Documentary Shorts

Life Overtakes Me 8/10 Short documentaries like this I always enjoy, despite the rather depressing subject matter, due to the fact that I learn something along the way that I previously was unaware of. Resignation Syndrome, a rather new diagnosed illness, is the center of this short documentary and the heart breaking consequences that ripple to the families of the affected children. Although some information about the refugee crisis (Sweden’s in particular) was purposely left out and it would have been nice to hear more from medical experts on this issue, “Life Overtakes Me” is still an extremely strong entry.

Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) 9/10 The best documentary short out of all of the nominees (which rightfully won the Oscar for this category), this short documentary expertly combines the sorrow, danger and magnitude of the situation in Afghanistan with the hope, joy and progress occurring there in Skateistan. Seeing young girls having the opportunity to learn how to read, write and skateboard combines the serious prestige tones with the fun, chill vibes of skateboarding. The interviews are engaging, the B roll footage is well done and you will feel uplifted after watching. My only minor complaint involved elements of the score not working well and sounding cheesy but overall this is an accomplished short film that I highly recommend.

In The Absence 8/10 Like “Life Overtakes Me”, this is another strong documentary short based on a tragic true story of the South Korean mishandling of a sinking ferry and the hundreds of people (mostly young students) who lost their lives as a result. The story is emotional, powerful and extremely relevant as it is a harsh reminder that no matter how good a country is, its government is generally corrupt, selfish, short sighted, foolish and puts its own needs before its citizens. I would have liked some more diversity amongst the people interviewed and to have learned more about the civilian rescuers but overall this is a fantastic nominee that will break your heart.

Walk Run Cha-Cha 6/10 This short documentary contains some beautifully, romantic moments involving the lead couples’ relationship in this film but the final product left me wanting more and paled in comparison to some of these other contenders. The story of how a normal immigrant couple overcame the Vietnam War and years of distance to be reunited and brought together by dance was truly inspiring but it is very contained and lacks a broader appeal compared to its competition in this category. The couple also says how they both work full time and can’t retire due to lack of money, yet can afford expensive, private dance lessons at least four nights a week. The ending was mixed for me but overall this is still a pleasant short film with a lean running time.

St. Louis Superman 4.5/10 “St. Louis Superman” has some touching moments, particularly between Bruce Franks Jr. and his adorable son, as well as moments of him getting emotional when discussing his brother’s death. However, these moments are too few and far between as this ends up being the weakest of the short documentaries, which shouldn’t be a surprise since this was made by MTV Studios, not known for being a beacon of quality in the documentary shorts department. Some of the text on the screen near the beginning was intentionally misleading and the big reveal that came on the screen via text at the very end had nothing in the way of building up to that reveal or foreshadowing some of the issues that Franks Jr. faced, which would have been nice. The rap battle aspects made this unique but for a duly elected official, Franks Jr. dressing in street clothes all of the time as opposed to being professional made him look way out of his element. A noble swing but a swing and a miss regardless.

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