Ranked: 2021 Oscar Nominated Documentary Short Films | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Ranked: 2021 Oscar Nominated Documentary Short Films

Apr 25, 2021 By Austin Trunick
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​The 93rd Annual Academy Awards ceremony happen tonight, April 25th. As in years past, we’ve taken a look at this year’s short film competitions. The Academy defines a short film as an original motion picture running 40 minutes or less, and excludes all advertisements, unaired or unsold television episodes, or credit sequences from feature-length films. Our critic, Shawn Hazelett, watched and ranked all of this year’s Oscar-nominated shorts.

Here, he looks at this year’s documentary category:

1. Do Not Split - The 2019-2020 Hong Kong protests and resulting police violence proves incredibly ahead of its times in a year marked by global pandemic and Black Lives Matter. It’s hard to know how much of the film was shot by the filmmakers and how much was captured by protestors in an incredibly tense situation, but the footage is seamlessly stitched together, providing the emotional weight of an impressive, ground-up democratic movement with the suspense and tactical maneuvering of a war film.

2. Colette - Is there merit in exploring morbid subject matter? This is the central question posed by Colette, which follows a young French-Jewish girl accompanying a 90-year-old former member of the French Resistance on her first trip to Germany since WWII. Learning about her exploits and of her brother’s, who died in the war, provides a bit of commentary on exploring stories. On one hand, there’s the obvious merit in such stories as education, inspiration, and caution. However, watching the old woman relive the trauma from the subject matter, comes a question rarely asked: at what cost?

3. A Love Song for Latasha - Senseless gun violence is at the center of this loving, emotional story told nearly thirty years after the event. A documentary driven by emotion has flashes of brilliance in its storytelling and some truly powerful imagery (including a superbly framed and edited interview shot), but it’s almost overshadowed by kitschy coverage, which tries to emulate 8mm VHS, complete with misspooled tape, which is meant to cover—but ultimately distracts from—a powerful backstory.

4. A Concerto Is a Conversation —This interview-driven documentary of filmmaker and composer Kris Bowers talking to his grandfather about his ordeals as a twentysomething black man in the south offers richness in style, perspective, and technique, but has very little purpose.

5. Hunger Ward - This is the film featured in all the short trailers, showing a young starving girl in war-torn Yemen. It’s a marvel that a film focusing on this subject matter can lack heart, but the film doesn’t actually seem all that interested in the subjects, except as props. The film bounces around subjects without settling on a story, focusing on bony limbs and sobbing parents with state of the art cameras equipped with the sharpest lenses. In other words, this is disaster porn.


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