The Austin Chronicle

2016 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentaries – Programs A & B

Not rated, 163 min. Directed by Various.

REVIEWED By Josh Kupecki, Fri., Feb. 5, 2016

The uproar over the lack of diversity at the Oscars may be grabbing all the headlines as awards season fully blooms, but there is plenty of diversity in the Short Documentary nominees, which – alas – showcase a spectrum of ways in which a society can marginalize, punish, and outright slaughter people of various ethnic backgrounds. David Darg’s “Body Team 12” follows Garmai Sumo as she and fellow Red Cross workers remove dead bodies at the height of an Ebola outbreak in Liberia. Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman's lovingly animated ”Last Day of Freedom” tells the story of Manuel Babbitt, a homeless Vietnam veteran who was executed for killing a woman during a burglary in 1980. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s “A Girl in the River” is the story of an 18-year-old Pakistani girl who survived being shot in the face by her father and uncle, only to be pressured by the community into forgiving the men. In Courtney Marsh's "Chau, Beyond the Lines," we meet the 16-year-old Chau – a Vietnamese teenager disabled due to the effects of Agent Orange – who, painting with his mouth, dreams of becoming a professional artist. Adam Benzine's "Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah" is an enthralling look into the making of the definitive film about Hitler's Final Solution: Lanzmann's 1985 film Shoah, a sprawling 10-hour doc interviewing survivors and perpetrators of the most heinous genocide of the 20th century. Using an extensive interview with Lanzmann as a framing device to tell how the film came to be, Benzine's doc is an immediately essential companion piece to Lanzmann's epic. This is a must-see for anyone who has the slightest interest in the continuation of humanity.

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