Academy Announces Documentary Short Finalists

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences have announced that the Best Documentary Short Subject category has been narrowed down to eight contenders. The eight films will be further narrowed to three or five when the Academy announces their nominations on Tuesday, January 25th, 2011. I have found images or trailers, synopses, and websites for almost every film on the list, so check it out and let me know your thoughts!

Born Sweet directed by Cynthia Wade
Cynthia Wade Productions

SYNOPSIS: A boy comes of age in rural Cambodia while struggling with arsenic poisoning and dreaming of becoming a karaoke star.

Killing in the Name directed by Jed Rothstein
Moxie Firecracker Films
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SYNOPSIS: Four years ago, Ashraf Al-Khaled and his bride were celebrating what was supposed to be the happiest day of their lives, when an Al-Qaeda suicide bomber walked into their wedding and blew himself up, killing both of their fathers in front of their eyes. The couple lost 27 members of their family that day.  KILLING IN THE NAME follows Ashraf in his quest to speak with victims and perpetrators, and expose the true costs of terrorism. From a jihadi recruiter for Al-Qaeda, the group responsible for bombing his wedding, to an Islamic militant behind one of the world’s worst terrorist attacks, to a madrassa filled with young boys ready to fulfill the duty of jihad, Ashraf takes us on a harrowing journey around the world to see if one man can speak truth to terror, and begin to turn the global tide. At times chilling and moving, terrifying and hopeful, KILLING IN THE NAME is a far-reaching and necessary first step in tackling what is arguably the most pressing issue of our age. As Ashraf puts it, “If we can’t even talk about it, this terror will never end.”

Living for 32 directed by Kevin Breslin
Cuomo Cole Productions

SYNOPSIS: Living for 32 is the inspirational story of Colin Goddard, a survivor of the tragic gun shooting massacre which occurred on the Virginia Tech campus, April 16th, 2007. The winning combination of Colin’s passion, charisma and optimism has commanded the attention of the American public and media since the devastating incident which left 32 dead and 17 injured. In Living for 32, Colin shares an intimate account of terror he and his classmates endured and the courageous journey of renewal and hope he chose to pursue.

[Image: IFC Center]

One Thousand Pictures: RFK’s Last Journey directed by Keith Alexander
Lichen Films

No other information is available.

Poster Girl directed by Sara Nesson
Portrayal Films

SYNOPSIS: Apple pie cheerleader turned tough-as-nails machine gunner in the Iraq War, Sgt. Robynn Murray comes home to face a new kind of battle she never anticipated.

No images or video available.

Strangers No More directed by Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
Simon & Goodman Picture Company

SYNOPSIS: In the heart of Tel Aviv, there is an exceptional school where children from forty-eight different countries and diverse backgrounds come together to learn. Many of the students arrive at Bialik-Rogozin School fleeing poverty, political adversity and even genocide. Here, no child is a stranger. The film follows several students’ struggle to acclimate to life in a new land while slowly opening up to share their stories of hardship and tragedy.

Sun Come Up directed by Jennifer Redfearn and Tim Metzger
Sun Come Up, LLC

SYNOPSIS: Sun Come Up follows the relocation of some of the world’s first environmental refugees, the Carteret Islanders – a community living on a remote island chain in the South Pacific Ocean. When rising seas threaten their survival, the islanders face a painful decision: they must leave their beloved land in search of a new place to call home. The film follows relocation leader, Ursula Rakova, and a group of young islanders led by Nick Hakata as they search for land in war-torn Bougainville, an autonomous region of Papua New Guinea 50 miles across the open ocean. But many Bougainvilleans remain traumatized by the “Crisis” as the civil war is known locally. Nick Hakata and his fellow islanders meet a few sympathetic locals, but will the Bougainville communities welcome them to move there?

The Warriors of Qiugang directed by Ruby Yang
Thomas Lennon film, Inc.

SYNOPSIS: Villagers in central China take on a chemical company that is poisoning their land and water. For three years they fight to transform their environment and as they do, they find themselves transformed as well.

Check out the official websites of the above films for showtimes near you. The 83rd Academy Award nominations will be announced on Tuesday, January 25, 2011 and the ceremony will be on Sunday, February 27, 2011.

Which of these documentaries looks/sounds the most intriguing to you?

[Source: indieWIRE]

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    It is hard to imagine the challenge facing a school that serves over 800 children from forty-eight countries, children who’ve known wars and strife, who saw their parents killed in front of their eyes, or children who had walked the desert, or who come to school hungry and whose parents live under the radar screen of the authorities as foreign workers fearful of being caught and deported.
    Yet Bialik-Rogozin school Tel-Aviv, Israel not only educates them, but gives them love, compassion, and hope. In the open and accepting environment created by an outstanding principal Karen Tal and a team of exceptional teachers, students support one another, play together and chat in the new common language, Hebrew. Racial and color divides drop completely in a place where each child is “different” yet none is made to feel anything less than unique. Each child learns to put his or her hauntingly traumatic past behind, adjust to the present, and look to the future. Unlike other public schools in the city that close at 1 or 2 PM, Bialik-Rogozin is open late, until these children’s parents are back from work. Furthermore, as in the case of Johannes, a war refugee who speaks only Tigrit, freedom acquires a new meaning when the boy is taken to the doctor where he is fitted with glasses, and his teacher gives him bicycles so he can ride around the neighborhood and connect with his new world. At a home visit, when the teacher learns of the father’s visa problems, the school takes on the task of navigating the bureaucratic maze for the family. It is heart-warming to see that merely a few months after Johannes’s arrival, he is an eager and engaged student who now translates and helps a new Tigrit-speaking child find his way around the school.
    And Esther, whose mother was killed in South Africa (yet who still believes that she will return,) is surprised when her new white-skinned friends admire her tightly braided hair, hug her, and seek her friendship. Soon, the articulate girl, now clothed and fed by the school, is helped to accept the finality of her mother’s death, flourishes and becomes a leader.
    Nothing testifies to the success of the school as when the charming and determined Mohammed, who arrived from Darfur at age sixteen, not only catches up on a lifetime of lack of schooling, but upon graduation plans to return to his village and open a school there.
    The film avoids as the underlining political questions about a vulnerable country opening its borders to refugees or a public school that supports illegal immigrants by integrating their children into the new culture. Instead, the film teaches the most humane lesson as it demonstrates how far compassion, goodwill, and enormous patience can help change the life of children from utter despair to a world of possibilities offered by a sense of self, security and education.
    It is easy to draw from the cliché of superlatives when describing an environment in which ethnic definitions and cultural differences—that all too often breed hatred—simply melt and fall away. Even the word “tolerance” is too trivial for the place that Lin Arison, the philanthropist who financed the documentary, calls “a miracle.” The tight throat and tear-filled eyes of the audience provide a better sense of the emotional power of the film.
    And if “Strangers No More” fails to show Israel’s detractors her true face, then they ought to turn their critical eyes toward themselves.

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