Thursday, February 18, 2016

Short Film: Live Action

It may not be like this everywhere, but when the Detroit Film Theater screens the animated short films, they combine the event with the live action short films. It only made sense, then, for me to publish both pieces on the same day.

Short Film (Live Action)

  • Ave Maria
  • Day One
  • Everything Will Be OK
  • Shok
  • Stutterer

A quiet comedy, Ave Maria centers around a dysfunctional Jewish family who become stranded in Palestine on the Sabbath and must seek the help of a convent of nuns who have taken a vow of silence. With excellent cinematographic framing throughout and a rich script, Ava Maria provides almost all of the levity in an otherwise heavy group of films.

In Day One, an Afghan-American woman gets her first job with the US military as an interpreter. On her first day, she's tasked with straddling languages, religions, cultures, and countries as she negotiates between her military commander, the munitions expert who was their objective, his wife who is in labor, and a bi-lingual Afghan doctor. Henry Hughes provides a script that refuses to demonize Muslims or their culture despite several opportunities for cheap shots. Instead, we're presented with a tangle of cultures that one woman must untangle on her first day of work ever. The acting is phenomenal from top to bottom which really helps Day One shine in the face of its difficult material.

Vaguely reminiscent of 2014's Avant Que de Tout Perdre (Just before Losing Everything), Everything Will Be OK centers again on a parent trying to escape with their children. Where the former film centered on a woman escaping her abusive partner, the latter stars a man attempting to kidnap his daughter to take her out of country before a court judgement keeps her from him. Unfortunately, the script is mediocre and provides a main character in the father that is more monster than antihero that can be empathized with. The acting is serviceable but ultimately doesn't pull Everything Will Be OK to the level of the other films.

Shok centers around two Albanian boys in Serbian-occupied Kosovo as they navigate friendship in a war-zone. With decisions between friends and enemies, family and foes, honor and wealth all looming, their lives are about to become even more chaotic. Shok has a poignant script that never misses a beat, fantastic acting, and a very real chance at winning,

Stutterer gives us an isolated typographer in a developing online relationship who is finally given a opportunity to meet his inamorata. The only hitch is that our protagonist has a debilitating stutter that hinders nearly all of his social interactions leaving him to agonize about whether or not to take up this chance. The inclusion of technology (Facebook chat here) is middling at best, which has been a struggle for filmmakers, but it is a minor moment in a film that features a solid script, tight camera work, and endearing acting. 

The real stand-outs here are Shok and Day One, though Stutterer is fantastic as well. While Shok is well-acted, well-written, and well-shot, Day One narrowly exceeds it in every respect. That combined with it being a more-relatable story to Academy voters as well as being primarily English leads me to suspect it will win.

Should win: Day One
Will win: Day One

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