Oscar Nominated Shorts for 2018, live action: terror-related film in Kenya is the meatiest

Today, I saw the Oscar Nominated Short Films, Live Action, for 2018 at Landmark E Street in downtown Washington DC.  Official website is here. The set is distributed by Magnolia Pictures.

From my perspective, the most substantial film was the last, “Watu Wote” (“All of Us”, by Katja Benrath, sponsored in Germany, at the Hamburg Media School) filmed on location in Kenya and in Swahili and Somali with subtitles. The story is based on a real incident in December 2015.

In Nairobi, a Christian woman Ju (Adelyne Wairimu) boards a bus to a location near the Somali border to visit a sick relative. She asks if there is a police escort. There isn’t, and her worst fears come about when the bus is attacked in the open desert by terrorists from Al Shabaab.  Some of the terrorists start testing passengers for the ability to quote memorized passages from the Koran and look for “infidels”, believing this gets them to Paradise. But most of the Muslims on the bus defend the Christian woman. The film (2.35:1) is shot on location and gives a stunning look at the desert scenery as well as village life.  It is easy to imagine that it could have made as a feature.

Here is a Kenya military scene (Wiki).

The next most important film for me was “DeKalb Elementary” (shown first, directed by Reed Van Dyk, 21 min, USA), which could draw comparisons to “Newtown”.  In a Georgia elementary school, a fat bearded young man (Bo Mitchell) shows up at the reception area of a grade school and pulls out a rifle, acting like he might be a white supremacist terrorist. But the African-American receptionist (Tara Riggs) shows Christian love and actually reinforces his worthiness when he admits his mental illness, and talks him into surrendering to police.

My Nephew Emmett”, (shown third, 19 min) comes from NYU student filmmaker Kevin Wilson, Jr. The story is based on the murder of Emmett Till, 14, in August 1955, by white vigilantes who hunted him down at his great uncle’s (Mose Wright, played by L. B. Williams) home in rural Mississippi, for flirting with a white man’s wife. The home invasion occurs in the middle of the night and reminded me of “Blood Simple”.  The boy is taken and shot, although this case would have fit well into the late Gode Davis’s incomplete “American Lynching”. One problem: it’s late summer, but the trees are shown bare.

The Silent Child” (shown second, 21 min, UK. Directed Chris Overton.) shows a social worker (Rachel Shenton, who wrote the screenplay) assigned to help a deaf child Libby (Maisy Sly) about to enter school.  She wants to emphasize sign language and lip reading, but the family objects to taking the time.

The Eleven O’Clock”, shown fourth, 14 min, by Derin Seale (Australia) shows a psychiatric appointment where the doctor and patient argue about who is which. It spreads to the front office.

(Posted: Friday, February 9, 2018, at 8:30 PM EST)

Photo above: northern Mississippi, May 2014, my trip.

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