OSCAR-NOMINATED LIVE-ACTION SHORTS — 3 stars — not rated; Tower
SALT LAKE CITY — When Oscar season rolls around, most of the media attention centers on the nominees for best picture or for one of the main acting categories, but starting this weekend, the Salt Lake Film Society will be showcasing a collection of live-action shorts that have been nominated for their own award.
This year’s batch of films — none longer than about 20 minutes — covers a broad range, from whimsical to dark and sober. And aside from some brief R-rated language in a single entry, all of the films are accessible and appropriate for a wide audience.
Here are the nominated shorts you’ll see in the program:
'DeKalb Elementary' (20 minutes): This intense short from Reed Van Dyk tells the story of an encounter between an elementary school receptionist and a would-be school shooter. Lakisha (Shinelle Azoroh) is just going about her day when a disturbed young man named Steven (Bo Mitchell) walks into the school, pulls out a gun and announces that he has nothing to live for and is ready to die. Even though the film is remarkably restrained in terms of content, its impact is staggering.
'My Nephew Emmett' (20 minutes): Set in Mississippi in 1955, this based-on-a-true-story short from Kevin Wilson Jr. is told from the perspective of an old man named Mose Wright (L.B. Williams), whose nephew Emmett (Joshua Wright) is targeted by angry locals after he flirts with a married white woman during a night on the town. Wilson’s film is beautifully shot, melancholy and foreboding, and more terrifying for what you know is coming rather than what you are seeing.
'The Eleven O’Clock' (13 minutes): Easily the most lighthearted entry in the program, Derin Seale’s “The Eleven O’Clock” is a brief sketch comedy about a showdown between a psychiatrist and his delusional patient — who believes he is a psychiatrist. Since the secretary is a temp, we have no idea who the real doctor is, and the sharp performances from Josh Lawson and Damon Herriman create a “Who’s on First?”-style romp.
'The Silent Child' (20 minutes): Set in a beautifully shot British countryside, Chris Overton’s “The Silent Child” tells the story of a neglected young girl with hearing loss whose world opens up when a tutor teaches her sign language. Joanne (Rachel Shenton) is hired to help prepare Libby (Maisie Sly) for a transition to public school, but to her surprise, Libby’s mother Sue (Rachel Fielding) doesn’t seem to be nearly as invested in her daughter’s success as one might assume. “The Silent Child” doesn’t build its tension from the threat of violence, like many of the other nominees, but in some ways, it’s even more difficult to watch.Comment on this story
'Watu Wote: All of Us' (22 minutes): Another based-on-a-true-story short, Katja Benrath’s “Watu Wote” is set during a multiday bus ride in the border region between Kenya and Somalia. The story follows a young Christian widow who has to depend on the help of some fellow traveling Muslims when jihadis hijack their bus in search of infidels. The event, which according to the film took place only a few years ago, offers a unique perspective on current events.
None of the shorts are individually rated, but aside from some R-rated language in “My Nephew Emmett,” all of the other nominees would easily fall in the PG or PG-13 range.