When it comes to the coveted Oscars, apart from feature films, there is one category which generates a lot of interest — and that is the category of short films. Oscars 2020 has nominated 5 Live Action shorts, namely Brotherhood, Nefta Football Club, A Sister, Saria and The Neighbors’ Window. However, the interesting part is that there are some extremely good ones which aren’t nominated, and have missed the bus. Here we bring you a list of 7 such deserving shorts, totally worth your salt.
1) The Distance Between Us And The Sky
Sometimes the simple ideas are the best. This Greek-French short film written and directed by Vasilis Kekatos is essentially just a late-night conversation, mostly between the two charismatic leads, Nikolakis Zeginoglou and Ioko Ioannis Kotidis, and that’s about it.
It’s between two strangers who meet for the first time at an old gas station. One has stopped to gas up his bike, while the other is just stranded. But it’s a conversation captured with intimate grace, every frame singing with supple chemistry as the attentive close-up camerawork catches every little piece of body language, every teasing smile or incredulous flicker of an eyebrow.
This is a story of hope and despair, one which its writer-director Dekel Berenson captures as authentically as he could. Living in war-torn Eastern Ukraine, Anna is an aging single mother who is desperate for a change. Lured by a radio advertisement, she goes to party with a group of American men who are touring the country, searching for love.
The story stems from an idea the maker got when he witnessed events similar to the ones depicted in Anna. In an interview, the director talks of places which are “notorious for being hot spots for the type of men and women who seek others while harboring secret agendas. The men ogle women as if they were the pieces of meat. The women size up the men according to the perceived value of their shoes.”
“The men, hoping to take advantage of the women’s despair and desire to move abroad, try to seduce them with promises of a possible relationship. The women, pretending to be unaware of the obvious scheme, make promises of their own and scam free drinks, expensive dinners, and gifts from the men. The savviest and most determined women, in turn, seduce naive men with promises of love and everlasting marriage, only to quickly divorce them once they set foot in their new home country.”
“So, each side attempts to take advantage of the other and more often than not, fails at it, but then returns the next evening for more of the same. Ironically, Svetlana Barandich who portrays Anna participated in such an event more than 20 years ago,” reveals the director.
3) All Inclusive
Exploring the dark side of the social contract, All Inclusive is a pitch-black revenge-of-the-nerds fantasy, which shows that a downtrodden putz who is bullied by their peers won’t necessarily be empowered by liberation to act benevolently. Kalvero (Lauri Maijala) is the unlikely recipient of absolute power, in this Roy Andersson-esque short from director Teemu Nikki.
4) Days Of Marigolds
Brilliantly tackling the subject of longing, memories, cycle of life, reflections, dreams, hope and nostalgia, world cinema film researcher Mainak Misra from India has written, directed and produced his first short-film Days of Marigolds.
With a unique subject, Days of Marigolds is a silent film with no dialogues. It revolves around a very touching story of two brothers in rural India. As the elder brother leaves the village, the younger brother keeps returning to the place they parted at. Each return marks a passage of his life cycle from childhood to adolescence, early adulthood, late adulthood, and eventually old age. Life goes on.
Talking about the film’s emotional quotient, filmmaker Mainak Misra says, “Sometimes we can never forget certain moments spent with our nearest and dearest ones. The story of this short delves upon one such tender moment in the life of the protagonist and how he clings on to it as his most cherished and missed memory.”
Another distinctive aspect of the film is that it is made in a silhouette-like sepia tone and has an endearing slow-moving village life feel to it. Beautifully shot at the banks of a village lake, all the actors in the film are commoners, without any previous experience in acting. Inspite of its modest origins, the short has been winning hearts at various international film festivals.
A shimmering light, the rustle of the leaves, the round spots of light in the shade of a tree. The sun reflects on the water. It is an element and counterpart. Can nature observe itself? The experimental short film Umbra is a cinematic reflection on the presence and absence of things by Johannes Krell and Florian Fischer.
“Umbra is dedicated to the ordinary and rare phenomena that occur in nature. These phenomena evoke familiar images such as shadows or reflections on the surface of water,” explain the makers.
Umbra can also be perceived as a meditation on space and its exploration. Or even a fantasy about aliens travelling to our planet. The images we know of the moon’s surface are similarly abstract. To surrender oneself to Umbra and the emotions and associations it triggers, means to begin a journey into space, and to grant space to the transient.
6) Sometimes I Think About Dying
Director Stefanie Abel Horowitz’s short film revolves around the character of Fran, who is thinking about dying. She floats through life by going through the motions, absent friends or hobbies, until a co-worker takes an interest in her.
Robert (Jim Sarbh) is gentle and sensitive too on first blush, yet with an assuredness that is captivating to Fran. He strikes up gentle flirtations around the office and trades texts that she agonizes over responding to, until he asks her out on a date. Fran is perplexed. What does he see in her? This is a mystery to the viewer as well. The tension is built throughout the film.
The film is more or less, an honest examination of depression and social isolation. It walks a fine line in examining its protagonist’s dark malaise, but also weaving in humor, as Fran must decide whether to open herself up to connection.
The film begins with narration by its protagonist Fran: “My world is in a universe, my country is in a world. My state is in a country, my city is in a state…” Fran’s nesting classifications continue to shrink down in scale until she arrives at herself — in a bed, in a room, in a house.
Her taxonomical impulse is an attempt to instill order and clarify her place the universe, a place she struggles to understand. Yet the cosmic scale of her ordering reveals her deepest truth about the overall insignificance of that existence. Living is something of a burden to Fran, and she ultimately is unsure about it.
7) All Cats Are Grey In The Dark
No mere viral cat video can compare with the feline-centric poignancy of this short’s director Lasse Linder’s intimate study of one man’s ardent longing to expand his multi-species household. It revolves around ‘Catman’ Christian and lives with his two cats Marmelade and Katjuscha. They are inseparable. As he is yearning to become a father, he decides to fertilize his beloved cat Marmelade by an exquisite tomcat from abroad. The film is a melodrama that portrays an unconventional relationship between animal and human.