Whether it’s due to a lack of budget, production value, or star power, short films don’t get nearly the same love features do.
It’s a shame, because while shorts may not look as polished as your average Hollywood release, the great ones supply both memorable storytelling and inspirational resourcefulness. This year’s selection of Oscar-nominated live action short films is proof enough of that.
“Nefta Football Club”
The most impactful shorts generally explore the sinister side of human nature, but “Nefta Football Club” reveals plenty of substance on the lighter end of the spectrum. A whole lot of drugs drive the plot, but the subtle narrative from writer-director Yves Piat deftly mines levity from a potentially disastrous premise.
Whether we’re shadowing our two young protagonists, a couple of miserable drug runners, or an Adele-loving donkey, “Nefta Football Club” offers decent laughs and a payoff that’s as sweet as it is comical. Things get a lot darker from here on out.
“The Neighbors’ Window”
A surefire trigger for moms and dads, “The Neighbors’ Window” contrasts the explosiveness of young love with parenthood’s strain on a relationship.
When a curtain-free couple moves in across the street, Alli and her husband get front row tickets to their nonstop banging. With two kids in their apartment and a third on the way, conflicts are heightened, and they find themselves longing for the passion that once was. All that glitters is not gold, though, and Alli soon learns to be grateful for the life she has at home. This film is the weakest of the bunch, but there are kernels of truth in here that make it worth a nom.
Perhaps the most complex film in the running, this Tunisian tale tackles a slew of Arab-world issues while maintaining a narrow family focus. Mohamed, a shepherd and father to three boys, finds himself racked with anger when his eldest, Malek, returns home out of the blue.
While Malek’s mom welcomes him—and his pregnant teenage wife—with open arms, his dad can’t get past either the girl’s niqab or his son’s actions. Dramatic irony abounds, and the film ends on a masterful sour note. Beautifully composed and increasingly tricky, “Brotherhood” aims high and executes.
My favorite of the group until I saw “Saria,” “A Sister” highlights what a great filmmaker can do with the simplest of setups. There are really only two main locations in this short—a car and an office—but director Delphine Girard sources unbelievable tension from those basic settings.
This is one where you’re much better off going in blind, so I’ll limit my plot summary to saying that there’s a phone call, and something is very, very wrong. Its concept is so modest; nevertheless, “A Sister” is a phenomenal short film.
“Saria” is easily the most horrifying contender and, for my money, the best of the five. The true-story backdrop and compounding brutality of abuse, rape, and death make this account of two sisters in a Guatemalan orphanage a difficult watch—but it’s pictures like this that highlight the power of the short film medium.
“Saria” succinctly covers real-life events, yet makes such a strong emotional appeal through its dramatization that we can’t help loving its characters or losing our shit when everything unravels. “Saria” an impressive piece of filmmaking, but by shining a light on this atrocity, the short also provides an indelible public service.
Both the Best Live Action Short Program and Best Animated Short Program are running now at Landmark’s Lagoon Cinema.