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Short Film Showcase #14: Best Live Action Short 2021

I have now been able to see all five shorts from the Best Live Action Short category for this year’s Academy Awards and honestly, I am impressed with the selection. Even with the big miss of The Human Voice, I can say that I liked every contender in this category. However, here is my official ranking of the contenders for this year’s show.

1. Two Distant Strangers

Directors: Martin Desmond Roe, Travon Free
Writer: Travon Free
Starring: Joey Bada$$, Andrew Howard, Zaria Simone

Synopsis: A man trying to get home to his dog gets stuck in a time loop that forces him to relive a deadly run-in with a cop.

A story that clearly hasn’t worked for everyone judging by the Letterboxd reviews but one that I loved. A concept that has been done over and over again, but one that I have never seen tackled in this way and a narrative that I found to be extremely effective. My favourite out of the Best Live Action Short contenders for the year.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

2. White Eye

Director: Tomer Shushan
Writer: Tomer Shushan
Starring: Daniel Gad, Dawit Tekelaeb, Reut Akkerman

Synopsis: A man finds his stolen bicycle, but now it belongs to a stranger. How much of himself will he lose to get it back?

I had no idea how this story was going to present itself when I started watching, but I was certainly in for a shock when the narrative rolled out and presented itself fully. What a strong story, and one that is well crafted across the board. For what appears to be simple filmmaking, there are some strong uses of cinematography and wonderful performances to bring this world to life. Incredibly impactful and well made.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

3. The Present

Director: Farah Nabulsi
Writers: Hind Shoufani, Farah Nabulsi
Starring: Saleh Bakri, Mariam Kanj

Synopsis: On his wedding anniversary, Yusef and his young daughter set out in the West Bank to buy his wife a gift. Between soldiers, segregated roads and checkpoints, how easy would it be to go shopping?

I know a little bit about the situation in Palestine right now, but this short film is an eye opener as to how bad it is there and the rights that have been taken away from them. This is a rough watch, but it also leaned away from going too dark which I appreciate. Definitely a worthy contender.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

4. Feeling Through

Director: Doug Roland
Writer: Doug Roland
Starring: Steven Prescod, Robert Tarango, Francisco Burgos

Synopsis: While wandering around New York, 18-year-old Tereek encounters Artie, a deaf-blind man trying to get home.

Whilst it does take a while for the short film to get going, I ended up finding Feeling Through to be really touching. A simple yet heartfelt story, the performances are strong and the film tells a story of a deafblind man, something that is sadly not touched on enough in the media. A really lovely film.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

5. The Letter Room

Director: Elvira Lind
Writer: Elvira Lind
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Alia Shawkat, Brian Petsos

Synopsis: When a corrections officer is transferred to the letter room, he soon finds himself enmeshed in a prisoner’s deeply private life.

I do think the story drifts off near the end and it doesn’t have the emotional punch that I expected, however this is still a really well crafted short film. Oscar Isaac in the lead is fantastic as always and I love the actual concept of the short and how the narrative progresses. The technical elements are sharp and the character development feels fleshed out for a 30-minute runtime. Another strong Oscar contender.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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