Thursday, February 22, 2018

Oscar short films 2018: How we live now


My friend Beppe and I have a tradition every year during the Oscar run up time of going to the  Independent Film Center to see the Oscar nominated  Live Action Short Films. Freed from the need to produce massive box office revenue or fill feature length running time seems to open up creativity and allows the filmmaker to simply tell their story as seems natural. The five films every year always come from a variety  of countries with a broad spectrum of film style. 

This year had a surprising difference.....for of the five films dealt with social issues in striking ways, perhaps a commentary on how we are living now.  The one comedy, "The Eleven O'Clock" a well written clever comedy asking us o figure out which character is a psychiatrist and which is a patient who believes that he is a psychiatrist. There's plenty familiar to laugh at for one who's ever been through the therapy experience.

The first film is "De Kalb Elementary" (U.S.) Watching a film begin with a would be shooter taking out an assault rifle in an elementary school is almost unwatchable during the week that we once again faced a public school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The sad reality, any time this film would be seen would have the same tragic context. Part of what makes the film so disturbing is that director Reed Van Dyke's story proceeds with the knowledge that we know how this story will almost always end in our experience. He further disturbs us by taking us into an empathy for the clearly deeply troubled potential shooter. Tara Riggs as the administrator keeps us completely rapt as she tries to connect with the young man with the gun.

"The Silent Child"(UK) takes us into the world of a deaf child and her tutor and poignantly and painfully makes the case for the necessity of sign language as the most appropriate means of communication for deaf students and how our educational system fails our students by not providing interpreters. Watching Maisie Sly as Libby blossom then retreat again into isolation is profoundly moving.

I should have picked up immediately what "My Nephew Emmet" was all about. It's sense of place is immediately established and the tone and cinematography is reminiscent of last year's "Moonlight." When I realized we were into the Emmet Till story, my heart sank. I knew where we were headed. We are thrust into a world ...and forced to experience the sense of powerlessness .... where whites impose their cruel and violent will on African Americans. We never see what happens to Emmet. Only the face of his uncle who knows what will happen. This is an important film to watch and wrestle with when you realize that this is the "Great" that our current President wants to return us to.

Finally, the joint German-Kenyan film "Watu Wote: All of Us" takes us to the border of Somalia and Kenya as a gang of Al Sha-baab rebels who take over  a passenger bus and try to separate the Christians from the Muslims. the Muslim passengers immediately move to protect the Christians and challenge the rebels understanding of the Quran  and what being a faithful Muslim means. In a time of rampant Islamophobia, this film makes a dramatic witness as to what shared humanity is all about. It's moving to realize  that the film is based on a true story. 

That's where we live now. How we live now. No escape in these short films, but inspiration for theological reflection. Take your church group, your book club or just some friends. See the films. Have a conversation. It's where we are. How we live. "All of us."

No comments:

Post a Comment