2017 Oscar-nominated Documentary Short Films Review

Through the wars of the past and the present to the wars that we battle in our own bodies, this year’s Academy Award nominees in the Documentary Short Film category all tackle remarkable subject matter that reflect the power and courage of the human spirit. They show that human connection and caring for one another is one of the greatest gifts we can give or receive. All these films center on the theme of hope.

4.1 Miles (director Daphne Matziraki, USA, 26 minutes)

This documentary follows Kyriakos Papadopoulos, a captain in the Greek Coast Guard who is caught in the daily rescue efforts to save the refugees leaving the Middle East and traveling the 4.1 miles from the coast of Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos.

While the island doesn’t have the resources to care for the influx of refugees, Papadopoulos, his crew, and the volunteers on the shore take care to make sure the refugees survive the journey.

Extremis (director Dan Krauss, USA, 24 minutes)

In the first of two nominated documentaries from Nextflix, Extremis follows palliative care specialist Dr. Jessica Zitter and her team in the ICU at Highland Hospital in Oakland, CA. This documentary investigates the questions and decisions that a terminally ill patient’s loved ones and doctors have to make as the person nears the end of their life.

Joe’s Violin (directors Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen, USA, 24 minutes)

When a local radio station holds a musical instrument drive to benefit local New York schools, 91-year-old Holocaust survivor Joseph Feingold decides to donate the violin he bartered for after the end of the war. The instrument and the story behind it end up at the Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls where young violinist, Brianna Perez, is chosen to play Joseph’s violin. Wanting to thank him for his generosity, Brianna and the school invite Joseph to a special performance where Joseph is able to see how his gift is inspiring not only one but many future musicians.

Watani: My Homeland (directors Marcel Mettelsiefen and Stephen Ellis, UK, 39 minutes)

This documentary follows the story of a Muslim family of six living in war-torn Syria. The father Abu Ali is fighting with or the resistance when his so-called friends conspire against him and hand him over to ISIS. The family is left with few answers and few options and looks to seek asylum and a new life in Goslar, Germany.

The filmmakers followed the family over a period of three years and document how war has effected the children and how a new chance brings a lot of changes.

The White Helmets (directors Orlando von Einsiedel and Joanna Natasegara, UK, 41 minutes)

This is the second documentary from Netflix to be nominated this year. The film follows the story of just a few of the 2,900 volunteers who make up the White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defense. This Syrian humanitarian group responds to bombings and air strikes and works to rescue survivors and uncover those who did not. Since forming in 2013, the unarmed and neutral group has lost 130 of their own, but has saved over 58,000 fellow Syrians.

While all five of these documentaries are worthy of a nomination and a win, I think that The White Helmets will take the award. This documentary tackles complicated subject matter and strikes a beautiful balance between showing the horrors of war and the victories of hopeful men.

ShortsHD, the Only Short Film Channel, working with Magnolia Pictures, will open “The Oscar-nominated Short Films” 2017 in over 500 screens across the United States, Canada, Europe and Latin America on Friday February 10, 2017. It will showcase the Live Action, Animation and Documentary short film nominees’ compilation as three separate theatrical events. To find a location near you, visit the ShortsHD website.

Darcy Staniforth

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