Here they come: This year’s Oscar-nominated shorts

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The run-up to the 2020 Oscars on Feb. 9 begins this weekend with the Oscar-nominated shorts. Three categories — Animated, Live Action and Documentary — will play at the M.V. Film Center.


Animated Shorts Oscar nominees

Two U.S. shorts are included in the Animated nominations. First, “Hair Love” is a charming tale about a little girl whose wild hair needs taming. Mom tries braids, and Dad tries a comb with a mind of its own. The ending comes as a surprise. Another U.S. entry, “Kitbull,” features a big-eyed cat that captures a fish. Then it makes friends with a dog whose owner chains it in the backyard. Cat and dog escape together for a happy ending.

From China with U.S. backing, “Sister” tells the story of a family in which the son welcomes a pesky little sister with mixed results. “Daughter” (“Dcera”) is the Czech Republic’s entry. Papier-mâché creates the characters in this family drama. The daughter of the family rescues a little bird, and she explores her relationship with her father.

In “Memorable,” the French entry, an artist and his wife experience strange things happening in their world. Several extra animated shorts include an especially poignant U.S. offering called “Henrietta Bulkowski,” about a hunchbacked girl who dreams of becoming a pilot.

Live-Action Shorts nominees

Of the five Live-Action entries, viewers may remember “Nefta Football Club,” an entry from Tunisia with France. It appeared in last September’s International Film Festival. Two Tunisian men try to transport heroin across the border with help from a donkey. When two boys discover the drugs, they end up used in an unexpected way. “A Sister,” from Belgium, is a gripping story about a 911 operator and the call she takes from a woman in trouble. In “Brotherhood,” a Tunisian entry, three brothers cope with their parents, their father in particular, in the aftermath of a lamb’s slaughter.

From the U.S. comes a haunting and politically relevant story about a Guatemalan orphanage for girls and their attempt, along with orphanage boys, to escape to the U.S. Finally, the setting for “The Neighbor’s Window,” another U.S. entry, is reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rear Window.” In this entry, a family in a New York apartment watches their neighbors through their window across the street in an engrossing story with a heartwarming conclusion.


Documentary Shorts nominees

Look for some grim if powerful subjects among the Documentary Shorts nominees. South Korea’s “In the Absence” is the story of a ferry sinking in that country. A group of students is among the victims of this tragedy, where the government watches the ferry’s sinking more than it rescues most of the passengers. Particularly horrifying is “Life Overtakes Me,” a Swedish/U.S. entry. Refugee families have settled in Sweden with hopes of asylum, but in some cases children experience what is known as Resignation Syndrome. Experts puzzle over the cause of this malady, where parents must use feeding tubes and work to exercise their unconscious children, who have been traumatized by the violence in their countries.

Much less disturbing is the U.S. entry, “St. Louis Superman.” Illinois Democratic State Rep. Bruce Franks Jr. introduces a bill to declare youth violence a crisis. Inspired by the murder of his 9-year-old brother and the many deaths in a region where 51 percent of murders are in the 16-to-24 age range, he has made an end to violence against blacks his goal. Also a battle rapper, he’s a hero to his constituents.

“Motion creates emotion” is the theme of “Walk, Run, Cha-Cha” from the U.S. This short film looks at the Vietnamese immigrants in California who take dance lessons as a way to bring happiness to their lives. Particularly inspiring is “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)” from the U.K. It describes a Kabul program that combines school and skateboarding for girls as a way to bring them a sense of freedom in a restrictive culture. Viewers can email the reviewer their choices for the Oscar-nominated shorts at cbrooksrobards@gmail.com.

Information and tickets for the Oscar shorts are available, as well as other films showing at the Film Center, at mvfilmsociety.com. Films playing at Entertainment Cinemas in Edgartown are listed at Edgartown Cinemas/locations/Edgartown.com.