Review: Oscar-nominated short documentaries
By Michael O'Sullivan
Saturday, February 2, 2013
Get out your handkerchiefs. This year’s Oscar-nominated documentary shorts include a few powerfully stirring weepers. And even those that don’t inspire waterworks aren’t exactly light fare.
“Redemption” might not leave you in a puddle, but its profile of New York City’s subculture of “canners” -- people who make a meager living redeeming empty beverage cans and bottles for 5 cents a pop -- is eye-opening. “Kings Point” easily has the the most humor of the five films, but its glimpse of the elderly (and often wisecracking) residents of a Florida retirement community is ultimately more poignant than funny.
Both films are strong candidates for the Academy Award.
My favorite of the nominees is “Inocente.” Its subject is also heavy: homelessness. But the misty eyes it’s likely to produce come from joy, not sorrow.
“Inocente’s” titular subject is a 15-year-old aspiring artist from San Diego. Despite being homeless, she is a charismatic charmer; her narration anchoring the film. Under the auspices of an arts program called A Reason to Survive, Inocente has flourished, developing a passion for painting in a colorfully cartoonish, graffiti-inspired style. The film, by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine, follows Inocente as she prepares for her first solo exhibition. It’s an inspirational story, and it suggests, convincingly, that we haven’t heard the last from this kid.
The final two offerings are far more somber. “Mondays at Racine” introduces us to the clientele of a Long Island beauty salon offering free services to female cancer patients. “Open Heart” showcases a Sudanese hospital offering surgery -- also for free -- to impoverished pediatric cardiac patients from Rwanda.
Both can prove hard to watch without sobbing. They also make it difficult to handicap the race for the Oscar. Each of these under-40-minute documentaries packs the emotional wallop of a feature film.
Includes occasional obscenity and some disturbing thematic material.