This year, for example, the French Canadian feature Marguerite offers a tender look at the regrets of an aging woman who never expressed her feelings to the love of her life, another woman. You'll also find a clear-eyed look at one of childhood's horrors (insane competitiveness) in the Canadian live-action short Fauve.
Overall, though, this year's nominees seem less impressive than what I remember from previous years. Still, you'll find docs that bring new light to the insidious impact of racism (Britain's Black Sheep) and Period. End of Sentence. takes us to rural India to alert us to an issue to which we've probably never given much thought.
In seven minutes, Night at the Garden — archival footage of a pro-Nazi rally that took place in Madison Square Garden in 1939 — reminds us that dark political currents aren’t new to the American experience.
One more thing: It's important to support the makers of short films whenever possible. If you see the whole package, you're bound to be moved by something and stimulated by something and you'll be casting a vote for open-borders cinema that isn't afraid to travel new turf.
List of short films nominated for 2019 Oscars
Detainment. (Ireland) Directed by Vincent Lambe. A dramatization of the real-life story of a 1993 crime in which two Liverpool ten-year-olds were questioned about the kidnapping and murder of a two-year-old boy. The film’s re-enactments are based on police transcripts. 30 minutes. The film, by the way, has sparked controversy in Britain, particularly from the victim's mother. This New York Times story details the furor.
Fauve. (Canadian) Directed by Jeremy Comte. Two boys play a game that quickly and disastrously gets out of hand. 17 minutes.
Marguerite. (French Canadian). Directed by Marianne Farley. A lonely older woman feels the regrets of unexpressed love as she learns more about Rachel, the nurse who has become her caregiver. 19 minutes.
Mother. (Spain) Directed by Rodrigo Sorogoyen. An agitated thriller about a mother who receives a phone call from her six-year-old son telling her that he has been left alone on a beach. 19 minutes.
Skin (US). Directed by Guy Nattiv. The movie reveals the strange fate of a white-racist skinhead who indoctrinates his son in white supremacist ways. An unsettling look at a skinhead who seems to genuinely love his son. 20 minutes.
A Night at the Garden. (US) Directed by Marshall Curry. A brief, disturbing look at footage from a pro-Nazi rally held at Madison Square Garden in February of 1939. Seven minutes.
Black Sheep. (UK) Directed by Ed Perkins. An interview with Cornelius Walker and re-enacted footage reveal the torment of a young black child whose Nigerian immigrant parents moved from dangerous London to the suburbs. There, the boy encounters brutal racism and adopts a soul-threatening attitude: "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em." 27 minutes.
End Game. Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman examine the gut-wrenching issues that can torment family members when a close relative is put on palliative care. 40 minutes.
Lifeboat. (US). Director Skye Fitzgerald offers this year's entry on the horrors that accompany mass migration from North Africa to Europe. Refugees risk their lives on overcrowded boats, many drown and a few stalwart representatives of a non-profit try to save them. 34 Minutes.
Period. End of Sentence. (US) Rayka Zehtabchi's documentary exposes deep-rooted prejudice surrounding menstruation in an Indian village and efforts to help when the women create a business making sanitary napkins. 26 minutes.
Animal Behavior. (Canada) Directed by Alison Snowden and David Fine. A leech, a praying mantis, a cat, and a bird gather for group therapy in the office of a dog who happens to be a psychologist. The session is disrupted when an ape with anger-management problems arrives. 14 minutes.
Bao. (US) Director Domee Shi examines a mother's wishes when a Chinese-Canadian woman starts treating a dumpling as if it were her child. What's really going on? A metaphoric examination of mother's love in the face of increasingly independent offspring. Eight minutes.
Late Afternoon. (Ireland) Director Louise Bagnall's beautifully animated short examines the life and memories of an aging woman who seems to be suffering from dementia. 10 minutes.
One Small Step. (US/China) Andrew Chesworth and Bobby Pontillas direct a story about a Chinese American girl who aspires to be an astronaut and the single father who helps nurture her dreams. Eight minutes.
Weekends. (US) Writer/director Trevor Jimenez tells the story of a boy who shuttles between the homes of his divorced parents on weekends. 15 minutes.