Screenings of the 2012 Oscar Nominated Documentary Short Films open Friday, February 17th, giving folks the opportunity to see them before the 84th Academy Awards ceremony on February 26th. Three of the nominated films, “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom,” “Incident in New Baghdad,” and “The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement” take historical events and show them through the eyes of the individuals involved, without extraneous narration or talking head commentary. While the films differ greatly from each other in tone and content, together they embody the power of personal experience.
“The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom” is directed by award winning English filmmaker Lucy Walker (Waste Land, Devil’s Playground). It is an intimate look at the devastating effects of the tsunami caused by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Using videotaped footage of the tsunami followed by subsequent interviews, Walker captures the perspectives of those who were hit hardest by the disaster, and the various ways they set about rebuilding their lives. With exquisite photography by Aaron Phillips and a soundtrack by Moby, Walker’s film is a meditation on the nature of destruction and renewal. Please read Lucy Walker’s interview with Cinema Without Borders’ Editor Rachel O’Meara about The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom.
“Incident in New Baghdad” is by American filmmaker, James Spione. It is a soldier’s personal account of the controversial July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike by U.S. Apache helicopters. The attack killed two Iraqi journalists among other unarmed civilians. Ethan McCord, a U.S. Army Specialist, arrived on the scene of the attack shortly after it occurred. He pulled two severely injured Iraqi children from a van that was destroyed during the attack. The trauma of the experience had an enormous impact on McCord, whose views on the war were forever changed by the event.
The story is told by Ethan McCord in his own words. Utilizing footage from the gunsight camera of a helicopter involved in the attack, along with still photos provided by McCord himself, Spione takes a hard look at the incident that led to McCord’s post traumatic stress disorder, as well as his transformation of consciousness regarding the war in Iraq.
“The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement” is directed and produced by American photographer, Robin Fryday, and filmmaker Gail Dolgin. It takes place during the 2008 election. Fryday felt that a story, beginning with blacks in the 1960s fighting for their right to vote, and the successive rise of Obama in 2008 must be living in the hearts and minds of so many African Americans. She went to the deep South in search of that story and the people who could tell it. In Selma Alabama, she found her central figure, James Armstrong, a barber and Civil Rights activist. Both Armstrong and his barbershop served as living monuments to the Civil Rights movement. Through Armstrong and others, we see the unfolding of history from the viewpoint of those who lived it.
The Oscar Shorts program has grown increasingly popular since it was launched in 2005. This year’s films will be released by ShortsHD and Magnolia Pictures in over 200 theaters, including the Documentary short films on February 17th. The films will also be available at the iTunes Store February 21st.
More info is available at the ShortsHD site: http://theoscarshorts.shorts.tv/