The Academy Award-nominees for this year's Live Action Short Film originated from Europe and Asia. They feature an intriguing collection of characters who are attempting to connect with others in a variety of ways. In alphabetical order, they are:
"Aya": The title character is waiting at the airport when she does a driver a favor and holds a sign for an arriving passenger, a classical-music researcher who is heading to Jerusalem to serve on a competiton jury. Rather than explain what's going on, she agrees to be his driver. This short delivers a lot of suspense as Aya's motivation is unclear. Unfortunately, it remains so by the end, leaving this viewer to wonder why so much time was spent with these characters with so little revealed.
"Boogaloo and Graham": Set in Belfast, Ireland, 1978, the narrator tells the story of the time he and his brother received chickens as pets. The film has cute moments but the writing comes up short. Which brother is telling the story is never identified nor is the purpose for setting it in occupied Belfast. While the main characters have a run-in with British soldier, it is a sequence that could have been cut and the story wouldn't change.
"La Lampe au Beurre de Yak (Butter Lamp)": A collection of Tibetan nomads are photographed in front of fake backgrounds in what seems like a documentary short. As a series of vignettes, the scenes don't blend into a cohesive story.
"Parvaneh": An underage Afghani girl is living in Switerland trying to raise money for her family back home. When she tries to use Western Union to send the funds, she is told she doesn't have the proper ID to do so. Emily, a young girl on the street that looks like a runaway, offers to do it for a percentage, and Parvaneh reluctantly trusts her in a country where she has little cause to trust anyone.
"Parvaneh" keeps viewers on edge as this sweet young girl grows up fast in an indifferent world. Although the plot could easily have taken dark turns, the film presents a very heartwarming story. Not only my favorite of the bunch, but hopefully the filmmakers will expand it into a feature-length story because I would like to know more about this character's life.
"The Phone Call": Heather (Sally Hawkins) is a crisis-center worker. Stan (Jim Broadbent) calls in on the two-year anniversary of his wife's death. Heather tries offers help, but he just wants to hear a voice as the pills he has taken take hold. To no surprise, the acting is first rate, especially Broadbent who is never seen. Two people talking is rarely this suspenseful.
In its tenth year, ShortsHD presents the wildly popular Oscar-nominated Short Film program (Live Action, Animation, and Documentary) in over 350 theaters throughout the U.S. and Canada starting January 30 and will continue to expand in the following weeks. A list of participating theaters is available here.