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The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2018: Live Action

by Greg Vellante
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Feb 13, 2018
'The Silent Child'
'The Silent Child'  

Religious and racial conflict, mental illness and disability discrimination are all subjects scrutinized in this year's Oscar Nominated Short Films - Live Action. As certain shorts began, a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach is hard to avoid. Take, for instance, the compelling "Dekalb Elementary," which takes place entirely within an elementary school's central office. An overweight, sloppy-looking white male enters and asks to use the phone. The receptionist walks away. We see him put down a bag and open it, with the slight sounds of metal being handled. Anyone who watches the news knows where this is going.

Surprisingly, this non-manipulative short film steers into interesting territory by exploring the ephemeral relationship between this shooter and the school receptionist he's holding hostage. "Dekalb Elementary" empathizes with the mental illness aspect of mass shootings, and it handles the tricky topic masterfully with strong writing and powerful acting by its two leads.

On another end of the disability spectrum is deafness, which is showcased in the moving short, "The Silent Child." The film follows a deaf child, her sign language teacher and the girl's intrusive parents who insist that their daughter learn to read lips and speak despite sign language's proven capability of helping deaf people live a more normal life. By exploring the duality of an ignorant mother who is relentless in fighting for what she believes will secure her daughter's normalcy against a loving teacher who only wants the best for her young student, "The Silent Child" creates a stirring juxtaposition of apathy and affection.

Racial tension is the central theme of "My Nephew Emmett," which anyone who's read their history books will figure out is about Emmett Till a couple minutes into the film when another character comments on the young boy's knack for whistling. The film follows Emmett's uncle, Mose Wright, and the actions he takes after learning of his nephew's mistake (the boy, visiting from Chicago, had no prior experience with the racist norms of the South). The saddest aspect of this short is that Mose knows exactly how Emmett's decision of whistling at a white woman is going to play out. He sits by the window, shotgun in hand -- and yet, racism and hatred conquer when a group of white men finally come to drag Emmett out of his home. This short is a strong entry, showing another perspective of a historical tragedy.

Swap race with religion, and you have "Watu Wote: All of Us," which follows a Christian in Kenya who boards a chartered bus filled with Muslim passengers. The short expertly captures religious tension through close-ups and sound, and then dives into terrifying territory when the bus is stopped and taken over by the violent terrorist group Al-Shabaab. The film steers into a bit of "I Am Spartacus!" terrain as its trekking over this delicate topic, and while the film is a tad too over-dramatized, it still has many moments that will profoundly affect the viewer.

It's not all depressing, though, because the final short film basks in riotous hilarity. "The Eleven O'Clock" is an Australian comedy film, and the shortest of the five at only 11 minutes. This short details the interaction between a psychiatrist and his patient, a man with grand delusions that he, too, is a psychiatrist. The relentlessly snappy film has you laughing at a new joke the moment you've caught your breath from the previous joke, with gut-busting back and forth dialogue as the man both try to diagnose one another. The best part is, the further the film goes on the less sure you become about which man is really the shrink.

Predicted Oscar Winner: "Dekalb Elementary"

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