Monday, February 27, 2012

Cause Docs: The 2012 Oscars

Five short "cause" documentary films were nominated for an Oscar this year. Taking home the prize last night was Saving Face, a disturbing portrait of violence against women in Pakistan. Though the short film won top honors, each of the documentary shorts nominated for an Oscar this year in the category of Best Documentary Short Subject offer powerful, raw glimpses of contemporary life around the globe.

Here's a closer look at each of the films in the category, including the winner:

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, who made Saving Face with American director Daniel Junge, profiles Mohammad Jawad, a Pakistani-born plastic surgeon in London who helps women disfigured by men who have thrown acid in their faces, to punish them for defying their wishes. According to The Acid Survivors Foundation, about 150 women are viciously attacked each year by men who can obtain acid used in the local cotton industry. Jawad now works with charity aid groups, such as Islamic Help, to rebuild the faces of women like Zakia, who the film follows. Zakia lost an eye and half of her nose after she asked her husband for a divorce. "He wanted her to spend the rest of her life within the four walls of her home and wanted her to regret the decision to divorce him," Chinoy told Radio Liberty in a January interview about the film. Saving Face is scheduled to air in full on HBO on March 8th. Here's the trailer:

The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement by Bay Area photographer Robin Fryday and veteran documentary producer Gail Dolgin, profiles 85-year-old James Armstrong, a barber and self-described "foot soldier" in the nation's civil rights movement since the mid-1950s. The film captures the impact of President Obama's 2008 election to the White House on aging civil rights activists who fought for the right to vote. Since 1955, Armstrong's barbershop in Birmingham, Alabama, has been a hub for haircuts and civil rights. Armstrong, an Army veteran whose two sons were the first to integrate an all-white elementary school, has devoted his life to the dream of civil rights for all. Here's the trailer:

God is the Bigger Elvis by Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson is a profile of actress Delores Hart, who abandoned a film career at the age of 23 to become a Benedictine nun. Hart co-starred with Elvis Presley in the 1957 Parmount movie, Loving You, giving Elvis his first on-screen kiss, and starred in nine other movies before deciding to join a convent. [Hart's photo is above.]

Incident in New Baghdad is a film by New York-based filmmaker James Spione that offers an insider's look of the famous July 12, 2007, Baghdad airstrike that killed two Reuters journalists and a dozen other mostly unarmed individuals in a suburb of Baghdad during one of the most violent and chaotic periods of the Iraq war. The Morninglight Films production showcases former Bravo Company member Ethan McCord and his recollection of what he saw when he arrived at the scene of the attack to investigate. The film also focuses on footage released a year ago by WikiLeaks from a gunsight camera of an Apache helicopter engaged in the incident. Here's the trailer:

In The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen talk with survivors of last year's horrific Japanese tsunami and explore their courage and resolve to rebuild as cherry blossom season begins again.

What do you think of the nominees and the Oscar winner? Let us hear from you.

--Marcia Stepanek

(Photo, top, of Delores Hart on Flickr)

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