Oscar Shorts Nominees 2017: Documentaries

Watani, Syria

Farah, in Watani: My Homeland

Last night’s Oscar ceremony (though I wouldn’t have wished it longer and it couldn’t have been more dramatic) gave such short shrift to the short film nominees, it must have been hard for viewers to get any sense of them. Today’s post, the short documentaries; tomorrow, the live action shorts!

Watching a short film (technically, anything less than 40 minutes, including credits) is like reading a short story: the best ones crystallize the essence of a person or situation, sometimes more memorably than a novel, with all the distractions of backstory, secondary characters, side plots and the like.

Five films were nominated for the documentary shorts, and if you weren’t comfortable with the gritty realities of the war in Syria, you were really out of luck. Three of the films, including the two longest, dwelt with the consequences of that war, made by some very brave filmmakers. The role of “documentaries” in documenting what most of us are protected from came home sharply. Winner in bold.

  • Joe’s Violin, directed by award-winning producer of Kahane Cooperman (24 minutes), which told the story of Holocaust survivor Joseph Feingold’s decision to donate his unused violin to a public radio drive. In partnership with the Holland’s Opus Foundation, New York City’s WQXR collected no-longer-used instruments for schools. Joe’s violin went to Brianna Perez, a student at the Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls (fascinating in its own right) in the nation’s poorest congressional district. When Joe and Brianna meet, the social, cultural, and generational gulfs between them are dissolved by their love of music and this instrument. One hanky. (See it here.)
  • Extremis, a 24-minute Netflix documentary directed by Dan Krauss (interview about the filming). The wrenching decisions family members must make for critically ill patients are explored here. The medical team’s lack of a crystal ball is clear. Perhaps it will motivate viewers to have conversations with family before a medical catastrophe occurs, and not to leave them struggling with impossible choices. If you’ve avoided thinking about these issues, see it here.
  • 4.1 Miles, directed by Daphne Matziaraki (26 minutes), is the story of a Greek Coast Guard captain and crew sent out from the island of Lesbos, day after day, sometimes multiple times a day, in all kinds of weather, to rescue desperate, terrified, and sometimes half-drowned refugees (mostly Syrian) trying to cross the 4.1 miles from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos. Through an accident of geography, the physically and emotionally exhausted Coast Guarders must deal with this enormous humanitarian crisis, unaided by the world’s wealthier countries. (I can think of one. Has a big navy too.) (See it here.)
  • Watani: My Homeland was filmed over three years by director Marcel Mettelsiefen (40 minutes). As Aleppo explodes all around them, four young children live in an abandoned home next to an army outpost. Their mother had taken them away from the dangerous city, but the children insisted on returning to be with their father, a Free Syrian commander. He’s captured by ISIS, and they are heartbroken. When they finally reach sanctuary in Germany—an iffy proposition, at best—young Farah still runs to shelter when a helicopter flies overhead. The detailed portrayal of this close-knit family brings the nightly news home in a way generalizations and statistics never can. Makes you realize “home” is a complex concept too.
  • The White Helmets, directed by Orlando von Einsiedel (41 minutes*), is the story of the unarmed and neutral civilians who respond to every bombing attack in search of victims. Last year, they were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Interviews with three of them working in Aleppo (a construction worker, a blacksmith, and a tailor in their former lives) show how they have responded with almost unimaginable compassion to the equally unimaginable destruction of their homeland. The white helmets they wear offer no magic protection from collapsing buildings or new bombings and, in fact, at times make them targets. At the last minute, cinematographer Khalid Khatib, a white helmet worker himself, was denied entry to the United States and, therefore, attendance at the Oscar ceremony. A sign of the strength of the film is that I found a Russian website debunking the White Helmets’ work.

These films were all fantastic and about compelling individuals, but my pick for Best Use of the Documentary Form was The White Helmets. Best Raiser of Blood Pressure: 4.1 Miles. Sentimental Favorite: Joe’s Violin.

*I don’t understand the Academy’s rules well enough to know why this nominee wasn’t disqualified for violating the length requirement.


Moonlight, Barry Jenkins

Alex Hibbert & Mahershala Ali

The holiday dry spell of movies worth watching is officially over. Lots of good films filling the theaters. I’m glad we caught Moonlight (trailer), written and directed by Barry Jenkins (III) before it faded, though maybe it will be around longer now with the Oscar Best Picture nomination. I’d seen the preview and came away asking myself, what the heck is this movie about?, instead of my usual, why did they give away so much of the story?!!

Immediately I was persuaded to see it, though, upon learning the play it’s based on was written by Tarell Alvin McCraney, whose Brothers Size plays were so powerful on the McCarter Theatre stage a couple of seasons ago. (McCraney recently received the 2017 PEN America Literary Award for a mid-career playwright!) Whatever it was about, I knew it would be worth watching. Brian Tallerico for RogerEbert.com calls it “one of the essential American films of 2016.”

In some ways it reminds me of modern (30 under 30) fiction-writing. A bit of disjointedness and a big dose of grit are part of the package. We see protagonist Chiron (pronounced Shih-RONE) at age 10 or so (Alex Hibbert), as a high school student (Ashton Sanders) negotiating tricky teenage waters in a violent environment, and finally as a young adult (Trevante Rhodes), struggling with his sexuality. While he in some ways advances, becoming more physically powerful, if still emotionally fragile, his mother (Naomie Harris) succumbs to her addictions and her sentimentality. His one lifelong friend Kevin (André Holland) cannot be the lifeline he needs.

As Mara Reinstein says in US Weekly, the movie “touches on themes of race, sexuality and isolation in ways that are rarely depicted in cinema.” A late scene with the adult Chiron and his mother, says so little in words and so much in feeling that it feels like a documentary. It doesn’t seem like actors reading lines; it’s real people struggling to connect.

The actors playing Chiron at all three ages do a stellar job. Two actors recently in very different parts in Hidden Figures appear again here: Mahershala Ali as the young Chiron’s drug dealer mentor and Janelle Monáe as his girlfriend.

Various artistic touches distinguish this film, reminding you it is a deliberately created thing. Parts of it are filmed with such super-saturated tropical heat that the stills would be like artworks in themselves. McCraney and Jenkins both grew up in Miami’s Liberty Square area, and the film carries the strength of their grip on its realities.

Rotten Tomatoes critics rating: 98%; audiences 88%.

EXTRA: The young Chiron and young Kevin (Jaden Piner) are both students of a gifted drama teacher at a Miami-area middle school, who encouraged her students to participate in the movie’s auditions, as described recently on public radio.

Tarell McCraney & I

Get Ready for Oscar: Short Films Rundown

Academy Award, Oscar

(photo: David Torcivia, creative commons license)

Yesterday, I saw the AA-nominated short films in the Animation and Live Action categories. Academy rules define a short as any film under an hour, and some were only a few minutes. Overall, they were not the downers this year’s documentaries were (blurbed here). Links take you to the films or at least to trailers, for a taste of the tremendous diversity involved.

I don’t know enough about the animated category to discriminate, and the techniques are vastly different across films. Here are the nominees:

  • Sanjay’s Super Team – a young boy’s fantasy reconciles his love of superheroes and his father’s traditional Hindu gods. Beautifully rendered and quite sweet in its message. (7 minutes, from Pixar and Disney, directed by Sanjay Patel)
  • World of Tomorrow – the most graphically abstract, with what seemed like a lot of interesting points, but so fast-moving I couldn’t absorb them all. Funny in places, but ultimately disturbing. (17 minutes, United States, by Don Hertzfeldt)
  • Bear Story – already the winner of many awards, hyper-detailed graphics portray a bear who has created a complex hurdy-gurdy that shows a story paralleling the creator’s own yearning to regain his family. Richly visual; this one seems the likely winner. (11 minutes, Chile, directed by Gabriel Osorio Vargas)
  • We Can’t Live Without Cosmos – cosmonaut training and close friendship prepare two men for outer space. Then things go wrong. Relatively simple graphics and an interesting story. I liked this one best. (16 minutes, Russia, Konstantin Bronzit)
  • Prologue – parents were advised to remove their children for this one (nudity and violence) Wisely. Beautiful pencil drawing technique showed a battle among four sword-wielding warriors. My lingering question was “why?” (6 minutes, British, directed by Richard Williams)

A few additional animated films were shown in this program in some not-quite-nominated category, my favorite of which was from France: The Short Story of a Fox and a Mouse.

The Live Action shorts covered a wide range, and each had its fans.

  • Ave Maria – what happens when an Israeli family’s car crashes at the door of a nunnery in the rural West Bank, knocking over and decapitating a statue of the VM. The man wants to use the nuns’ phone to call for a ride, but between the nuns’ vow of silence and the Sabbath prohibition against using anything mechanical, everyone is at odds. The man’s mother has lots to say about the whole situation. The only comedy, this was my favorite. (15 minutes, Palestine, France, Germany, directed by Basil Khalil)
  • Shok (“Friend”) – When war breaks out and their town is occupied by Serbian soldiers, two Albanian schoolboys come to understand how fragile society’s veneer of trust really is. This seems the most likely winner, providing the most complete story. (21 minutes, Kosovo, Jamie Donoughue)
  • Everything Will Be Okay – from the title, as you can guess, everything is definitely not OK. A divorced father picks up his daughter for her regular overnight visit with him, but he has something entirely out of the norm planned. The actor playing the daughter steals the show, as she gradually realizes what’s happening. (30 minutes, Germany, Austria, Patrick Vollrath)
  • Stutterer – a young London man with a severe stutter has a six-month online relationship with a woman that goes amazingly well, until she comes to town and proposes they meet in person. Will he go through with it? Very sweet and a sentimental favorite. (12 minutes, UK, Benjamin Cleary)
  • Day One – A new-on-the-job Afghan-American interpreter for the U.S. military is confronted with a series of horrifying events. I thought the story had a whiff of the predictable about it, though all the acting was top-notch. (25 minutes, United States, Henry Hughes)

If you need to kill some time waiting for results in the short features categories, you might play a little Oscars 2016 Bingo, courtesy of Wired and Brian Raftery. I’ll be on the lookout for B3: “Louis Gossett Jr. pretends to understand whatever it is Lady Gaga is doing up there.”

Run-up to the Oscars: Documentary Short Films

Ebola workers, Liberia

Ebola Workers in Liberia (photo: WHO in PPE, wikimedia)

Again this year, the Trenton Film Society is presenting the three categories of short films nominated for Academy Awards. Thursday night, I saw the documentary shorts, five films culled from 74 entries. Tomorrow I’ll see the animated shorts and live action (fiction) nominees. Many of the documentary shorts have been well received at film festivals in the United States and worldwide. Here’s a quick rundown (the links include trailers):

  • Body Team 12 – this entry from Liberia, directed by David Darg, shows the work of people whose job was to collect the bodies of Ebola victims at the height of the 2014 outbreak in West Africa. Their work, described by Garmai Sumo, the team’s only female member, was heartbreaking, but essential in attempts to protect the health of family members and the community. (13 minutes)
  • Chau, Beyond the Lines – a joint U.S. and Vietnam production, directed by Courtney Marsh, about a teen growing up in a Vietnamese center that cares for children affected by Agent Orange who wants to become an artist and clothing designer. Marsh follows the profoundly disabled Chau into his 20s, when he receives vocational school certificates, gets a job painting pictures for a design firm and supports himself in his own apartment. Uplifting, but he is undoubtedly an outlier in spirit and success. (34 minutes)
  • A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness – directed by Sharmen Obaid-Chonoy, this film explores the “honor” killings of Pakistani women, which occur at a rate of more than a thousand per year. 18-year-old Saba fell in love and eloped, but her uncle and father found and shot her and threw her body into a river. Miraculously, Saba survived, scarred, and her father and uncle were jailed. Now, if she only “forgives” them, the court will pardon them. Her lawyer and the police don’t want her to do it, but community pressure and the society’s intransigent views about “respect” are powerful. (40 minutes)
  • Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah –this biopic from British filmmaker and journalist Adam Benzine describes French director Lanzmann’s challenges in creating his massive, nine-and-a-half hour 1985 documentary Shoah. This film includes some footage never seen before, as Lanzmann talks about how he went about trying to describe the Holocaust from the inside. That took a toll. (40 minutes)
  • Last Day of Freedom – a remarkable animated documentary from U.S. directors Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman: the story of a man’s agonizing experience when he reports suspicion that his younger brother—who has serious PTSD and bouts of homelessness—has committed a terrible crime. Since there is no film of Manny, the accused brother, animation lets him be represented, as a soldier, walking down the street, and was an interesting and effective choice. (32 minutes)

The Sounds of Movie Music


(photo: wikimedia)

Movie soundtracks are meant to enhance and amplify. They’re successful when they’re so much in sync with the film that the viewer internalizes them as part of the experience. Not all scores work, while some may work too well: the modern soundtrack for The Revenant was more likeable than the movie–to me, but not to the Grand Pooh-Bahs of the Golden Globes and  BAFTA !

Without doubt the composer’s contribution “has become an essential part of the medium’s power,” said Matt Patches and Kristopher Tapley for HitFix, and can be as identifiable as any visual image. In just a couple of notes, people will nail the theme from Star Wars, The Godfather (good ring-tone choice there), or Chariots of Fire. I’ve linked a few movie titles below to soundtracks or excerpts that show good melding of sight and sound.

The Academy Awards are coming up February 28, and we’ll be re-hearing five of the best scores from 2015. First, a look back:

  • Ten great soundtracks from film adaptations of books, by Kate Scott at Book Riot includes Brokeback Mountain (with tracks by various folk and bluegrass artists, including Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris, and Steve Earle, as well as the work of composer Gustavo Santaolalla); one of my all-time favorite scores, The Last of the Mohicans (music by Trevor Jones and Randy Edelman), which I skated to!; and the bittersweet score to The Painted Veil (music by Alexandre Desplat, who’s received eight AA nominations and won for The Grand Budapest Hotel).
  • A previous Kate Scott story featured the scores from Pride & Prejudice (with music by Dario Marianelli and featuring Jean-Yves Thibaudet on solo piano) and A Series of Unfortunate Events (music by Thomas Newman), which Scott says are her “two favorite soundtracks of all time.”
  • Patches and Tapley looked back at Oscar winners of the past 80 years and picked the best of the best. Their top three: 3) Schindler’s List (John Williams, AA 1993), which “aches with palpable melancholy; 2) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Howard Shore, AA 2001), “moving, thrilling and chilling”; and #1) Lawrence of Arabia (Maurice Jarre, AA 1962) “an epic musical journey.” And, unforgettable.
  • The American Film Institute list of 25 greatest film scores gives Lawrence of Arabia the third spot, with Gone with the Wind (Max Steiner) second, and Star Wars (John Williams) at the pinnacle. A little lower on the AFI list is a pair of my favorites, The Magnificent Seven (Elmer Bernstein) in eighth place and Chinatown (Jerry Goldsmith) in ninth.
  • None of these retrospective lists include another in my personal luvvit list—1982’s Blade Runner, with music by Vangelis.
  • This year’s AA nominees for best original score are: Bridge of Spies (Thomas Newman); Carol (Carter Burwell); The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone); Sicario (Jóhann Jóhannsson); and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (John Williams). In only 20 days, we’ll see who wins!

Do you have a favorite movie score, from days past or present?

Wild Tales

Erica Rivas, Wild Tales

Érica Rivas in Wild Tales

This 2015 Argentinian film (trailer), directed by Damián Szifron, is a collection of six unconnected short stories, with both comic and catastrophic elements and carrying the tagline “we can all lose control.” The six very different stories describe “how I would extract my revenge if only I had the nerve.”

The excellent ensemble cast keeps the unexpected happening . . . as people go to the surreal brink of absurdity and tragedy—and keep going. They carry out the vengeful urges we all feel in moments of betrayal, in flashes of road rage, facing overwhelming temptation, or confronting mindless bureaucracy.

The first very short tale involves a casual conversation between two airplane passengers, strangers to each other, who happen to discover they both know a would-be musician named G– Pasternak. One is a woman who once broke up with him and the other, a classical music critic who savaged Pasternak’s early work. A passenger sitting in front of them turns around, saying, “Pasternak?” She was his elementary school teacher, and says he certainly had problems. After a few more people who’ve wronged poor Pasternak pipe up, the music critic stands and asks, “Is there anybody on this plane who does not know Pasternak? And who paid for their own ticket?” There is not. I leave the rest to your imagination. And his.

The funniest story involves an explosives expert trying to reason with the local parking authority, and one of the most satisfying has a bride take her revenge on the groom who cheated on her. It’s a wedding no one will ever forget! Said Eric Kohn in indieWIRE, “While adhering to an internal logic that makes each punchline land with a satisfying burst of glee, the movie nevertheless stems from genuine fury aimed a broken world.”

Be sure to catch the opening credits, where the names of key cast and production crew members are shown with photos of wild animals reflecting on their personas. The director, I noted, was a fox.

An Academy Award nominee for best foreign language film last year, this is one of those rare movies where Rotten Tomatoes critics and audiences are in perfect agreement: 93%.


Boyhood, Ethan Hawke

Ellar Coltrane & Ethan Hawke in Boyhood

Probably every American interested in film saw Boyhood (trailer) long before I did last week, but somehow I missed it in theaters and, as Boyhood emphasizes, time passes . . . ! From the beginning, the idea of a film following the same actors over a protracted period was both interesting and risk-laden. What if some calamity or professional conflict overrode the cast’s ability to continue? I wonder whether director Richard Linklater cast his daughter Lorelei in the film as a partial insurance policy against that eventuality? She plays as the main character’s annoying older sister Samantha. Quite nicely, too.

Cast intact, filming proceeded off and on for a dozen years, following Mason Evans, Jr. (played by Ellar Coltrane), from ages six to eighteen, and the continuity of characters across situations, levels of maturity, and the ups and downs of life makes for a compelling narrative concept. All the main parts are well acted, including the kids, the parents (Ethan Hawke and Academy Award-winner Patricia Arquette), and the mother’s problematic husbands. The script grew organically, evolving based on what went before (like life), as well as on experiences in the real lives of the actors.

Ethan Hawke, who plays Mason’s biological father, is a person of local interest, having grown up about a mile from where I live. (A few local junior high girls helped answer his fan mail in the early years.) The stage was set for this feat of filmic time travel in Linklater’s Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, and Before Midnight trilogy, in which Hawke also starred, and he calls this latest film “human time-lapse photography.”

While many wonderful things can be said about the slow unfolding of personality that the movie conveys, to me it was about a half-hour too long (at 2 hours, 45 minutes), perhaps because I felt insufficiently engaged with the characters at any age. Having shot footage at all these different ages and stages, it’s as if the filmmakers felt obliged to use more of it than they absolutely had to.

Rotten Tomatoes critics rating: 98%; audience rating: 83%.


J.K.Simmons, Miles Teller, Whiplash

J.K.Simmons and Miles Teller in Whiplash

Another Oscar movie (trailer) with a Princeton connection. Director Damien Chazelle was “inspired by” his musical experience at Princeton High School to explore how the drive to excel can become all-consuming. Not that the character Fletcher, superbly played by Oscar-winner J. K. Simmons, the tightly wound and sadistic studio band leader, mirrored Chazelle’s own band leader (“fear inspires greatness”), he is at pains to say, but still . . . Chazelle wanted the film to explore the line between a healthy passion and an obsession, and, boy, did he do that, garnering five Oscar nominations in the process.

Miles Teller is terrific as the young drummer pushed to the limits of his skills and endurance—and beyond—by teacher Fletcher, “sworn enemy of the merely O.K.,” says Anthony Lane in The New Yorker. Characteristically, Fletcher says, “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘good job.’” The Hank Levy tune “Whiplash” is the rack of a tune upon which the drummers in Fletcher’s jazz band are broken.

Here’s a movie where I really felt the tension—it made me clench my fists to the point where my hands, too, were almost bleeding. The playing of the drums enters your skull, and your heart must keep time. If you missed it in theaters, Netflix has it!

Rotten Tomatoes critics rating 95%; viewers, 96%. “Bring a welder’s mask to ward off sparks,” advised critic Donald Clarke in the Irish Times.

Get Ready for Oscar II – Live Action Shorts

5330266850_a1678cfde1_o_convertedIt’s great that these notable short films are finding more screens to be soon on in movie houses and at home via disc and streaming (via vimeo). Short films are a low-budget way for new directors to show their talent and occasionally lead to bigger and better deals. On Friday, I posted capsule reviews of the five Academy Award nominees for Best Short Documentary, and here’s my take on the five nominees for Best Live Action Shorts—“a diverse and satisfying two-hour program,” says Peter Debruge in Variety. Notably, none of the nominees are from the United States.

  • Aya (Israel and France, trailer) – the longest of the bunch, at 39 minutes, is the comic story of a chance encounter between a young woman waiting at the airport and an arriving passenger. Rotten Tomatoes provides this insightful sentence: “She, charmed Makraioto woven minute before it, is in no hurry to correct him their.” To decode this a bit, the man mistakes her for his assigned driver, and she is in no hurry to correct him there. Directed by Oded Binnun and Mihal Brezis.
  • Boogaloo and Graham (UK, trailer) – These are the names of the chickens lively Belfast children Jamesy and Malachy have raised, delighted in their pets and dreaming of running a chicken farm, until changes in the family threaten to shake up the chicken coop. Reportedly, the charming 14-minute movie has received requests from 80 film festivals around the world to show it. Directed by Ronan Blaney and Michael Lennox. My sentimental pick for the Oscar.
  • Butter Lamp (France and China, trailer) – Nomadic Tibetan families pose for an itinerant photographer and his assistant in front of absurd and symbolic backgrounds, with the true background to the scene not revealed until the end. In only 15 minutes, this unconventional and memorable film captures the impact of globalization on Tibetans and the erosion of their traditional culture. Directed by Hu Wei.
  • Parvaneh (Switzerland, trailer) – in this 25-minute film, an Afghan girl living in a Swiss refugee camp encounters bureaucratic difficulties when she tries to send money home to her ailing father. Only an unlikely friend can help. An award-winning student film, Swiss-Iranian Talkhon Hamzavi directed.
  • The Phone Call (UK, trailer) – a shy woman working in a help line call center receives a call from a mystery man that will “change her life forever,” the movie’s promotion says, a “gather ye rosebuds” outcome only modestly hinted at. Featuring Sally Hawkins and Jim Broadbent, who handle the telephone call beautifully and movingly, with Edward Hogg and Prunella Scales. “You’ll wonder how it can do in 20 minutes what some full length features can’t in two hours,” says Casey Cipriani for Indiewire. Directed by Mat Kirkby. Perhaps the more likely Oscar recipient. [And the winner!]
Sally Hawkins, live action short film,The Phone Call

Sally Hawkins in The Phone Call

Get Ready for Oscar! The Documentary Shorts

Oscar, Academy Awards

(photo by Rachel Jackson, Creative Commons license)

Two theaters in our area are showing the Oscar-nominated short films this year, and last night I watched the five documentary short nominees, ranging from 20 to 40 minutes long and in total almost three hours’ worth of powerful—and pretty depressing—filmmaking. The nominees are:

  • Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1 – A timelier topic is hard to imagine. It’s the story of a crisis hotline in Canandaigua, New York, which receives some 22,000 calls a month from struggling veterans (trailer). These hotline workers are invisible front-line heroes in the battle against suicide, one that a U.S. veteran, somewhere, loses every 80 minutes. An HBO film by award-winning Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry, it is my pick for the Oscar.[YES!! The Winner]
  • Joanna – a Polish documentary (trailer) by Aneta Kopacz, nominated for innumerable awards. The film tells the story of Joanna Sałyga, who used her diagnosis of terminal cancer to inspire a blog about her daily life, to leave her son something of her after she’s gone. The blog became popular, and perhaps people familiar with it gained more from the snippets of insight in the subtitles than I did. Bottom line: well-intended, but over-long, with a muddled story arc, because it was not chronological, so the viewer cannot tell whether and how her views develop.
  • Our Curse – another Polish film, this one by film student Tomasz Śliwiński and Maciej Slesicki, about how Śliwiński and his wife came to terms with the life-threatening medical condition of their infant son, who must wear a respirator at night to be sure he continues breathing. (He has a rare, lifelong genetic disease called Ondine’s Curse.) Bottom line: At least there’s a tiny story arc, with the parents progressing from anxiety, guilt, and fear to some measure of happiness with their baby, but again, chronological presentation would make more sense to viewers.
  • The Reaper (La Parka), by Nicaraguan filmmaker Gabriel Serra Arguello (not the current horror movie directed by Wen-Han Shih), is based on interviews with Efraín Jiménez García, who has worked in a Mexico City slaughterhouse for a quarter-century. The story, in the filmmaker’s words is about “the way (García) connects with death.” And he does connect with it, killing approximately 500 bulls a day, six days a week, for 25 years. Bottom line: A good argument for vegetarianism
  • White Earth – by J. Christian Jensen (see it here) documents the conditions for workers and their families drawn to North Dakota’s oil boom, as seen through the “unexpected eyes” and differing perspectives of three children and an immigrant mother: The American Dream, c. 2014. In a word: bleak. North Dakota oil fields at night make for some eerie scenery.

Sunday morning: the dramatic shorts!