The themes of the Academy Award nominees for short documentary films are universal—parents and children, of whatever species, coming to recognize what’s right, care for the world around us. Three are from US directors, one set in Russia is a UK entry, and one from India.
How Do You Measure a Year? (trailer) – American director Jay Rosenblatt answers that question by following the relationship of a father and daughter as she grows from a toddler to a young woman. The father made home movies every year on her birthday that recorded her answers to the same set of questions. Spoiler alert: Asked at age three what she wanted to do when she grew up, the answer was “wear makeup and chew gum.”
The Elephant Whisperers (trailer)– directed by Kartiki Gonsalves and produced by Guneet Monga. In this beautiful nature documentary, a couple in south India takes on the formidable task of caring for an orphaned baby elephant they call Raghu—“a tender and hopeful product.” [Not based on the book, The Elephant Whisperer, set in Africa; and not the same as the movie Elephant Whisperer, set in Thailand.] (You can see it here)
Stranger at the Gate (trailer) – Directed by Joshua Seftel. A returned Marine with PTSD planned to attack Afghan refugees at their Muncie, Indiana, community center and mosque. But fate and faith had a different plan for him, and again, it was a daughter’s influence that mattered. This one was my favorite. (See the whole thing here)
Haulout (trailer) – The UK’s entry, directed by siblings Evgenia Arbugaeva and Maxim Arbugaev. In the desolation of the Siberian Arctic, marine biologist Maxim Chakilev is waiting to observe the annual migration of the walrus population. He makes the melancholy discovery that warming sea temperatures are forcing the walruses to swim the entire distance, with no ice to rest on, much to their detriment. Have you ever seen 90,000 walruses at one time? Now you can! Just be grateful Hollywood never perfected Smell-O-Vision. (see the whole thing here).
The Martha Mitchell Effect (trailer) – Directed by Anne Alvergue and Beth Levison – Martha was the outspoken wife of Richard Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell. She didn’t like what she saw of that administration’s illegal activities with Watergate and said so. They tried to silence her, claiming she was an alcoholic, mentally unstable, and generally damaging her reputation. (But, as Woody Allen once said, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean no one’s following you.”) (You can see it here)