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Originally published Thursday, February 20, 2014 at 3:04 PM

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‘Oscar Shorts 2014’: 5 documentaries in 2 parts

Seattle audiences can get a look at the five, 2014 Short Subject nominees beginning Friday at Sundance Cinema. The films are divided between two programs requiring separate admissions.


Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review 4 stars  

‘Oscar Shorts 2014: Documentaries,’ Program A: 95 minutes. Program B: 85 minutes. Not rated, mature audiences. Sundance Cinemas.

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The extent to which documentaries command any attention during Oscar season is typically reserved for feature-length nominees.

But the Documentary Short Subject category usually has its share of powerful, expertly produced nonfiction fare, too. This year’s crop of short docs in Academy Award competition is no exception.

Seattle audiences can get a look at the five 2014 Short Subject nominees beginning Friday at Sundance Cinema. The films are divided between two programs requiring separate admissions.

Documentary Program A:

Malcolm Clarke’s ennobling “The Lady In No. 6” is the true story of 110-year-old Alice Herz-Sommer, the oldest living Holocaust survivor and a concert pianist whose childhood recollections in Prague include regular visits from Franz Kafka.

Between living-room performances of Chopin and Beethoven, Herz-Sommer relates terrible days of Nazi occupation and surviving a concentration camp. Yet her unflagging optimism, then as now, is a marvel to behold.

Sara Ishaq’s “Karama Has No Walls” is an agonizing account of 2011 peaceful demonstrations in Yemen’s capital that were officially met with bullets. The bloody loss of idealistic young men is keenly felt through their families. But what is extraordinary is that all the stunning footage of violence was shot by dedicated amateurs throwing themselves into harm’s way.

Jason Cohen’s jaw-dropping “Facing Fear” concerns two men — one a former, brutal skinhead; the other a one-time street kid — brought together twice by a shared destiny, the first time in an urban atrocity, the second through forgiveness.

Program B:

Jeffrey Karoff’s “Cave Digger” is a somewhat bizarre tale of a New Mexico sandstone sculptor who turns caves into underground cathedrals of personal expression. Trouble is, he has a way of wearing out his welcome with patrons who commission his environment-altering work.

Edgar Barens’ “Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall,” is a remarkable peek inside a hospice for dying prisoners at a maximum-security prison. The titular Hall is a war hero-turned-murderer whose final hours are met with compassion and comfort from fellow inmates. (The film also premieres March 31 on HBO.)

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@gmail.com



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