For this year's crop of live action short films, the Academy has chosen to honor not one comedy. The five films represented are somber, melancholy, fatalistic...I could go on. Only one of the works has any sort of humor to it. On an individual, film by film basis, this is not a problem. Watching all five shorts consecutively has an emotionally draining affect. I left the theater in need of a hug or a strong drink, probably both.
Death of a Shadow (Dood Van Een Schaduw) is the strangest and most visually imaginative of the bunch. Nathan Rijckx (Matthias Schoenaerts) works to pay off a debt to a mysterious man know as the Collector of Shadows (Peter van den Eede). His job is to capture the shadows of people in the last moments of their lives using a strange steam punk camera. The story is full of twists and foreboding atmosphere, and its a tribute to the filmmakers that they squeeze a feature's worth of story into twenty minutes.
Henry is an aging concert pianist who believes himself the target of a conspiracy when his wife disappears. Henry's situation is not what it first seems, and it becomes a meditation on the tragic but inevitable decline of old age. Gerard Poirier is heartbreaking as the titular character.
The next short, Curfew, holds a special place in my heart, as I saw it nearly a year ago as it was making the rounds of the festival circuit. In the middle of an attempted suicide Richie (Shawn Christensen) gets a call from his estranged sister asking him to babysit his niece Sophia for the night. The story of their evening together is at times funny, poignant, and surreal. What sets this film apart is the performance of Fatima Ptacek as Sophia. With the poise of a Dakota Fanning or Abigail Breslin, she's a real find.
Buzkashi Boys tells the story of two boys growing up in Kabul. Rafi (Fawad Mohammadi) is the son of a blacksmith, and Ahmad (Jawanmard Paiz) is a street kid who dreams of competing in Buzkashi, the Afghan national sport. The film follows their friendship, but is ultimately about the relationship between Rafi and his blacksmith father (Wali Talash). It's a haunting and beautiful film.
Asad centers on a small village in Somalia, where a young boy has a choice to either become a fisherman or join the pirates who plague the coastline. The characters are portrayed by a cast entirely made up of Somali refugees, which adds dramatic weight to an already powerful film.
The shorts program is playing at the Enzian Theater in Maitland for another week. I encourage all of you in the area to support independent filmmakers and the best theater in town by attending a screening. Ticket information is available at the Enzian website.