Want to take in five award-worthy films in less screen time than Mark Whalberg’s latest?
Every year, Santikos Bijou brings in the Oscar-nominated short films way ahead of the Academy Awards ceremony, which this year will take place in March 2. Each program runs less than 120 minutes, with the exception of the 184-minute documentary slate (helpfully broken into two consecutive screenings). My advice for local filmmakers and filmgoers alike: watch them all.
Animated Program >>>
Animated Program (110 minutes)
Whenever Disney is nominated (especially when Pixar’s John Lasseter is one of the executive producers), that film is an instant favorite to win. Get a Horse!
is a frantic mix of old b&w Mickey and friends with modern color, but it is far from the only animated short with a chance to win it all.
, my pick for the big win, is the glorious, surreal story of a boy raised by wolves who is “domesticated” by a man and groomed to blend in society. It is an unforgettable hymn about freedom and following one’s nature.
The other strong contender is Room on the Broom
, where a gentle witch is joined by an ever-growing group of friends whose love saves her from a dragon—but that’s only the beginning of the story (no spoilers here).
is a trippy tale of a man surrounded by objects animated by goblins, and France’s Mr. Hublot
introduces a metallic world in which a man transforms a street dog into a robotic pet.
Live Action Program >>>
Live Action Program (108 minutes)
My favorite is France’s Just Before Losing Everything
, a dark tale of domestic abuse with unbearable tension and no graphic violence. It is the exact opposite of Spain’s That Wasn’t Me
, a brutal, powerful, in-your-face redemption story of aid workers in Africa encountering a child soldier blinded by the madness of war.
UK’s The Voorman Problem
offers a psychiatrist interviewing a prisoner who’s convinced he’s a god (or God himself?). Just when the intellectual counterpoint begins to flirt with clichés, the film takes a clever turn that makes everything fall in its proper place.
is the heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting and magical story of a dying Danish boy whose pain is alleviated by the endless imagination of the hospital’s janitor.
Finland’s Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?
(which was one of 10 finalists in the 2012 Manhattan Short Film Festival, shown in San Antonio at URBAN-15) is the hilarious story of a stressed-out, messy Finnish family overcoming obstacles in order to attend a wedding. Or so they think.
Documentary Program >>>
Documentary Program (184 minutes)
Now, this is the toughest category to score—if this had been a group in the FIFA World Cup, it would be known as The Group of Death. I just can’t decide between two heart-wrenching, elderly-themed masterpieces: The Lady In Number 6: Music Saved My Life
(Canada/USA/UK, about 109-year-old Prague-born pianist and Holocaust survivor Alice Herz Sommer) and Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
(USA, about a former soldier in prison for murder).
The Lady In Number 6
is more than just another survival story about the healing (and, literally, saving) power of music, but at times an analysis of classical music itself. Prison Terminal
, on the other hand, takes you inside an oasis-like prisoner hospice at Iowa State Penitentiary (one of America’s oldest maximum security prisons), where Hall (a former segregationist) is being cared for by mostly African American prisoners who befriended and loved him until the very end.
The other heavyweight here is Karama Has No Walls
, one of three Arab films to earn Oscar noms in 2014 (the others being The Square
, which you can watch on Netflix, and Palestine’s Omar
). Karama is an extremely graphic account of what took place during Yemen’s Arab Spring protests in Sana’a in February 2011, when pro-government snipers killed 63 unarmed Yemeni civilians.
But the other two films in this category are no less compelling: Facing Fear
is the unlikely friendship between Matthew Boger, a gay man, and former neo-Nazi skinhead Tim Zaal. Years after Zaal and others beat Boger to a pulp and left him for dead, they found each other working together at Los Angeles’ Museum of Tolerance. After an initial shock (they were informally talking when they realized who the other was), the two decide to organize museum tours together. The message? If Boger could forgive and Zaal could repent, anyone can.
follows environmental sculptor Ra Paulette in New Mexico, where he carves sandstone caves with the spirit of an artist, even if his vision often puts him at odds with his patrons, only interested in a cool place to live in.
Out of this bounty, the most impressive remains Prison Terminal
—a devastatingly powerful trip that, in spite of its at times depressing theme, leaves you with a renewed sense of what human dignity and compassion are all about.
Oscar-nominated Shorts 2014
$10 per program
Animated (11:45am, 6:20pm)
Documentaries Part 1 (2:10pm)
Documentaries Part 2 (4:20pm)
Live Action (8:45pm)
Opening Fri, Feb 7