Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Live Action
This Hungarian drama, whose title means “Sing,” is about Zsofi, a new girl at school who’s excited about joining the choir. The teacher, Miss Erika, is beloved and the group is widely lauded; they’re currently gearing up for the national championship, which they usually win. But Zsofi is crushed when Miss Erika instructs her to mime because her singing isn’t good enough. She also instructs Zsofi to keep this a secret, which sets off tensions with her new friend, a popular girl named Liza, and a troubling discovery. Deeply observant, a film that approaches childhood at eye level.
A garage security guard named Luna shows up for another dreary day of work, taking over from the night guy. Somebody complains about his taillight getting busted, and she checks the security camera tapes. Turns out the other guard is a dancer who likes to bust a move while making his rounds, and accidentally clipped the car. Luna covers up the incident and leaves him a message and a timestamp of her own, beginning an odd, enchanting little pas de deux. Charming, human and alive. And with a very funny last line of dialogue.
A tense drama (“Enemies Within”) that raises uncomfortable questions about nationalism and religious fears. A French man of Algerian origin is applying for French citizenship. The interview with a bureaucrat in a lonely office turns increasingly hostile, despite his having lived in French territory his entire life. He’s asked about mosques, meetings, revolutionary talk, etc. It’s obvious the official is trying to find out about terrorist activity, but the man insists he knows nothing. Eventually the pot simmers.
La Femme et le TGV
In the lovely Swiss town of Monbijou, an old widow named Elise runs a small bakery and lives next to the rail line, where the TGV bullet train zooms by every day at 300 kilometers an hour. She’s a bit stubborn and old-fashioned: “I’ve never sent an Internet, and I never will!” she declares. Elise and her son had a habit of flinging open their window and waving a Swiss flag at the train, one she has continued after he grew up and moved away. One day a letter shows up from the driver, Bruno, who has passed by unseen each day, welcoming her presence. They begin exchanging notes and packages, a November romance from afar. Funny, sad, joyous.
This Danish film is about a young woman who starts volunteering for the local Salvation Army, serving mostly African immigrants. She falls for one of them, a stalwart man who lives on the street collecting bottles for money, which he sends home to his family back home to help them survive. Meanwhile, he is plagued by racist comments and abuse at every turn. And she has to deal with an alcoholic mother with hidebound sentiments. Can their fragile love survive a world of hate and xenophobia? Well-acted but contains few surprises.