The LAMB Devours The Oscars 2017: Best Documentary Short

by Jay Cluitt · February 15, 2017 · Featured, LAMB Devours the Oscars · 1 Comment

Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:

Today, Damien Riley from Riley on Film and Talking Stars is here to look at the nominees for Best Documentary Short.

This year’s short film documentary nominees are all excellent, however they aren’t really “feel good” films but they use the documentary short genre to deliver important and powerful information of our time. Recurrent themes like the plight of refugees and the Holocaust abound. This is great news to me because I believe in these causes and movies are a powerful medium to broadcast them. I rate this type of film by how captivating the presentation is, and my how captivating they can be! Since the Oscar should go to the film as an art form, the topic is actually secondary.


Currently streaming on Netflix. This difficult short film takes the viewer into the real ER and hospital beds of the critically ill. Whether it’s cancer or a disabling disorder requiring a breathing tube, we see what doctors and families face every day. I have become increasingly interested in the right to die with dignity movement. This short really makes a great case for consideration. These are real patients filmed in a real hospital setting. The interviews with their families as well as the footage of them being interviewed by doctors are all real. It is almost impossible to watch in a comfortable way but then again, impossible to turn it off.

The White Helmets

Also streaming on Netflix. The Syrian conflict is unknown to a lot of Americans. It’s relevant because Obama’s administration gave a lot of aid and assistance to the refugees. I was always a proponent of this because I hated to think people had nowhere to go except into the bombs. This film made me realize I was right to support the Syrian aid. It focuses on a group known as the White Helmets. They are a volunteer Syrian force that assists those in the bombing zones. Like Extremis this is a hard short film to watch. It’s also a great film because you can’t turn away from it, it draws you in.

Watani: My Homeland

Available on Youtube but only in German. Filmmaker Marcel Mettelsiefen spends three years following a widow in Syria as she leaves her homeland to find a better future for her children. Another heartbreaking vignette told in the short documentary format. The refugee situations all over the world seem to be important topics for short filmmakers this year.

Joe’s Violin

Available on Youtube. A 91-year-old Holocaust survivor’s violin donation during an instrument drive changes the life of a 12-year-old girl from the Bronx. In the refugee shorts, we are reminded how much we are the same to people in faraway lands. In this short film, we see the importance of connecting to history. The violin has been in circulation since the 1940’s. It made it through holocaust camps and into the thankful hands of an inner city teen. The movie follows the trek of the violin through history and one is led to imagine what it has seen of human history.

4.1 Miles

Available on Youtube. The commander of a Coast Guard ship is charged with saving the lives of thousands of refugees. While all the shorts nominated in this category are gripping, this one probably got to me the most. As the director says in an interview I watched on Youtube, “It is not easy to watch.” You witness people fighting for their lives, floating in the Greek sea. They are fleeing from places like Turkey and Afghanistan. These are women and children, there are no actors, these refugees are real people. This film is important for demonstrating what the refugees are doing and how they are dying. Can we stop this mindless suffering? If we can, we should get to doing it. Awareness is one key aspect of these films they are able to get across, even only in the space of 20 minutes or so.

What did you think of this year’s Documentary Short nominees?