ShortsHD has made available to interested filmgoers all of the Academy Award nominated short subject films. If you live in a major city you can see the films in a movie theater during the month of February and beginning on February 19, 2013 they will be available for viewing through Itunes download and Video on Demand. Visit theoscarshorts.shorts.tv/index.php for more information.
The Documentary Short Subject nominees are all at or close to the maximum limit for length. If you see the films in a theater they very likely will be shown with a brief intermission between the third and fourth films as they were when I saw the films at the West End Cinema in Washington, D.C. If I were an Academy Award voter this is how I would rank this year's Documentary Short Subject nominees. This is my personal opinion and does not reflect who might actual win the award.
5. Redemption - United States - 35 minutes. This is a film about the people who make a living canning - collecting cans and bottles on the streets of New York City to redeem them for 5 cents each to supplement their income. The film focuses on several different people who troll various neighborhoods from the upper West Side of Manhattan to Times Square to Brooklyn. Some are homeless, some on fixed income, all find it worth their while to dig through bags of trash to earn a few dollars a day redeeming recyclables. Its an interesting film that gets a little manipulative in its choice of imagery for its ending. While it shows both affluent and tourist locations as the prime locations for canning the filmmakers chose a night shot of Wall Street with a lone figure pushing a cart filled with cans and bottles for the finale. Seemed a bit too obvious and the film would have been better if it had chosen a normal street to show that canning is universal to New York City and its boroughs without making judgment.
4. Kings Point - United States - 40 minutes. A film about the Kings Point retirement community in Florida and its residents. The focus is on five senior citizens who moved to Kings Point for various reasons decades ago. The community itself was founded in 1972. Poignantly shows that for all the social benefits marketed to seniors the reality is one of increasing isolation and loneliness as spouses die and one's health declines. Despite the friendships that exist there is a sense from the subjects of not wanting to get too close to each other. Kings Point is an emotionally engaging story.
3. Open Heart - United States - 40 minutes. This is story of 8 Rwandan children who are chosen to travel to Sudan to repair the valves in their damaged hearts. Rheumatic fever is easily treated in affluent countries, but in Africa it still leads to severe heart complications which left untreated means eventual death. The film focuses on Dr. Emmanuel Rusingiza, Rwanda's only government cardiologist and the Salam Center, a joint Italian and Sudanese hospital for cardiac surgery that is the only facility in Africa that provides its services free of charge. The problem is funding. 75% of the budget comes from the Italian charity Emergency, 25% from the Government of Sudan. Controversially the film shows Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir as he tours the facility and has a meeting with the hospital personnel who must convince him to maintain Sudan's portion of the budget. To their credit the filmmakers do point out in a caption that Al-Bashir is wanted for war crimes. Miraculously all 8 of the children survive the procedures and get to go home. The only surprising thing about the film is that there is no plea for donations in the end credits.
2. Inocente - United States - 40 minutes. A coming-of-age tale told in the words of the protagonist, Inocente is a young woman determined to be an artist despite the hardships of her life. She is 15, an undocumented immigrant and has been homeless for the past nine years. She has a difficult relationship with her mother which stems from Inocente blaming herself for the abusive behavior of her father which led to his arrest and was a factor in the family becoming homeless. Through the support of the San Diego organization ARTS (a reason to survive) she is chosen to mount an art show. The film leaves you with hope that this young woman will have a better life through her art.
1. Mondays at Racine - United States - 39 minutes. This is a film that appears to have one focus and surprisingly has a deeper and richer soul. Racine's is a salon and spa located in Long Island, New York. On the third Monday of each month, the two sisters who run the salon, Cynthia and Rachel open their services for free to women undergoing chemotherapy. What makes this film more meaningful is that the salon and what these compassionate women are providing these cancer patients is merely the catalyst for the real story, the lives of some of the women who pass through their doors. The focus is on several of the women, but delves deeper into the lives of two women, Linda Hart who has lived with cancer since 1994, and Cambria Russell whom the film follows from the time of her third chemotherapy session through surgery and into eventual remission. It is these women's lives that elevate Mondays at Racine beyond being simply a feel good film about a nice service for cancer patients.