My Films

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Oscar Nominated Short Docs

It’s Oscar time again! This year I have been making concerted effort to see the films up in the best documentary category. Last Saturday, t I went to a screening of the Oscar nominated short documentaries. Since I’m inclined to create shorter films, I wanted to see the caliber of the nominated shorts.

Three of the four that have been nominated this year are:

“God Sleep in Rwanda” by Kimberly Acquaro and Stacy Sherman. In a country where 70% of the population is women, this documentary looks at the challenges that five Rwandan women face as they try to rebuild what’s left of their lives in this war torn country. During the 1994 genocide, they witnessed their sons and husbands brutally killed before their own eyes. Some were raped countless times and are now having to deal with gruesome consequences of contracting HIV. This documentary examines the newfound responsibilities, empowerment, dreams that these women are now facing..

“The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club” by Dan Krauss, is a portrait of war photographer Kevin Carter. Interviews with friends, family and colleagues, retell his disturbing experience photo documenting the killings and corpses during the Apartheid in South Africa. His experiences begin to haunt him and eventually lead him to take his own life.

“The Mushroom Club” by Steven Okazaki, looks at modern-day Japanese society as it honors the 60th anniversary of the Atomic Bomb dropping on Hiroshima. The characters portrayed in the documentary span from some of the oldest survivors to the babies that were affected radioactively while still inside their mother’s womb, now 60 year old adults with disabilities. The documentary begs the question: As the generation of survivors pass away, will the atrocities of one of the greatest crime against humanity be forgotten by the pop-culture obsessed youth?

I find it interesting that as the US lead war in Iraq drags on, three of nominated films touch on the subject of war. (In fact you might say that the fourth film, A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin, does as well.) Though none of them are specifically about current US foreign policy, (perhaps an issue that is much to sensitive for the Academy ala Michael Moore’s 2003 speech “Shame on you Mr. President”,) they all show the horrors that we often forget when conflict in that region ceases to dominate news headlines.

Looking at past war genre films, Hollywood mass-produced films that glorified the American hero, played upon the ramped patriotic spirit, and glamorized the latest technological weapon/tactic during World War II. When Vietnam came along, films like Apocalypse Now and Catch-22 reflected the public's disillusionment of war as they revealed the true insanities and horrors of violence.

So what do these three films say about conflict today? They are showing a much larger array of issues; it's not just about the American war or the American experience any longer. It is recognition of conflict on a global scale. We are no longer hearing solely from the solider, now we get to hear the civilian's and journalists' perspectives. There is recognition that war doesn't end when congress calls the troops home, that people spend the rest of their lives rebuilding their homes and hoping for a better future for children. If art does reflect life, as the old adage goes, then I take refuge in the films that are being produced today are reflections of the rising consciousness among us.

Anyways, if you get a chance to go to see a screening, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the films.