Wednesday, February 5, 2014



HELIUM - Anders Walter and Kim Magnusson
THE VOORMAN PROBLEM - Mark Gill and Baldwin Li

I'm taking the short films together by category for a couple of reasons.  First, you can't go see them individually.  Second, there aren't enough days in between nomination announcements and Oscar broadcast to post one review a day if I don't take all three categories of shorts and do them each all together.  Third, it allows me to draw comparisons between them.  Fourth, they have been put together with commentary in between each from film makers who spoke eloquently about the benefit of short film producing, and I want to share some of that here.

There is much to be said for making short films.  They have very small budgets, so the filmmaker has very little noise to cloud his/her vision.  They require discipline - the filmmaker must have a clear message to communicate and a tight plan for its delivery.  There can't be a lot of side and subplots, there is no time for that, so the dialogue is often crisp, the action clear, and the direction has to be focused.  When short films are done well, there is little middle ground for the audience to get lost in; you either like the story or you don't.  And, they are a great training ground for young filmmakers because you can make them and move on to the next go, if they are complete failures.

First, the film from Spain, Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn't Me).  It is the story in which the exploitation of African child soldiers and their plight is examined.  We see how the humanity is actively drained from their souls, and we feel the fear of two foreign doctors and their driver as they are captured and threatened with execution.  This film was the best of a very strong list this year.  It seems that child soldiers is a very popular theme among the live action short film producers since there is one addressing this subject among the nominees almost every year, although I have yet to see one of these films win.  Last year, I thought the film "Asad" (about Somali child soldiers) was the best of the bunch, but it did not win.  But there is so much humanity in this one that it might finally be the year when child soldiers get the recognition they need to make this tragedy a priority in our world.

Aquel No Era Yo Movie Trailer

Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything) is a nominee from France/Luxembourg in which we see a woman and her children escaping an abusive husband.  She goes to her workplace for assistance and refuge, and we see the variety of reactions from her co-workers.  I was alternately moved and disgusted, but it led me to ask myself, how would I act in this same situation?  How would anyone?  The palpable fear in this film is different from the first, but I was on the edge of my seat the entire film.  

Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything) Movie Trailer

Helium hit me in the gut.  It is the story of a dying child in the hospital and the custodian who befriends him, helping him not to be afraid of death.  The custodian weaves a lengthy tale with the child of a magical land filled with balloons, people who love him, and wonderful peaceful homes once you get there.  This story from Denmark had me in tears.

Helium Movie Trailer

Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have To Do Everything?) is the tribute to every working mom in the world.  Running late to a wedding, the mom leaps out of bed and launches into getting everyone ready to go.  She loses the wedding gift under the piles of mess and in each moment improvises one solution to each new problem.  I laughed so hard at the end of this film, I was grateful that it was subtitled as I would have definitely missed the last few lines.  This short film out of Finland was a welcome relief to the heavy subjects of the other nominees.

Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?) Movie Trailer

Finally, The Voorman Problem.  Another funny one from our friends in Britain in which a supposedly insane prisoner maintains that he is a god and he has gotten the other prisoners to believe in him.  A psychiatrist is brought in and sets before him a series of questions which are intended as litmus tests to prove that he is not, in fact, god.  But the hilarity comes when we discover that this prisoner is hard to debate than expected.

The Voorman Problem Movie Trailer

The short films take about 2 hours to view all together, plus the commentary from the movie makers in between.  Each year, it is one of my favorite experiences and I highly recommend that if you haven't been making it out to see them (assuming they come to your town), that you go this year.  It was a particularly good crop of films, and there wasn't a single bad one in the group.  It's a whole different kind of movie making, and if you're like me and you love movies because of the stories they tell, short films are among the greatest tribute to pure storytelling.  Don't miss them!

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