Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
The nominations for the 93rd Academy Awards were announced on March 15. Every year, the Academy selects a group of films in three categories that are unique and rather disconnected from the other categories. That group of films are short films. A short film is one that is 40 minutes or less in its run time. Aside from TV and online channels, there isn’t much of a market or platform for short films. Short films used to play in theaters decades ago, but that ended by the 1960’s. It wasn’t until 2005 that a company decided to put short films back into movie theaters, particularly the short films that got Oscar nominations. Normally, five short films get nominated in the three categories. One of which is Live Action.
The Present by Farah Nabulsi is a Palestinian film about a father and daughter who have to cross an Israeli checkpoint in order to go shopping. It’s a film that shows how dehumanizing the Palestians are treated. It also perhaps shows how brutal or unsympathetic the Israeli police or military that staff those checkpoints are, exposing perhaps the bigotry and hatred toward the Palestinians. It also features an incredible performance from Saleh Bakri (The Band’s Visit) who plays Yusef, the Palestinian father who has to face that bigotry and hatred head-on. This film won the BAFTA Award, which is a good indication that it will win the Oscar, which is something I support.
Feeling Through by Doug Roland is about a homeless African-American teen boy who one night befriends a blind and deaf man on the streets of New York. It’s interesting that this film would be recognized the same year that Sound of Metal (2020) was also nominated, given that film was also about a deaf man. It’s a sentimental tale that provides a slice of how someone who’s in both their situations might connect and communicate. Unfortunately, this slice is too thin and isn’t as insightful as it perhaps hopes to be. I was left with more questions than I was with any of the other shorts in this category.
Two Distant Strangers by Travon Free and Martin Desmond Roe is another entry in the now genre of films that rip-off the premise to Groundhog Day (1993). It’s about a Black man named Carter in New York who is reliving the same day over and over again. Except, it isn’t the whole day. It’s just the morning because he never survives to the end of the day. Every day, a white police officer shoots and kills him before he makes it off his street corner. We watch as Carter tries to avoid getting shot, but no matter what he does, Carter ends up getting shot by this police officer. This would have been a provocative premise, if it hadn’t already been done twice within the past year or so. First, there was See You Yesterday (2019) and then there was The Obituary of Tunde Johnson (2021). Both take the Groundhog Day premise and mash it with the Black Lives Matter issue like this film does. It’s potent in underscoring the feeling from African Americans that it doesn’t matter what they do, they are being killed simply for their skin color.
White Eye by Tomer Shushan is an Israeli film about a man named Omer who finds his stolen bicycle, as well as the man who now has it, as Omer has to decide how he’s going to handle its retrieval. It’s a film that sheds a light on undocumented immigrants and other impoverished people, particularly African migrants. It’s also in part about pride and dignity on the side of the immigrant and how sometimes that’s all they have and how stubborn they can be about holding onto it.
The Letter Room by Elvira Lind is about a prison guard who is responsible for correspondence between inmates and people on the outside. It’s the most star-studded of the short films this year. Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker and X-Men: Apocalypse) stars as Richard, a prison guard and a very lonely man. He gets promoted to being in charge of communications with inmates. He basically has to scan every single piece of paper that comes in the mail through the U.S. Postal Service or otherwise. He literally scans them into a computer and then he has to scan them with his own eyes looking for warning signs, plots or conspiracies, contraband or pornography. When he suspects something might be off with a death row inmate’s mail, he feels compelled to act. It’s an interesting idea, but I don’t think Lind makes the overall story as compelling as it could have gone. Isaac gives a great performance though.
Not Rated but contains mature images and some language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 mins.
Playing in Rehoboth Beach and on ShortsTV.