The LAMB Devours the Oscars 2020 – Best Documentary Short Subject

by Rob · January 27, 2020 · LAMB Devours the Oscars, Periodic Features · No Comments

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, Aaron Neuwirth, The Code is Zeek is here to look at the nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject.

Thanks Aaron!

Short Subject

It’s always exciting to watch the short films up for Oscars at the Academy Awards, as it ideally shows some of the best and most ambitious efforts from a different set of filmmakers. I put together my thoughts on all of the Oscar-nominated documentary short films, as well as my pick for what I feel should win.


In the Absense

Synopsis: Documents the sinking of a South Korean Ferry. As a result of the ineptitude of the first response to the emerging situation, hundreds of people, mostly children lost their lives

The documentary shorts can often be tough to sit through, as the examination of societal problems or troubling events is important yet depressing. Here’s a situation I may heard about in a headline when it occurred years ago, but the details are quite troubling. The best technique in this film is how it juxtaposes the actual phone calls of officials scrambling to make a plan with footage of an already sunken ferry. Seeing what has happened since is fitting as far as taking on the Korean political regime, but the sense of justice still feels absent. That’s not a knock on the doc, as it’s merely presenting what’s taken place. As a whole, there’s a well-made look at a dire situation.


Learning To Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re A Girl)

Synopsis: Learning To Skateboard In A Warzone (If You’re A Girl) is the story of young Afghan girls learning to read, write-and skateboard-in Kabul.

This documentary fortunately falls on the uplifting side. Following a prologue re-explaining how women continue to face very harsh treatment in various societies around the globe, but particularly in parts of the Middle East, we learn about those trying to make a difference in Afghanistan. There’s a real sense of joy that comes from hearing about teachers working to nurture confidence and courage in their students, especially by way of teaching these young kids to skateboard. Given the awful things than can happen to people, young girls included, in these 


Life Overtakes Me

Synopsis: In the grip of trauma, hundreds of refugee children in Sweden withdraw from life’s uncertainties into a coma-like illness called Resignation Syndrome.

Perhaps the most challenging of the short documentaries, as it has few answers for what is going on. Kids falling into coma-like state is a fairly unbearable thing to worry about, only made worse by watching parents with no understanding of what’s going on with their children. Is it something physical? Psychological? A combination of both? The best that can be said is how trauma stemming from the areas these refugees came from is a major factor, only for the parents to feel a massive sense of guilt for not being able to protect their kids, despite doing all they could to remove them from their unstable birthplaces. Getting them by is a sense of hope, as we watch multiple families all deal with the same issue, with only some managing to get through this alarming situation.


St. Louis Superman

Synopsis: Bruce Franks Jr. is a 34-year-old battle rapper, Ferguson activist and state representative from St. Louis, Missouri. Known as Superman to his constituents, he is a political figure the likes of which you’ve never seen – full of contradictions and deep insights, who has overcome unspeakable loss to become one of the most exciting and unapologetic young leaders in the country.

This is the sort of film that effectively shows just how useful making a stand, exercising a right to protest, and creating awareness can actually lead to positive change. Yes, people can be loud in order to get attention, but as this doc shows, Bruce Franks Jr. went from a rapping activist to a man who put in the work to pass a bill that could have a serious effect on his community. The strength of this doc comes from how complete it feels it letting us in on what he’s gone through, what he’s fighting for, and what kinds of challenges he’s personally faced in doing so. While there’s a bittersweet feeling that arrives at the end of this short feature, it leaves an impact in seeing just what can be accomplished, even when times are difficult.


Walk Run Cha-Cha

Synopsis: Paul and Millie Cao lost their youth to the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Forty years later, they have become successful professionals in Southern California-and are rediscovering themselves on the dance floor.

Beyond being a nice and sweet story concerning a husband and wife who continue to connect through dance, Walk Run Cha-Cha has only so much to offer. The dance finale is nice to see, as the effort put into the practicing pays off, and is shot well-enough. Perhaps most interesting are the small stories shared between the Coa’s and their friends over dinner, concerning what they went through during the Vietnam Era and the aftermath, resulting in their choices to leave the country and pursue other opportunities.


If I Was Picking The Winner: St. Louis Superman stands out to me in the way it takes on a significant topic, presents a compelling lead figure who has overcome numerous obstacles, and finds a way to tell a complete story. It’s not a matter of it being specifically better than the others (these films all arrived at this point for a reason), but I found it the most affecting.


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