2016 Oscar-Nominiated Live-Action Short Films

Mendenki (Sing; Hungary; 25 minutes) — Zsófi has just transferred to a new school, and she’s excited to join the choir. She’s even more excited when she learns that the choir will be performing in an upcoming competition, and the winning group gets to travel to Sweden. Then Zsófi learns how committed her teacher is to winning the competition. It’s got a fairly predictable outcome, but it’s executed well.

Silent Nights (Demark; 30 minutes) — Kwame traveled to Denmark in the hopes of earning enough money to support his wife and three children back in Ghana, but so far he’s not doing so well. Racism is pretty rampant, and there are more people in need than resources to help them. But then he meets Inger, a volunteer at the local Salvation Army and they strike up a friendship. And then a relationship. This is another film where you can see everything coming from a mile away, but the performances are strong.

Timecode (Spain; 15 minutes) — Luna works as a security guard in a parking garage. One day, her boss calls and says that someone is claiming their car was damaged while in the garage. She reviews the camera footage and discovers that it was her co-worker, Diego. He’d accidentally kicked out the tail light in a fit of dancing while he was making his rounds. Luna covers for him, and then leaves him a note telling him to see check a particular piece of security footage. What follows is pure entertainment, without any real aspiration to be anything more than that, and I smiled all the way through it.

Ennemis Intérieurs (Enemies Within; France; 27 minutes) — An Algerian man has applied for French citizenship. When he was born, Algeria was part of France, and he’s actually lived in France all of his life, but he’d never bothered trying to become a citizen until now. But tensions are high between the French and Algerians since the rebellion, and his interview quickly turns into an interrogation. It’s the most serious of the live-action shorts and perhaps also the least predictable. If it had been edited a little tighter, or if it found a way to provide a little more context to audiences not entirely familiar with the French-Algerian tension of the 1990s, it probably would’ve been the best of the shorts.

La Femme et le TGV (The Woman and the TGV aka The Railroad Lady; Switzerland; 28 minutes) — Elise (played by Jane Birkin) lives alone, her husband dead and her son grown up and moved away. She owns a bakery, but her heart isn’t in it. The only thing she really seems to care about is the TGV, a bullet train that races past her house every morning and evening. And every morning and evening, she’s hanging out her window to greet it, Swiss flag in hand. One day, she finds a note in her yard. It’s from the train’s conductor, telling her that her welcomes are among the best parts of his day. Before long, they’re pen pals, with her sending him letters and packages through the mail, and him tossing his out the window as he speeds by. Based on a true story, this is another one without a whole lot of depth, and perhaps an unnecessary extra storyline, but that is nonetheless fun to watch.