For the third year in a row, Crested Butte Film Festival showcases the world's best in short cinema with a program of Oscar-nominated films that take us deep into the heart of modern America and the world
The film is called DeKalb Elementary. In it, we see the busy reception area of the school's office. An African American woman answers the phone, greets visitors, and capably runs the show. A colleague of hers walks in. She asks the woman, "Have you got this?" The other woman nods affirmatively and shoos her friend out.
The new woman, the hero of the story, answers the phone and makes appointments. Then there is a lull. A disheveled, older white kid walks in, with a black backpack, and after Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, you go, "No. Not about this..." And your heart freezes or breaks, maybe cracks like ice. And sure enough the kid fumbles around in his backpack, you hear metal clinking against metal, and he pulls out a semi-automatic rifle, maybe even an AR-15, and you go, "How can I be watching this?!" Well, the sad truth is, this has become such a common occurrence in America, that it is now showing up in our films. Even our short films. Even our Oscar Nominated Short films. Such is the crisis.
DeKalb Elementary was inspired by an actual 911 call placed during a school shooting incident in Atlanta, Georgia. This harrowing, timely film kicks off the program, with a very loud bang, of this year's Oscar Nominated Short Films that play at the Center for the Arts, Thursday, March 15 at 7 pm. DeKalb is the first of five short films comprising a ninety-minute program that takes us deep into the heart of modern America and the world. These scripted, acted "Live Action" films have been deemed by Academy members as being the most noteworthy films of 2017. They are a strong collection. Following DeKalb Elementary, we are taken to rural Mississippi, 1955. And if that state and that year don't send chills up your spine, then the film My Nephew Emmett certainly will. It's a slow-burning, frightening exploration of the events leading up to the death of Emmett Till.
At this point in the program, you could probably use a little comedy, and thank goodness for Josh Lawson and his superb, mind-bending Australian film, The Eleven O'Clock. Lawson is the writer, director, and star of The Little Death, which played at the 2014 Crested Butte Film Festival, and he may just be one of the funniest, most clever filmmakers around. The set up for The Eleven O'Clock sounds like the set up for an old joke: two men walk into an office both believing they're psychiatrists. Only one is, so let the insanity begin.
The fourth film of the program is Rachel Shenton's The Silent Child, which to me, is the most complex film of the program and one that was awarded the Academy Award on last Sunday's Oscar show. Ms. Shenton, who wrote the script, plays a social worker hired by a hearing English family to help tutor their deaf four-year-old daughter, bringing her the gift of communication. That's where the problem begins.
Capping off this remarkable program of films is Watu Wote ("All of Us") a German/Kenyan co-production based on a true story about the little-known conflict between Muslims and Christians on the Kenya-Somalia border. The story takes place on a bus ride from one country to the other, and shows how the love and compassion of an individual are stronger than the often radical teachings of their religion. A poignant metaphor for these days. The film culminates with Vusa Mkhaya's haunting, beautiful melody "Watu" that takes us through the credits and ends the program on a note of the sublime and hope.
So, did the Academy get it right? Decide for yourself on Thursday, March 15th, 7 pm at the Center for the Arts.
$10 tickets sold at the door, in advance at the Center for the Arts, or online below.