“Mondays at Racine,” which showcases a Long Island salon whose feisty owners provide free services for cancer patients on the third Monday of each month, also incorporates many different names, faces and stories. But director Cynthia Wade, who already has one short documentary Oscar for 2007's “Freeheld,” fortifies her film by following two breast cancer patients home: Cambria Russell, 36, a newly diagnosed mother of two young boys, and Linda Hart, 59, who wants to stop treatment after undergoing nearly nonstop chemotherapy for 17 years.
“Open Heart” also beats more strongly because filmmaker Kief Davidson hones in on two girls — 6-year-old Angelique and 17-year-old Marie — in a group of eight Rwandan children who must travel 2,500 miles to the Sudan to undergo lifesaving heart operations at the Salam Center, the only free cardiac surgery hospital on the entire African continent.
This year's short documentary field is so robust, film fans will have difficulty deciding which one to root for when the Oscars are handed out Feb. 24.
— Brandy McDonnell