Tropic Sprockets / The 2018 Oscar Shorts: Live Action

By Ian Brockway

The 2018 nominees have something for everyone, but it is worth noting that the selection is heavy in the drama department. Each film is immersive, provocative and thoughtful with no boring segment in the bunch.

The group starts off with a whammy. Reed Van Dyk’s anxious and scary “DeKalb Elementary” is about nothing less than a shooter at a public school. Steven (Bo Mitchell) is a teen who walks in the school with a rifle, angry and fretful intending to kill police. One school secretary Lakisha (Shinelle Azoroh) stays with him and resolves to talk to him, regardless of the outcome. The narrative would be frightening at any time, but the film is especially terror inducing given the shooting in Parkland just this week. Mitchell is excellent as the sullen and depressed teen who also has the capacity to be very malevolent. This is a masterful film which elucidates the sadness of both the victim and the assailant.

“The Silent Child” by director Chris Overton is about a young girl coping with deafness and her ignorant, clueless family. Though the whole cast is excellent, the essence of the story remains the performance of Maisie Sly with an outing that is absolutely flawless. This is a sincere film that is as heart-wrenching as it is serious. Ultimately, it is an portrait of a joyful friendship.

Tense emotions rise again in “My Nephew Emmitt” by Kevin Wilson Jr, which focuses on Emmitt Till who was murdered by racists for whistling at a white woman in the 1950s. Emmitt’s uncle Mose (L.B Williams) is wise and watchful, yet he feels increasingly guilty.

From the German filmmaker Katra Benrath “Watu Wote: All of Us” focuses on the violence in Kenya between the Christians and the Muslims. With suspense, heartache and honesty this film perfectly illustrates the anger and violence, yet does not discredit our collective humanness regardless of our beliefs. A standout is Adelyne Wairimu as a Christian passenger who just wants to survive.

Finally, for comic relief, from Australia (and not a moment too soon) there is “The Eleven O’ Clock” about two men (Josh Lawson and Damon Herriman) who might be psychiatric patients overdue for an appointment. And here is the catch: one is never sure who is the doctor or the patient. Fans of madcap comedy rejoice.

Lovers of anxiety will get full doses here. These are very strong films and everyone should be well pleased regardless of preference. The award season is upon us and this group of shorts are both tremendous and timely.

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