Fresh Eyes: Our Review of Three of the Live Action Shorts in the Academy Shortlist

Posted in Movies by - January 07, 2020
Fresh Eyes: Our Review of Three of the Live Action Shorts in the Academy Shortlist

The Academy is announcing their nominees in a few days, honouring films this year that they think are the best. Most of the films that will get top of the line nominations have English as their first language. But that’s less true at least for the films that are in the shortlist for the Best Live Action short category. I’ve seen at least three of these shorts, all of them non-English.

The first problem I have with these films, though, is that  these films have been out either a year before or two. I’m still figuring out how fair that is. The silver lining for that, however, is that some of us get a preview of these shorts. The publicists for them are also pushing for more views, giving critics and audiences a dog to fight for when nomination days comes.

Brotherhood made TIFF’s Canada Top Ten short films last year. And it’s director Meryam Joobeur’s compact yet multifaceted perspective on young Islamic radicalism, especially in how a mother, Salha (Salha Nasraoui), and her child, sees her new underage daughter in law. Nefta Football Club was part of last year’s Short That Are Not Pants. There, Yves Piat shows us two boys living a border town between Tunisia and Algeria. It has an authentic quality that makes it my favorite of this crop.

Little Hands is the film that’s new to my eyes. The title is a play on words, recalling both the unrecognized people driving the economy of the French speaking Europe. It also represents the innocence of a younger generation. A factory worker, Bruno (Jan Hammenecker) kidnaps his boss’ child Leo and takes him to the woods. This is a blatant yet competent symbol of the return to nature where the class systems between its two main characters don’t exist.

Director Remi Allier is currently working on a feature film about a child or children, which is obvious in this film. There’s a contrast here in the way he lenses Bruno in opposition to how he shows Leo. It shows Bruno through shaky cam while Leo’s close ups are real, capturing his sensory experience of something he won’t ever remember.

I’m still not comfortable seeing Bruno and Leo as two halves of a dichotomy. This is the weakest of the three films in the shortlist. But it’s still an effective olive branch where sides become less important. Allier competently captures Bruno’s emotions, ones that change while in the presence of innocence. I don’t want this to win over the other two shorts but it at least deserves a nomination.

  • Release Date: 2019
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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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