A movie review of an excellent collection of 2015 “Oscar-nominated Documentary Shorts.” Rating: 3.5 stars out of 4.
The five documentary shorts nominated for Academy Awards this year are all so lengthy that they’ve been divided into two programs.
Program A is made up of two films: Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry’s “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1” and Aneta Kopacz’s Polish reverie, “Joanna.”
The former is a cry for help from suicide-prevention counselors who treat depressed veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘Oscar-nominated Short Documentaries 2015’: Program A (80 minutes); Program B (79 minutes). Not rated. Various languages, with English subtitles. Sundance Cinemas (21+).
Understaffed and sometimes overwhelmed, responders struggle to keep soldiers on the phone for an hour or a few minutes, looking for ways to keep desperate men from abandoning their lives and families. Counselors serve thousands of vets troubled by nightmares and flashbacks.
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The title of “Joanna” refers to a young, dying mother who is photographed spending her last days with her family. Although she’s in pain and doesn’t respond well to chemotherapy, she urgently needs to leave a legacy to her precocious son. The emphasis is not on suffering but pastoral beauty and what the boy calls “significant experience.”
Documentary Program B, requiring a separate admission price, is a collection of three films.
Tomasz Sliwinski and Maciej Slesicki’s “Our Curse” is a Polish film about a couple who regard themselves as unlucky because their child was born with a defect that makes his survival iffy. Gradually they accept their one-day-at-a-time situation and find comfort in what had seemed an impossible life.
Gabriel Serra Arguello’s “The Reaper” (La Parka) is a Mexican film about a sad-eyed executioner who has spent 25 years in a slaughterhouse where he becomes known as “the reaper.” He regards his existence as hell, but he continues in order to feed his family.
J. Christian Jensen’s “White Earth” takes place on the oil fields of North Dakota, where migrant workers have gone to find steady work. The images are striking, and the narration, especially by the kids, has a wonderfully dry and easy manner.
All five films are worthy of the nomination — and even worthy of being expanded to feature-length.