This year's Oscar-nominated short documentaries serve up potent slices of life that can be a little difficult to swallow because of the lumps they put in your throat.
Despite their brief runtimes — each one clocks in at 40 minutes or less — the films earn their Academy Award honors by powerfully pairing real faces and true stories with weighty social issues.
As part of its Oscar Tune Up, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art is showing all five nominated short documentaries at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at its Noble Theater, 415 Couch Drive. For more information, go to www.okcmoa.com/see/films.
My favorite of the nominees, the biographical short “Inocente,” delves into homelessness and touches on illegal immigration as it chronicles the toils and triumphs of the title character, a 15-year-old aspiring artist from San Diego, Calif. Her undocumented, fatherless family bounces from various homeless shelters and cheap apartments as her mother struggles to provide for Inocente and her two younger brothers.
Through a nonprofit program called A Reason to Survive — or ARTS — Inocente is given a chance to develop a charming, self-confident personality along with a vibrant, vividly hued painting style. As she creates 30 new pieces in preparation for her first solo exhibition, the teen copes with her fractured relationship with her mother, the aftermath of abuse suffered at the hands of her now-deported father and, above all, her longing for a real home.
Directed by previous Oscar nominees Sean Fine and Andrea Nix (2007's feature documentary “War Dance”), “Inocente” is a poignant testament to the healing strength of the arts.
“Redemption” subtly touches on a variety of hot-button issues as it follows several New York City “canners”: men, women and sometimes their children who dig through trash cans from Brooklyn's Crown Heights to Manhattan's Gramercy Park to collect empty bottles and cans to redeem for 5 cents apiece. Since the tough economy has left jobs in short supply, the canners include a homeless Vietnam War veteran who used to make his wage as a short-order cook, a retired IBM programmer supplementing her Social Security check and several undocumented workers trying to carve out better lives for themselves and often for their children.