2020 Oscar-Nominated Live Action Shorts

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

5/5 (1)

This year’s films range from the sinister to the somber, taking us across the world to the far reaches of experience. While the selections are chiefly apprehensive and angst-ridden, they are undoubtedly compelling with not a rotten one in the bunch.

From Belgium and Delphine Girard “Une Soeur” (“Sister”) tensely details a kidnapping and an emergency call. It is tense, edgy, enigmatic and almost unbearable to watch. The severe minimalism only highlights its perfection. In just mere seconds, one feels for the two main characters and this brief anxious film raises more questions than it answers.

From Canada / Sweden / Qatar / Tunisia and directed by Meryam Joobeur, “Veljeys” (Brotherhood) tells the story of a troubled son’s impact on a Tunisian family. Malek (Malek Mechergui) returns home now a young adult with his wife Reema (Jasmin Lazid) in a body covering niqab. His father Mohamed (Mohamed Grayaâ) is aghast and quietly fumes with memories and speculations eating at him.

The suspense is palpable and nearly unrelenting. With claustrophobic shots of cluttered huts together with spacious frames of sea and sky, fans of Albert Camus and existential concepts will find much to ponder.

“The Neighbors’ Window” from director Marshall Curry and USA, plays with audience expectation. It is nervous and heart-wrenching in equal measure.

A routine family moves into a new apartment and discovers a couple in full view across the way with a high libido. At first the bored family enjoy seeing the sexual antics, but as the months pass Allia (Maria Dizzia) is increasingly stressed and fights with her work at home hubby Jacob (Greg Keller) over the picture window.

Allia and Jacob snap at one another and both struggle to temper their mood.

Oddly without any harbinger or warning, they notice a marked change in the erotic couple and it is a reveal that you won’t see coming. The short film is kind of a suburban “Rear Window” of sorts in the sense that there is mystery and voyeurism. Right from the start, one is never certain what will unfold.

Also from USA, is Bryan Buckley’s “Saria”about an abusive orphanage in Guatemala run like a concentration camp. Saria (Estefanía Tellez) strives to escape the threat of rape and hard labor by climbing a tall tree. Having to exist covertly to avoid the violent guard, Saria identifies with a small spider running on the floor. This is a raw and visceral short. With its frequent sepia tones and harsh yellow brown cinematography, one is right there alongside Saria.

Sadly, the film is based on a true story, highlighting an unconscionable crime of neglect and sociopathic ignorance on the part of the guard.

Lastly in what might be the singular crowd pleaser from Yves Piat and France/ Tunisia, “Nefta Football Club” follows two Tunisian kids when they discover almost a dozen packs of an illicit substance carried by a donkey. Although edged with moodiness, Piat takes a lighter tone with echoes of Spielberg. The two children Abdallah (Mohamed Ali Ayari) and Mohamed (Eltayef Dhaoui) have a delightful rapport and there is just a pinch of paranoia and nerves with bickering gangsters under an accusatory sun. This selection, despite its initial apprehension is the only genuine comedy in the group and it will induce definite chuckles.

Despite the possibility of nervous sweating, the Live Action category is the strongest I have seen in years and its far reach of perspective and diversity is an able antidote for the jaded eye.

Write Ian at ianfree11@yahoo.com

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