Death of a Shadow
The first of these short films is unfortunately the most disappointing of the bunch. The story tells the tale of a French soldier who perished during World War I. After his death he is given a bizarre camera and with it an opportunity to regain his life. The catch being that he must photograph the shadows of 10000 dying men for his devilish handler. Despite being armed with an interesting supernatural premise and a quite marvelous looking Steampunk set design the storytelling fails to impress compared to its much better contemporaries.
3.5 out of 5
This next film really impressed me. It takes the complex issue of Alzheimer’s and gives the audience a first person look at how it slowly and horrifyingly destroys the mind. The film follows the title character, Henry, as he goes about a normal day, but we slowly realize something is off as he is visited by strange people he’s never met and taken over by his distant memories. Both Henry and audience become disoriented with this erratic shifting between time and space. The filmmaking in a way emulates the minds slow entropy as it’s corrupted by Alzheimer’s. This allows the viewer to empathize with Henry and gain a rare and heartbreaking window into this terrible affliction.
4.5 out of 5
This surprisingly enough was the only american film in the group of nominees. It begins with a shot of Richie, the protagonist, sitting in a bath tube just minutes after he has slit his wrists. Right before the last pints of blood flows from his veins into the bath water he gets a phone call from his estranged sister. She’s panicked, and she asks him to look after her daughter while she takes care of something important. This is her last option, and she really doesn’t want to even let Richie near her daughter, but she doesn’t really have a choice, so he wraps up his leaking wrists and gets out of the bath to babysit.
At its core Curfew is nice little tale of redemption. Richie who at the start of the film is a suicidal former drug addict forms a bond with his distant sister and her precocious daughter allowing him to regain a place in the world. Unfortunately, this heartwarming story is hindered by the sheen of amateurishness that covers the film, imagine a student film that was given an actual budget, but luckily Shawn Christensen, the director, pull everything off quite well, regardless. He’s able to get over his initial awkwardness and bring together a quite cleaver and touching story of redemption.
4.25 out of 5
These next two films both take place in turbulent and violent war zones, but the first of these, Buzkashi Boys, isn’t really focused on that. It instead focuses on the people and hope more so than the politics and strife of its setting, Afghanistan.
At it’s heart the film is the story of possibilities and hope in even the most impoverished and hopeless places. Rafi, the young son of a poor blacksmith, and Ahmad, an ambitious street urchin, learn that they have the abilities to reach for whatever they want. They may not attain them, but that they must always be hopeful for something greater, be it to become a Buzkashi rider, a form of Afghan polo, or a simple blacksmith. That hope is what keeps us always striving and keeps us strong in even the hardest of places.
4.5 out of 5
The second film is set in the conflict ridden coast of Somalia as it follows the young Asad who is struggling to survive the strife all around him. Contrary to that description though, I would say the adjective that most accurately describes the film is charming. Yes, I know, What could possibly be charming about a young kid trying to avoid the dangers of Somalia? Well, you can thank Harun Mohammed for his work as Asad and the character’s cavalier way of dealing with the threats around them for that. These people at this point are used to anything you can throw at them, be it thuggish soldiers pointing guns at them or the pirates that they grew up with. All they can do is go on with their lives, give each other comfort and make each other laugh, and that comfort shines wonderfully.
4.25 out of 5