The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Documentary Short Subject contenders for the 88th Academy Awards® have been narrowed to 10 films, of which five will earn Oscar® nominations. Voters from the Academy’s Documentary Branch viewed this year’s 74 eligible entries and submitted their ballots to PricewaterhouseCoopers for tabulation.
So far I have only seen 3 of the 10 films are listed below, but I’m working on the others…
“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” is screening in L.A. Tuesday, January 5, 2016 7:00 pm at The Landmark Theater, 10850 W. Pico at Westwood Blvd., L.A. 90065 with a discussion with the filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy to follow the screening. RSVP to HBO here.
The first one I've seen is “Last Day of Freedom,” a gentle treatment of several very difficult, important social issues of today: care for veterans, capital punishment, race and justice. This is the story of two African American brothers, one of whom suffered from undiagnosed PTSD after serving two tours of duty in Vietnam, the other who tells the story. The younger brother Bill Babbitt is a brilliant storyteller and he entrances the audience telling about his brother Manny who committed a crime, and how he still agonizes over his decision to call the police. He tells this story in an animated format using over 32,000 images.
A work of art in its own right, this is the first film by filmmakers Dee Hibbert-Jones, a U.K. born Associate Professor of Art & New Media at UC Santa Cruz and her partner since 2004, Nomi Talisman, an Israeli born freelance editor and animator both of whom live in San Francisco. They had two long interviews with him and many other conversations. Out of his mouth came the words used in the film, drawn and designed by Hibbert-Jones and Talisman.
After the recent screening hosted by Women in Film, Nomi Talisman answered questions and mingled at the reception. Originally Nomi and Dee, who have been collaborating since 2004, thought this would be one part of a three-part feature, but realized it was best as a stand alone at 32 minutes. Since then they have been working on other related short forms and distribution of the films.
The film has already been voted Best Short Documentary by IDA and by Full Frame Film Festival. It has shown in Doc Leipzig, the world’s oldest doc film festival, Hamptons and other festivals. Since it began screening they have received requests to show it from special veterans groups, groups against capital punishment and universities. The film touches on Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, veterans, homelessness and mental health, capital punishment, race and blind justice (or injustice).
It is so artfully accomplished and so nuanced and complex, that one audience member asked how they arrived at their artistic decisions, as if this question had an answer. There are times when the drawings are as if drawn from photographs, times when real photo montages are used, and times when the screen is completely abstract. The reality of the story is so extreme in purport that the artist’s abstract visuals helps the viewers listen emotionally as the surviving brother tells his story. As the audience listens enraptured and dreading the outcome, the medium allows a distance between the story and the listener which is needed in order to absorb every detail, and one does not want to miss a word.
I would put my money on this film at least as one of the five nominations to be announced on January 14. As far as I can see so far, it should be the winner.
Here is the list of the 10 shortlisted documentary short vying for a nomination:
1. “Last Day of Freedom”
2. “Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah”
3. “The Testimony”
4. “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”
5. “Body Team 12”
6. “Chau, beyond the Lines”
7. “50 Feet from Syria”
9. “My Enemy, My Brother”
10. “Starting Point”