The Oscar Shorts

Every year my wife and I go to the Tiff Bell Lightbox theatre to watch the short films nominated for the Oscar’s that year. This year we did the same. I mentioned last month how documentaries are not really a category followed by the Oscar audience. Well short films are even less so. Do you even remember one short film nominated for an Oscar? No, right? I personally love short films, when they are done right. They are focused on just that little story, without having to worry about things like character development , subplots etc. You get a glimpse at somebody’s life, an ex-citing event, a horrifying moment, or just enjoy a cool concept in a short period of time. You can find so many of them these days on YouTube or Vimeo.

Getting back to the Oscar shorts we watched last week. I was surprised to see that all of five of them were quite good and gave us such a variety of stories. The first one was a film from Denmark, called “Helium”. It was about this care-taker who would tell these fantastical stories of what the afterlife is like to terminally ill children at a hospital. It was just so touching to see the innocent kids still holding onto their innocence as they passed on. We could barely hold back our tears. The next one was “The Voorman Problem”. A 7 minute short about a psychiatrist who visits a man in prison, who claims to be God himself. A bit of a mental cat and mouse game, with an interesting twist ending. A French film “Just Before Losing Everything” was an intense thriller with a simple idea. A battered woman trying to secretly escape her husband with her two kids, as the husband almost catches them in the act. It seems like a simple concept, but the way they set up the film, which starts with the audience not knowing what they are running from and the multiple near misses, you could really feel the tension and the fear that the family was experiencing. It’s in films like this that I think short films shine, when it aims to just get one emotion out of the audience, and works that to the limit. Then it was the intense war thriller, “That Wasn’t Me”. A couple of doctors get caught behind the lines in an African country, where rebels use child soldiers in their armies. The children, caught up in the rhetoric and fervor of the war, do unspeakable things to the captives. However, one of doctors, who survives, ends up saving one of the children when government forces attack. Years later, that child now an adult, tells the horrifying story of how he was saved from himself to an audience at a university. And lastly, a cozy Finnish comedy, “Do I have to take care of Everything?”, about a disheveled family trying to make it to a wedding on time, when they realize they end up at a funeral instead.

When you leave the theatre, you feel like you have just been to a restaurant with a taster menu, and had small but great dishes throughout the night. I recommend you all to check these out. They will be playing at the Tiff Bell Lightbox until March 6th. I include the details below. And every year, they are shown throughout the month of February. You can also catch the Animated Short Films nominated for the Oscars, so you can even take your kids along.

This has nothing to do with the Oscars, but I thought before I finish, I have to make this recommendation about a film that just opened at the Tiff Bell Lightbox as well. “Like Father, Like Son”, a heart-wrenching Japanese film, about two families who find out that their kids were switched at birth, and decide to switch them back. It’s especially a poignant story about paternal love for a child. It’s one of those movies you have to see. I watched it dur-ing the Toronto International Film Festival, and I dare to hold your tears back.