Since 2001, more active and former armed services Americans committed suicide than died on the battlefield. On average 22 commit suicide every month. See the set of five Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts just to see “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1.”
You’ve seen soldier after soldier die and kill and suffer acts of war on screen. You haven’t seen the only veteran crisis center in the country field call after wrenching, life-threatened call.
On one, a crisis specialist senses that a father of five may do something rash that very moment. “You need to take care of your kids; you’re the one they look to…. Do you know what it means to them that you’re a marine?” The staff deftly work calls to the calmest, safest place they can. Their commitment and responsibility makes you shiver.
Whether a straight “support our troops” sentiment or a disposition to “support our troops by putting way way fewer service people into such a lingering nightmare factory,” this film is Oscar golden.
“Joanna” seems the only other nominated documentary short with any chance at Oscar but only if the voters need to honor a gentler dose of facing death. A mom with cancer spends as much life affirming time with her son as she can. Recording this time and other snippets makes for a sensitive, loving multimedia diary.
“Our Curse” -- another affecting video diary but less award-tingly -- points the camera at another family of three. The afflicted infant struggles to survive, perhaps to head toward relative normalcy. The parents bare and bear the struggle heavily but constructively.
Two other nominees weigh down this set of documentary shorts, lacking sufficiently satisfying experiences. “The Reaper” tries to put an engaging set of eyes on stockyard slaughter and butchering. “White Earth” poses a fresh and timely but draggy perspective, selecting a few kids’ eyes to reflect the fracking boom in North Dakota.
It’s no lighthearted night at the movies. Still, with a good film, a better film, and an especially best film in this Oscar nominated set of five, it’s an untypical and fairly compelling movie-going draw.