Best Documentary Short is a frustrating category for me. Like this year's foreign film nominees, these films have not been available to the average viewer who can't make it to the myriad film festivals (Nayana's world tour is still several years away). Therefore, you should maybe keep in mind while reading this that I haven't seen any of these films.
The 2007 nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject are as follows:
This is the story of Laurel Hester, a lesbian New Jersey police officer. The 23-year veteran of the Ocean County prosecutor's office contracted an aggressive form of lung cancer, which metastasized and spread to her brain. She spent her last months petitioning her county's board of freeholders to allow her pension to be transferred to her registered domestic partner upon her death (who otherwise would not have been able to stay in their home). If the trailer is any indication, it's a moving, heartbreaking piece. However, while I'm all for GLBT rights, this one frankly looks like a big fat bummer.
In Colombia, apparently they go crazy for beauty pageants; the national obsession even spills over to the.... prison system? Yep, each cellblock at El Buen Pastor prison gets to nominate their own contestant for the prison's yearly beauty pageant. The women are murderers, armed robbers, you name it... but they're also nationally televised, and critiqued by celebrity judges. According to the Sundance website (it was featured at the Park City, Utah film festival this year), it has moments of humor, as well as sadness. Oh, what the heck. It looks like fun to me.
3. Salim Baba
This is the story of Salim, a 55-year-old man in Kolkata (most of us remember "Calcutta"), India, who supports his wife and five children in a unique way. He splices together discarded scraps of film from movie theaters, as well as trailers and other bits of movies, and shows them on an ancient hand-cranked projector which he inherited from his father. Salim entertains the children of his neighborhood, and apparently makes a living at it; he hopes to leave the projector to his children so that they, too, will have a viable livelihood. There has been a bit of controversy with regard to this particular film: as reported by Vanity Fair, a reporter from a major Indian newspaper claims that Salim, the subject of the film, was misled and underpaid. The charges seem to be without merit, and Salim himself has retracted some of his claims, but the controversy may make Oscar a bit gun-shy with this one.
4. Sari's Mother
One more documentary about Iraq. Yes, Iraq is a disaster; yes, we screwed up; yes, people are suffering; yes, people are dying. But I (and I suspect the Academy) am just so dang tired of thinking about it. All right, with that out of the way: this short focuses on a ten-year-old boy named Sari who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion. His mother stubbornly, hopefully, and smilingly cares for him and tries to get him treatment, though the healthcare system over there is even more screwed up than our own. *sigh* I suppose I'll watch it. It looks important. But it looks exhausting, too.
Documentaries (especially in our times) so often seem to be downers, don't they? I understand why that is, and I also understand how important documentaries are, especially in rough times like these.... but just because I've got so much outrage fatigue, I'm going for the nominee that looks halfway lighthearted: La Corona. We'll see if the Academy agrees with me.