Entertainment » Movies

The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2018: Documentary

by Greg Vellante
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Feb 13, 2018

Documentaries, when done right, are fantastic tools for offering reality-based perspectives that we aren't accustomed to. This year's Oscar Nominated Short Films in the Documentary category are no exception to this, offering personalized glimpses into the lives of recently-released prisoners, a mentally ill artist, an interracial elderly couple, a black woman pulled over for a routine traffic stop and the everyday heroes that are fighting the opioid epidemic in West Virginia.

Showcased in two programs at select theaters, this year's documentary short films are all exceptional in their own ways.

In Program A, we have "Edith+Eddie," which tells the story of an interracial couple that met and married in their mid-90s, and the legal red tape that threatens to tear them apart. "Traffic Stop" focuses on Breaion King, a 26-year-old African-American school teacher from Austin, Texas, whose routine traffic stop intensified into a violent, dramatic arrest (the arrest's footage comes from dashcam footage, which is juxtaposed with scenes from King's life and the thoughtful conversation she shared with the police officer while in the backseat of his car). This HBO Documentary Film will be airing on HBO February 19th, with and an early preview on HBO NOW, HBO GO and HBO On Demand on February 16th.

The final film of Program A is the highlight of all five documentaries -- "Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405." This profoundly human and endlessly empathetic film is a portrait of Mindy Alper and the stunning artwork she creates, from imaginative sketches to soulful sculptures that capture human kindness with such genuine sincerity. Mindy's personality reflects her art, and her interviews during this film are endlessly fascinating. But what is most compelling is Mindy's drive to pursue her artistic passion against all odds -- debilitating depression, partial psychosis, permanent brain damage from shock therapy and more. Even though she speaks incorrectly at times (according to Mindy, the highway in the film's title is pronounced as "4 Circle 5"), her words often speak more about the human experience, compassion and the bond between us all than completely mentally-coherent people would be able to express. This short film is stellar.

Program B offers an equally striking pairing of the final two films -- "Knife Skills" and "Heroine(e)." The two films focus on unique heroes. The former, a man who creates an academy and restaurant that only accepts/hires convict recently released from prison; the latter, a trio of women -- a Fire Chief, a judge and a missionary -- who battle the West Virginia opioid epidemic with compassion and determination. Both are poignant in their own ways, but "Heroin(e)" is especially so.

Predicted Winner: "Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405"


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