Oscar-nominated short documentaries screening at the Carolina


  • courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
  • Karama Has No Walls
The Carolina Theatre in Durham is offering area film enthusiasts the opportunity to actually know what they’re talking about when the winner for Best Documentary Short is announced at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. Broken into two programs, the nominated films offer stunning subjects, each inspiring in its own way. (For reviews of the the live-action and animated nominees, click here.)

Program A contains three films, kicking off with Facing Fear. Matthew Boger was a young gay teen hustling on the streets of Los Angeles 25 years ago when he was the victim of a horrible hate crime. By chance, he meets the main perpetrator decades later, and the two discuss the motivating factors that led to that fateful night. This is truly one of the great documentaries of 2013.

The second film on the program is Karama Has No Walls. In the February of 2011, citizens in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a assemble peacefully to call for an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year reign. They’re met by a security force armed with machine guns, and violence quickly breaks out. The film is narrated, in part, by the two young cameramen who manage to capture the footage, somehow filming the chaos for posterity while dodging sniper fire. It’s a harrowing piece of filmmaking.

Program A wraps up with The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, the story of Alice Herz-Sommer, the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor at 109 years old. Recounting her ordeal in the concentration camps, Herz-Sommer is sometimes more interested in telling us about her love for music than her tales of life behind the fences. If it wasn’t for the subject’s age, this would be a story we’ve heard told better many times before.

Program B features only two films due to the running length of the first entry, Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall. Hall, once a respected WWII hero, now serves a life sentence for murder in the Iowa State Penitentiary. The film chronicles the final days of his life as he slowly succumbs to myriad ailments. Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. prison population is elderly, and this is an astonishing look behind bars at the lonely lives those folks lead.

The second chapter in Program B is Cavedigger. Ra Paulette has been excavating caves in New Mexico for 25 years, and this film shows the struggles he faces in his life’s work as well as the beauty he will leave behind one day. Filmed, at times, as if it were a failed pilot for a basic cable reality show, this is the weakest entry of the five.

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