Friday, February 25, 2011

Cause Docs: The 2011 Oscar Nominees

Ken Brecher, the former executive director of the Sundance Institute and an anthropologist by training, told those attending the 2009 Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship that "video is the medium of the digital age." At that conference, he famously urged social entrepreneurs and cause activists to use film, YouTube and short video "to bring order from chaos and in doing so, fulfill the highest human function -- not as a visionary but with a strong sense of reality."

Five short "cause" films have been nominated for an Oscar this year; each offers a raw glimpse of contemporary life around the globe. Nominated films include the story of a Pacific Island threatened by climate change -- one of the first films about climate change refugees. Also up for an award Sunday night: a film that profiles a young cheerleader-turned-machine gunner in Iraq; another that tells the story of a wedding disrupted by a suicide bomber; a profile of Chinese villagers who fight back against the chemical company that is polluting the local water supply, and a short film about an extraordinary school in Tel Aviv that brings together students from 48 countries.

Here's a closer look at all of them:

Sun Come Up is the story of how the residents of Papua New Guinea's Carteret Islands are being forced by climate change to find a new home. Here's the trailer:

Killing in the Name explores the origins of terrorism and measures its impact on daily life. The film follows Ashraf Al-Khaled, whose wedding was the target of a suicide bomber that killed his father and 26 other family members. Here's the trailer:

Here's the podcast interview with the filmmaker, Jed Rothstein, on The TakeAway, broadcast February 22, 2011, on WNYC Radio:

Poster Girl is about one girl's journey from cheerleader to wounded veteran; click here for a recent Huffington Post interview with filmmaker Sara Nesson. Nesson met Sgt. Robynn Murray at a Combat Paper Project workshop on Martha's Vineyard, then profiled Murray's struggle to fit back into society post-Iraq. Here's the trailer, below:

Strangers No More is a short film about a school in Tel Aviv where children from 48 different countries and diverse backgrounds come to learn. Here's the trailer:

The Warriors of Quigang is another short doc nominee for the Oscar, about a Chinese village that fights back against the pesticide plant that has polluted the local water supply. Click here to watch the trailer.

What do you think of these films? Can you name a few that also should have been nominated? Let us hear from you.

-- Marcia Stepanek

(Photo, top: Sergeant Robynn Murray, the subject of
Poster Girl)

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Anonymous Cal said...

Thanks for the interesting peaks--wish it were easier to see these all !

February 26, 2011 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger Marcia Stepanek said...

Thanks for your comment.

However, if you're in NYC, all of the shorts are playing today and tomorrow at the IFC Center in Greenwich village.

Here's the link:

February 26, 2011 at 12:52 PM  
Anonymous Beth Lenahan said...

Thanks for all these trailers. They all pull you deeply into stories that are beyond imagining. But they also inspire through personal and collective heroism. A great lesson in how powerful personal stories, expressions and music can be in conveying messages quickly. I'm looking forward to seeing them full-length in the theater or on DVD.

February 27, 2011 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Marcia Stepanek said...

Thanks, Beth! Stories-as-metaphor provide powerful messages, indeed. Thanks for reading!

February 27, 2011 at 3:05 PM  

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