By Sean Boelman
Every year, ShortsTV releases the Oscar-nominated short films in theaters, giving audiences the opportunity to see them before the ceremony and pick their favorites for the big night. As expected, this year’s batch of nominated documentaries spans from highly relevant and political to more personal stories of human interest. Below is our personal ranking of the films.
5. Hunger Ward
It seems that there has to be at least one documentary short nominated that is oppressively bleak to the point of being outright unpleasant to watch, and this year, that is Hunger Ward. Although the topic — starving children in war-torn third-world countries — is one that needs to be discussed, forty minutes of unflinching footage is just too much to bear after a certain point. Granted, this means it did accomplish its goal of horrifying the audience, but shock value alone does not make a powerful documentary.
Anthony Giacchino’s Colette offers an interesting biography of an extraordinary subject, but admittedly, it doesn’t do enough to set itself apart from the other documentaries we have seen about those fighting in the Resistance during WWII. It’s an interesting watch thanks to the fact that it has such a compelling story, but even at a mere twenty-four minutes, it ultimately feels like it stretches on for a bit too long. It holds its own among the nominees, but lacks that special factor to send it above and beyond.
3. A Concerto is a Conversation
Telling the story of co-director Kris Bowers, who is a successful film composer, A Concerto is a Conversation is a magnificent documentary that feels like it could be a winner if this year’s crop wasn’t so strong. Connecting personal experience with artistic expression, this is an intimate and poetic film that is probably the most beautiful of the five nominees. Additionally, the blend of a film-centric story with issues of racial identity are sure to earn this a lot of fans among viewers and voters.
2. A Love Song for Latasha
A Love Song for Latasha is the most ambitious of the five documentary shorts nominated this year, and also probably the most important. An experimental nonfiction film telling the story of a Black teenager who was murdered in a convenience store, one of the inciting factors of the L.A. riots of 1992, this is a soul-crushing film, but in a way that is thought-provoking. Particularly resonant given the recent surge in racially-motivated violence, it seems as if this has a good chance of winning thanks to its timeliness.
1. Do Not Split
There have been some good documentaries about the protests in Hong Kong and the shocking reaction that the Chinese government had to them, and Do Not Split adds another harrowing entry onto that list. There is some absolutely disgusting footage in this film, making it quite hard to watch, but it is still important to have discussions about this type of global event. Anders Hammer made this film very effectively, telling the story of these protestors in a way that is equal parts compelling and frustrating.
The 2021 Oscar Nominated Documentary Short Films are now in theaters and virtual cinemas.
The Snake Hole
Retrospectives, opinion pieces, awards commentary, personal essays, and any other type of article that isn't a traditional review or interview.