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Review: Oscar shorts sure to shock and stir emotions

Published February 16, 2012 4:32 pm

Review • From the impact of war to a vicious form of abuse in Pakistan, important issues come to light.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The five nominees for this year's Academy Award for Best Documentary Short will give audiences a shocking look at world events as well as important issues at home. They're packaged together for the price of one ticket.

"The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" • Beginning with eye-opening home footage of enormous waves crushing through a small Japanese town on March 11, 2011, the short then moves through heartbreaking testimonies of survival and loss.

But filmmakers then focus on the cherry blossoms that began to emerge in the affected areas after the natural disaster, a symbol of hope and renewal. It's a simultaneously sad and hopeful look at the destructive power of nature and the surviving human spirit.

"Saving Face" • Most people probably don't know this, but there's a tragic epidemic of violence occurring in Pakistan: Angry men punish their disobedient wives by throwing battery acid in their faces.

This 40-minute documentary — which has been picked up by HBO — chronicles this unthinkable act by examining the lives of two women who have been badly burned, as well as the Pakistani plastic surgeon who works to help them.

"Saving Face" is hard to watch but difficult to ignore as it unveils a puzzling and vicious act that victimizes about 100 women every year in the country.

"Incident in New Baghdad" • Ethan McCord, a former soldier in Iraq, tells the story of his involvement in a July 2007 incident in which U.S. Apache helicopters opened fire on suspected insurgents, also injuring two children in a van.

McCord wasn't part of the shooting but was working on the cleanup afterward and details the horrifying massacre. He also talks about the impact the war and that incident had on his life after he came home and how he became a spokesman against U.S. involvement in the conflict.

By focusing on just one event, "Incident in New Baghdad" in 20 minutes effectively reminds us why war always was, and continues to be, hell.

"Barber of Birmingham" • Eighty-five-year-old James Armstrong was a barber and "foot soldier" in the civil-rights movement who witnessed the evolution of African Americans' struggle to vote, and all the events that led up to the 2009 swearing-in of America's first black president.

It's an uplifting story as witnessed through the eyes of one of many who fought for liberty, not from a pulpit or stage, but from the streets.

"God Is the Bigger Elvis." • Not pre-screened for critics, this short follows Dolores Hart, a former actress who starred in the 1960 film "Where the Boys Are" as well as opposite Elvis Presley in 1958's "King Creole," before turning her back on her Hollywood life to become a Benedictine nun.

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The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2012 — Documentary

This year's band of Oscar nominees depict the horrifying — and hopeful ends — sides of humanity.

Where • Tower Theatre

When • Friday, Feb. 17

Rating • Not rated, but probable R

Running time • 130 minutes