Saturday, February 11, 2017

2017 Oscar Nominated Shorts -- Documentary

4.1 Miles
This joint US-Greece short shows the efforts to save refugees coming in by boat from the Middle East via Turkey. I was on the verge of tears watching this. The film is effective in showing how complex the whole humanitarian crisis is. Weeping children, many of them orphans, caring but wary Greeks who feel their island is being overwhelmed, especially because there is no infrastructure on the island to take care of sick, homeless refugees. A very sad but important watch. I suspect that even people who are hateful toward Moslems would be touched.   
I think I needed a trigger alert for this documentary. The focus of this story is on people in ICU in Kansas who are not going to recover from their illnesses. These people (if they are able, or if their families are willing) are given the choice of living or dying. Sometimes living implies being in a vegetative state until the body gives out. It's definitely a study about the ethics of medicine. This is a very, very, hard watch.  
Joe’s Violin

This is very touching. After a NYC radio station starts a musical donation drive, many people donated their instruments. This story is focused on a holocaust survivor who is giving up his beloved violin. Music meant a lot to him before the war, while he was in the displaced person's camp in Siberia, and after. He donates the violin to a young girl and they become friends. This girl also has endure some suffering of her own.  This is a very inspiring documentary. I was weepy throughout.
The White Helmets
Among the bombed-out houses and shelters in Syria are a group of people called the White Helmets who go through the rubble to find survivors and bodies.  It's another hard watch. It's just very difficult seeing all that suffering, but it's inspiring to see how brave these first-responders are. This is yet another film that those who dislike refugees should see.
Watani: My Homeland
 This depicts the life of a refugee Syrian family as they try start a new life in Germany. It's hopeful but felt slightly like propaganda. Unlike the previous refugee films where we are in the middle of a distressing situation, this film has time for reflection and even a bit of a happy ending. The conversations tend to be the kind of talk one hears when one is aware that others are watching and that one needs to say certain appropriate things. Perhaps because of this and because of the slickness of the finished production, everything recalled in tranquility, the film feels like any old documentary one might find on a news program.

What Should Win: Joe's Violin or 4.1 Miles.
In Theaters February 8th and On Demand February 21st
For a full list of theaters the short films are playing in, visit:
For information on how to watch On Demand, visit:

Watch the official trailer:


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