for the budding romance and Inger begins inviting Kwame deeper into her life; until she is confronted with his struggles as an immigrant, much of which he has concealed from her. Fitting of the current political climate, writer/director Aske Bang tactfully develops well-rounded characters complete with hopes and errs alike.
El corridor (Timecode) – 6/10
- 15 Minutes
The shortest entrant among this year’s nominees also deals with the lightest subject matter. Timecode is the amusing episode of two parking lot attendants whose only interaction is during the few overlapping minutes of their day/night shifts. They spark an unlikely bond from shared passions in this absurdist comedy from Juanjo Giménez. While employing novel camera perspectives from parking lot security camera footage, and admirable choreography; El corridor is overshadowed by the heavier films in this category.