Feb 28
THE OSCAR’S DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT CATEGORY by Jose N. Carreon  |  Posted in Articles  |  on Fri, Feb 28, 2014

The countdown for the 86th Oscar Awards has started. By Monday we will know the winners through the worldwide telecast of the glamorous event.

Attention will focus on the acting categories. Then the focus will be on the winners of the best picture, director, scriptwriter, etc.

Interest will also focus on the winners of the best animated film, foreign language film and documentary film.

But unknown to many Oscar fanatics is the interesting human interest element present in this year’s documentary short subject category.

As an avid Oscar enthusiast cum reviewer wrote : “Unlike the animated shorts category, where recognizable studio-backed entries can find an advantage, or the live action short film category, where well-known actors can give this or that film an edge, the documentary shorts rarely feature such built-in angles on winning the race. It boils down to the movies themselves, the stories they tell, the characters they reveal and the combined impact on the viewer.

Let us look at the five nominees in this category:

Karama Has No Wall/Sara Ishaq
The short docu is an account of how the Yemeni Revolution turned bloody in the city of Sana’a. Protesters peacefully demonstrated in the streets, pitching tents and participating in sit-ins when pro-government snipers fired at the crowd on “the Friday of Karama (dignity)”. Fifty-three were killed and thousands were injured.

The docu’s director talked about his film:”[The Yemeni protesters] wanted to show that they were basically willing to ask Saleh to step down in 2011 without using the means and the methods that they’re so used to using, which is use of weapons and warfare and violence.”

“Suddenly people had a sense of responsibility towards their other fellow citizens and they realized just how far the government was willing to go in order to thwart them and in order to remain in power. So I guess that really was the wake-up call that Yemen needed,” Ishaq, director of “Karama Has No Walls” Ishaq added.

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life/ Malcolm Clark
The Lady in Number 6 is a 39-minute docu of the oldest living Holocaust survivor—110-year-old concert pianist Alice Herz-Sommer. The docu chronicles her upper-class childhood in Prague, where composer Gustav Mahler and writer Franz Kafka were family friends; her days in Auschwitz where the Nazis sent Jewish celebrities and musicians to film them for propaganda pieces; and her golden years in England, where she lived independently in a London flat.

The grateful Herz-Sommer said music saved her life as the Nazis kept her around to play 100 concerts in the camp.

But weeks before the Oscar, Alica Herz-Sommer died of pneumonia in England, the last survivor of Auschwitz to die.

Prison Terminal: The Last Days/Edgar Barens
This HBO docu is about Jack Hall, a former WWII POW who was convicted of murder and was imprisoned for life. Hall reasoned out that he had to kill the drug dealer responsible for his son’s suicide.

The film documents the final months of Hall, now a terminally ill, 83-year-old, receiving the hospice care from volunteer prison inmates.

Barens shot more than 300 hours of film over the project. He talked about his docu: “In documentary filmmaking listening has to be at the top of the list of requirements,” he said. “If you don’t give the person you are talking to the courtesy of being curious and interested in what they are saying, even if 80 percent of what they are saying is not related to the film project, that is a huge thing.”

“This particular program in Iowa trains the inmate to be a hospice volunteer and they can help their buddy go through the dying process — that is, the comfort care, palliative care, and simply sitting there, holding their hand as they die.”

Cave Digger/Jeffrey Karoff
The film depicts Ra Paulette who digs archaeologist/artist creations from the earth.

“I met Ra over 10 years ago,” Karoff said, “and he was working in an area of northern New Mexico where I have a house” near Taos. “All the caves are in that area.”

Paulette has dug 14 caves in New Mexico, using only hand tools — a pickaxe and wheelbarrow strapped to his back . He creates arches, pillars, rooms, doorways, steps, benches with carving as detailed as a cathedral.

Karoff decided to make a film because he believed Paulette’s underground art was unique.

Facing Fear/Jason Cohen
The docu I about Matthew Bolger who at i3 yars of age was thrown out of his home for being gay. Hewas savagely beaten by neo-Nazi skinheads. Boger managed to survive the attack. Twenty-five years later, Boger met Tim Zaal and the two men soon realized that Zaal was one of the attackers who beat Boger and left him for dead.

The docu followed the two men’s journey of forgiveness and reconciliation.

The director talked about his film: “Facing Fear” chronicles the unlikely friendship between Matthew Bolger, a gay man, and Tim Zaal, a former neo-Nazi. When they were teenagers, Zaal took part in a near-fatal group attack on Bolger. Twenty-five years later, Bolger and Zaal met again through their work with the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and they eventually became friends. They now give talks on tolerance together.


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