Review: Powerful Short Documentary Nominees a Close Call at this Year’s Oscars

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Young boy in Karama Has No Walls.

Young boy in Karama Has No Walls.

The nominees for Best Documentary Short for the 2014 Oscars include The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, Karama Has No Walls, Facing Fear, Cavedigger, and Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall.

The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life
(Canada/USA/UK, Directed by Malcolm Clarke and Nicholas Reed, 38mins.)
(4 Stars)
Exceptional documentary based on the life of the world’s oldest pianist, 109-year-old Alice Herz Sommer, who also happens to be the oldest Holocaust survivor. This feature offers a refreshing perspective about survival under the Third Reich, from a musician’s perspective. Powerful testimonies by Sommer, as well as two of her best friends (also Holocaust survivors,) highlight this inspirational story about survival and acceptance.

Karama Has No Walls
(UAE/UK/Yemen, Directed by Sara Ishaq, 28mins)
(3 1/2 Stars)
Powerful depiction of the tragic events that took place at The Friday of Karama on March 18, 2011, and the social movement it catalyzed. This documentary is presented from the perspective of two cameramen who eye-witnessed the event, and it provides great insight to how people from different walks of life were able to unite for change. Be advised, the film contains graphic content.

Facing Fear
(USA, Directed by Jason Cohen, 24mins.)
(3 Stars)
25 years ago, a 13-year-old Matthew Boger was brutally beaten by a group of Neo-Nazis for being gay. This documentary aims to explore how Boder reacts to a chance encounter with one of its attackers. This short was captivating, but did leave a bit to be desired, and  would have probably benefited with an extra 10 minutes of exploring this very complex subject.

(USA, Directed by Jeffrey Karoff, 39mins.)
(3 1/2 Stars)
Intriguing story about New Mexico artist Ra Paulette and the spectacular caves he carves out of sandstone. This documentary reveals how his artistic vision impacts his personal and professional lives. If for nothing else, this short is a must-watch because it features truly magnificent art in a place very unexpected for many, and a thought-provoking insight into an artist’s life.

The short Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall was not available for review at the time of publication.

The 2014 Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films are now playing in select theaters. For more information, visit

Films are rated on a scale of 5 stars (must-see), 4 stars (exceptional), 3 stars (solid), 2 stars (average) and 1 star (unworthy).

Edison Millan is a Senior Staff Reporter for Living Out Loud - LA, covering lifestyle and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter: @edison_millan
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