Night Ride (Dir. Eirik Tveiten)
TW: assault, hate speech, discrimination
While there’s certainly a way to depict transphobia onscreen in a way that’s meaningful, using it to develop a CIS-gender character’s arc is never appropriate. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Eirik Tveiten’s Norweigan short film Night Ride does.
When a little person named Ebba is told that she must wait thirty minutes in the cold to board the tram, she decides to take matters into her own hands and force her way on while the driver is on his break. She ends up driving the tram herself and begins picking up passengers. (Apparently, a tram is not very difficult to drive, or to steal.) However, trouble starts when a man on the train begins hitting on a woman passenger but then is enraged when he realizes that she is a trans woman.
The resulting long scene, in which Ebba tries to attempt to block out what is occurring behind her and is met with slurs when she attempts to get the men to settle down, is excruciating to watch. It’s an extended front row seat to a trans woman having hate speech and threats thrown at her, and nearly facing assault. Eventually, Ebba puts a stop to the discrimination before it can go further – and the message of the short film seems to be the importance of standing up when you see someone being treated unjustly.
However, the events of the film seem entirely created to propel Ebba’s character arc, not Ariel’s own. Using a trans person’s pain to put develop another character or put forth a cliché message about standing up to bullies feels thoughtless at best. I’ve no doubt that Tveiten had good intentions, but this is one film that the Oscars should have left alone.
An Irish Goodbye (Dir. Ross White and Tom Berkeley)
An Irish Goodbye centers around two brothers (played by Seamus O’Hara and James Martin) whose mother suddenly passed away. They attempt to finish off her list of things she wished to do before she died.
There’s an infectious charm that is very apparent throughout the entire short film. For the entirety of the film’s 23 minute runtime, there’s non-stop Irish dark humor that never offsets the film’s tenderness that I think is not only brought to the screen thanks to the sharp writing but the believable brotherly bond that O’Hara and Martin pull off excellently. However, I didn’t feel like the film touched on anything truly deep. I don’t know if the intent was to be deeper than it is, but by the time the film ended, I didn’t feel anything grand.
Still, An Irish Goodbye is a breezy and tender short film that’ll entertain and delight most.
Le Pupille (Dir. Alice Rohrwacher)
Le Pupille tells the story of a young Catholic schoolgirl named Serafina, who is ostracized by her classmates and teachers. As the school prepares for the annual Nativity play, the school children are taught lessons in generosity, acceptance, and challenging authority.
This short film’s nomination is a step for Disney+ as it stands as the first short film distributed by the platform to be nominated for an Academy Award. It is also a non-animated short film, which strays from the Disney norm. The film itself has a certain charm about it that is hard to describe. The cinematography (shot in Super 16 and 35 mm format) gives off the aura of a vintage European film from the 1960s.
The cast, made up primarily of young children, is adorable and charming, with Melissa Falasconi, who plays the lead role of Serafina, giving a particularly endearing performance. Serafina is a kind-hearted child who is simply misunderstood by her peers and teachers, and watching her develop into a source of light for her fellow classmates is a joy to see.
While Le Pupille is nothing groundbreaking, there is a level of charm to its simplicity that translates well on screen. Its heartfelt message is pertinent to the harsh realities of the modern world, and its short runtime makes it an easy watch.
Ivalu (Dir. Anders Walter and Pipaluk K. Jørgensen)
Ivalu takes place in Greenland and focuses on a girl named Pipaluk who ventures off to find her sister, Ivalu, who has gone missing.
The first thing that caught my attention was just how beautiful this movie looks. Despite how dire the situation is, the landscapes, the environment, and even the way the shadows are reflected are striking to look at. The film is almost entirely told through poetic imagery and symbolism. Most notable of the imagery used to reflect Pipaluk’s journey is the use of a bird following her, and once the bird’s reasoning for following her is revealed, it is certainly for an emotional payoff.
I don’t think the movie has anything more to say other than the fact that what’s happening is tragic. There are revelations that made the movie feel like mystery porn, which despite the film’s 16-minute runtime, makes it a little tricky to recommend people watch it, if not for the beautiful cinematography. So while I can’t in good conscience say that Ivalu is a bad movie, it’s not one that I’d recommend viewing.
The Red Suitcase (Dir. Cyrus Neshvad)
The Red Suitcase begins with ambiguity as we see a young girl exit her flight. She’s clearly feeling unsettled, but we as an audience aren’t sure why yet. It’s not long before it’s revealed that this woman is there to marry an older man she’s never met before and the rest of the film sees her trying to evade this fate, as we see the man try and hunt her down in a tense cat-and-mouse like film.
Of the Live Action Short Nominations, this was far and away my favorite one. Right from the get-go, director Cyrus Neshvad and actress Nawelle Ewad do a striking job of making it very clear that something is wrong. Once the conflict reveals itself, the film winds up being a very effective thriller as we see this girl desperately trying to avoid this life that was thrust upon her as the man she’s forced to marry is trying like hell to find her.
It’s a clear condemnation of arranged marriage and the way women in certain cultures are forced into situations and livelihoods despite their wishes. By the end of the film, it offers little to no easy solutions or answers.