‘The 2021 Oscar Nominated Short Films’ Review: Major Issues in Brief
Another intergenerational exchange takes place in A Concert Is A Conversation, a New York Times Op-Doc directed by Ben Proudfoot and composer Kris Bowers (a piano double on Green Book that he scored).
Bowers describes a concert as a conversation between a soloist and an ensemble. On the occasion of the premiere of an interview he wrote, he interviewed his grandfather. Horace Bowers Sr. hitchhiked across the country from Bascom, Florida, from the Jim Crow era, and settled in Los Angeles. He built a successful business by getting mail-in credits. (If he applies personally, he says, he will be rejected because of the color of his skin.) The film frames the men in alternating close-ups and speaks into the camera: They speak directly to us, from the heart.
The most action-packed contribution is the journalist Anders Hammers “Do Not Split”, who captured the 2019 protests in Hong Kong out of the turmoil. The film interviews protesters about their motivations and shows them in action, with the camera in the middle of tear gas and flames. (A pulsating, “tenet” -like score is unnecessarily embellishing.) The images of protesters wearing face masks to protect their identities inevitably evoke the pandemic that horrifies towards the end: the streets that were once filled with protesters , sit left.
“Hunger Ward” draws attention to the impending famine in Yemen by watching two heroic medics, both women: Aida Hussein Alsadeeq, a doctor, and Mekkia Mahdi, a nurse, who are doing their best to stay alive and set the mood to raise malnourished children.
The most stylistically adventurous candidate, however, is “A Love Song for Latasha” (on Netflix). by experimental documentary filmmaker Sophia Nahli Allison. Latasha is Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old who was killed in Los Angeles in 1991. The outrage over their shooting by a grocer is often cited as a factor in the 1992 riots.
The film is hardly puristic in its approach to non-fiction and mixes interviews and constructed footage. With a variety of visual modes, it sometimes looks like a VHS camcorder. When Tasha’s friend Tybie O’Bard shares memories of learning to death, Love Song switches to abstract animation. This is a bold move for a documentary, and unexpected enough that it could mean a winner. BEN KENIGSBERG
The 2021 Oscar-nominated short films
Not rated. In English and several other languages with subtitles. In theaters and in virtual cinemas. Please consult the Policies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before viewing films in theaters.
Live action: 2 hours 10 minutes
Animated: 1 hour 39 minutes
Documentary: 2 hours 16 minutes