Oscar gets a short, sharp dose of reality from a world beset by woes
Anders Hammer’s "Do Not Split," one of five nominees for Best Documentary (Short Subject) at the 93rd Academy Awards, goes inside the 2019 Hong Kong protests against the Chinese government's anti-democratic crackdowns. The short docs program, as well as the nominees for short animation and short live-action films, are screening at digital TIFF Bell Lightbox. 136 minutes.
Documentaries in the three short film categories at the April 25 Academy Awards (the others are animated and live action) have a lot to say in their brief hold on our collective attention span. A world caught up in a global pandemic also finds itself, as seen in the five nominees for Best Documentary (Short Subject), confronting government brutality, Holocaust evil, systemic racism and child starvation. Anders Hammer’s "Do Not Split" bravely goes inside the 2019 Hong Kong protests against Chinese government anti-democracy crackdowns, revealing motives and methods. China has objected to the film by blocking the Oscars telecast. Anthony Giacchino’s emotionally fraught Holocaust memorial "Colette" follows a 90-year-old former French resistance fighter as she makes her first visit to the German concentration camp where her brother died in the Second World War. Ben Proudfoot's and Kris Bowers' cross-generational summit, "A Concerto Is a Conversation," musically and movingly compares the uphill struggles of co-director Bowers' life as a Black composer (he scored Oscar winner "Green Book") with the earlier challenges that faced his grandfather Horace during the Jim Crow era. A racial reckoning of another kind comes from Sophia Nahli Allison's impressionistic "A Love Song for Latasha," which poetically sketches the back story of the senseless 1991 shooting by a Los Angeles grocer of a 15-year-old Black girl, a killing many people say helped spark the 1992 L.A. riots. The hardest film to watch of the five is Skye Fitzgerald’s heartbreaking "Hunger Ward." It examines the devastation that Yemen's lengthy civil war has brought to the country's youngest inhabitants, beautiful babies who are starving to death while overworked nurses struggle to try to save them.
Clockwise from top: Anthony Giacchino’s Holocaust memorial "Colette," Ben Proudfoot's and Kris Bowers' cross-generational summit "A Concerto Is a Conversation," Skye Fitzgerald’s Hunger Ward" and Sophia Nahli Allison's impressionistic racial reckoning "A Love Song for Latasha" are the other four nominees for Best Documentary (Short Subject) at the 93rd annual Oscars.