the 2014 Oscars Documentary Films: The Nominees
by Dawn Garcia
LOS ANGELES, CA – Last night I had the honor of attending the Annual Oscars Academy Award Nominee Symposium for the 5 Nominated Documentary Shorts and Documentary Features. The films each possessed qualities of sheer humanity in every form and while yes, that is the nature of documentaries on the whole, it doesn’t always happen with such candor. I was, yet again, blown away at the selection of Documentary Shorts. Stories that took the soul of humanity and splashed it onto the screen like volcanic lava oozing from the mountainous terrain.
2014 Best Documentary Short Subjects
– Clips from the Oscars
2014 Best Documentary Film Nominees
– Clips from the Oscars
Every film impacted me so very much on levels that words would not dare equate but I must highlight my chosen 3:
Shorts – My 3 Picks
- Facing Fear (Jason Cohen)
- Karama Has No Walls (Sara Ishaq)
- The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life (Malcom Clarke)
Facing Fear touched on a subject very close to me heart which is homophobia. Growing up in a household where being “gay” was a sin, I found myself utterly disgusted with the mindset I was raised with. To me, love is love. There is no difference when it comes to sexual preference. “Facing Fear” is a film that tells the story of two individuals. A gay man and an ex-Nazi. Your heart is ripped out in the first 2 minutes and it is gradually repaired not too shortly after with the long act of forgiveness. The lesson is that memory holds on but we don’t have to.
Karama Has No Walls explores global politics is something that impacts each and every one of us. It swarms over us like an awakening that gets under our skin. This film goes deep into Middle Eastern politics. This film follows a single day in history that changed everything for Egypt. Horrific and brutal, many lost their lives but more lost their hope and it was then, March 18th, 2011 that the people banned together and the government had no choice but to falter.
“And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love.”
The Lady in Number 6 . The face of this woman is like nothing I’ve never seen. 109 years old, Alice Herz Sommer, the world’s oldest pianist and Holocaust survivor is the epitome of all that is good in this world. She lived her life with this insatiable joy and acceptance. She did not allow stress or worry to take hold of her in the way so many of us do. In fact having seen and experienced some of the most horrifying acts in history, she still sees the glass as half full. This film chronicles her life and allows us a glimpse into her fascinating century on this earth. I would encourage you NOT to miss this one.
Read her quote below and you’ll know why this woman was such magic:
To this day Alice Herz-Sommer still plays the piano, loves to meet people, talk with her few remaining friends. Alice says, “I am no longer myself. The body cannot resist as it did in the past. I think I am in my last days but it doesn’t really matter because I have had such a beautiful life. And life is beautiful, love is beautiful, nature and music are beautiful. Everything we experience is a gift, a present we should cherish and pass on to those we love.”
Features – My 3 Picks
- Cutie and the Boxer (Zachary Heinzerling, Lydia Dean Pilcher)
- Dirty Wars (Richard Rowley, Jeremy Scahill)
- The Square (Jehane Noujaim, Karim Amer)
Cutie and the Boxer polarizes a Japanese couple – both artists – both very contradicting characters. A 40-year marriage to famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara, his wife, Noriko finds her way out of his shadow as an artist and into her own. It is a beautiful and anxiety riddled relationship but perhaps the most prominent line in the film for me was, “You throw yourself away to be an artist”. Said by Ushio, you see the paralyzing confines of creating and the weight of that burden. As the film plays out, so does their relationship and in a pivotal moment, Noriko finds that she is free to create and she does. Her art career now coming to the forefront, their marriage and the isolation of living behind her husband begin to shift.
Dirty Wars goes deep into the heart of how utterly broken our system is. By exploiting the military agenda we know little about, what is uncovered are countless stories of how the US employs warlords: Warlords that are known monsters – violent militia leaders maiming and torturing innocence. What the US government has done is simply offer them a job and encourage them to “switch sides” only to commit the exact same crimes but now in the name of US interests. Journalists RICHARD ROWLEY and JEREMY SCAHILL take on the task of going deep into the heart of what real journalism is: reporting stories the mass media won’t tell us. This film is profoundly intelligent, disturbing, often times difficult but always stirring question. During this film, the most painfully honest quote, “The US is great at war. They know war.” While to some that may read as a statement of pride, to me it is a very sad state of affairs that our most notable achievement of “war” is what a murderous man deems a high point of character.
“We go to the square to discover that we love life outside it, and to discover that our love for life is resistance.”
The Square is sheer hope. It is a film about a revolution in Egypt that changed the entire face of a nation. Through courage and bravery, the youth of Egypt rose up in opposition to the government’s oppressive stranglehold and it inspired the entire nation to join in no longer separated by beliefs or social class. I have never felt more encouraged by the power of optimism and hope. Below is a synopsis of the film that is far too powerful for words to do it justice.
The Egyptian Revolution has been an ongoing rollercoaster over the past two and a half years. Through the news, we only get a glimpse of the bloodiest battle, an election, or a million man march. At the beginning of July 2013, we witnessed the second president deposed within the space of three years.
The Square is an immersive experience, transporting the viewer deeply into the intense emotional drama and personal stories behind the news. It is the inspirational story of young people claiming their rights, struggling through multiple forces, in the fight to create a society of conscience.
MEET THE CHARACTERS:
British-Egyptian actor and filmmaker, star of The Kite Runner, United 93 and Green Zone. Inspired by the activism of his father who was jailed in Egypt in the 70s and has lived in exile, Khalid leaves his life in London to join the revolution, discovering a profound sense of his Egyptian identity in the process.
A father of four, Magdy was abducted and tortured under Mubarak’s rule for being part of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Unlikely friends, Magdy and Khalid met in Tahrir during the 18 days and their exchange of ideas and viewpoints means a lot to them.
From the working-class district of Shobra, Ahmed is a born storyteller and street revolutionary. He is a key part of the defense of Tahrir in the 18 days leading up to Mubarak’s resignation, and all of the occupations of the square since. His hope is to create a new society of conscience in Egypt.
Plain speaking and passionate, Ragia is on the frontline of the Human Rights movement in Egypt, bringing her into direct conflict with the Military Council. Ragia’s experience of the daily frustrations of trying to represent imprisoned protesters and civilians takes us to the frontline of the legal battle for the future of Egypt.
Unknown before Tahrir, Ramy becomes the unofficial singer-songwriter of the revolution with a massive following. From a small town outside Cairo, his songs become the soundtrack to the revolution.
Aida El Kashef
Aida is a filmmaker from Cairo who sets up the first tent in Tahrir Square at the beginning of the revolution. She documents events as they unravel around her, co-founds a citizen journalism organisation and puts on public screenings around the country to fight against state propaganda.
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