Friday, February 21, 2014



Cavedigger - Jeffrey Karoff
Facing Fear - Jason Cohen
Karama Has No Walls - Sara Ishaq
The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall

Once again, I'm taking all of the shorts in a category and talking about them together, mostly because all together, there are 15 short subject films, and there simply aren't enough days between the nomination announcements and the Oscars to take them individually.  (There are exactly 57 films with nominations!)  

The short docs this year were a powerful bunch, with only one which told an important story, just not told very well.

Ah, to see art everywhere.  Cavedigger is the story of Ra Paulette, the inventor of art in the form of hand-carved, hand shoveled, hand-everything-ed caves in the mountain formations in New Mexico.  Much like Michaelangelo who allowed the image to emerge from the stone, Ra allows the cave to emerge from the hill.  Like all artists for hire, there is the troubling challenge of patron input into the art, particularly as timelines and budgets become meaningless in the pursuit of the perfect cave and sponsors are no longer willing to allow Ra to get to the perfect conclusion.  Ra's vision is to create his magnum opus cave - the work to end all works which will take a decade to complete, and which is a piece just for his legacy and not for hire, leaving his wife to shoulder the burden of sustaining their household.  This film is beyond worth it, if only to see his magnificent and mind-boggling creations, and if the cave is to be his magnum opus, the film is at least a minimus opus, a true tribute to his brilliance.

Cavedigger Movie Trailer

Imagine being the victim of a violent, hate-filled attack only to discover over a decade later that you are working with your attacker.  Imagine being a former neo-Nazi who perpetrated a homophobic, mob crime only to discover that your victim works where you volunteer, doing what you can to make amends for your horrible deeds.  This is the exact tale that Facing Fear follows, and all of it ironically (coincidentally? inevitably?) taking place within the walls of the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. The film is difficult, it is inspiring, and it requires to ask ourselves the true meaning of forgiveness - how to forgive and how to be forgiven.

Facing Fear Movie Trailer

Much like its full length feature doppelgänger "The Square," Karama Has No Walls tackles the difficult subject of the grassroots uprising in Yemen.  This was the least fleshed out of the five short subject docs, with the point being unclear.  It follows the young believers who want to change their circumstances and their government, and the violent attacks by thugs and actors from the state who have no hesitation in maiming and killing anyone, including young children.  Still, at the end of the film, we are still left asking what kind of change is actually in store for a country with no good leadership options, and where dictator is more likely followed by dictator, not likely by democracy.

Karama Has No Walls Movie Trailer

This is the powerful and uplifting story of a 109 year old Holocaust survivor (the oldest on record) whose passion for music and brilliant piano playing has been the backdrop to her life story.  The film is literally filled with wisdom - whether she is cautioning us that hate brings only hate, reminding us that human relationships are the only thing that matter, or encouraging us by reinforcing that when you love something you must work at it.

The Lady in Number 6 Movie Trailer

Terminally ill prison inmates are the subjects of this film, in particular we follow Jack Hall, an inmate near the end of his life.  Jack is serving a life sentence for the murder of his late son's drug dealer.  He is a former, much decorated military hero, and his life is slowly slipping from him.  In Iowa, the prison system set up a hospice care unit that is staffed by professionals and by specially trained inmates, themselves kidnappers and murderers.  But the lovely part about this film is watching these caregivers become people that they never knew they could be.  They become tender, loving, respectful, and vigilant partners in the sick inmate's death journey.  These are the true heroes of this film - we are not asked to discard their terrible historic acts, but we are warmed by each act of personal kindness.

Prison Terminal Movie Trailer

No comments:

Post a Comment