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Home #Hwoodtimes The filmmakers behind this year’s compelling Oscar-nominated documentary shorts share their stories

The filmmakers behind this year’s compelling Oscar-nominated documentary shorts share their stories

By: Fritz Frauendorf


Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 3/9/2022 – Poverty, adversity, creativity, talent, and humanity are all themes that came to mind while watching these powerfully inspiring short films.

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One of the four that struck me the most was Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk’s Lead Me Home. In just forty minutes, they capture the ongoing epidemic of homelessness in Los Angeles and San Francisco on both a deeply intimate micro-scale and a disturbingly grand macro scale. From searing into the accounts of homeless victims’ abuse and cycles of hope falling back down into the darkness to the skyline of Los Angeles being built up with new skyscrapers as new tents get popped up every day a block over; I can’t think of a more relevant and realistic depiction of this ongoing crisis. It’s something I see every day as a resident of Los Angeles. The disparity you’ll see between just a few blocks of space is shocking, and it’s something we can do nothing but pass through.

It numbs us out, and the intention of these filmmakers was to bring us closer to the
individuals inside of this state of emergency and feel for their stories by seeing their
lives. And this certainly is a problem that won’t change unless we ourselves begin to
really see it for what it is by looking at these people for what they are – human.

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I was highly impressed by the other shorts as well: Audible capturing the struggles and
tribulations of a high school football team at an all deaf school in Maryland. Accounting
battles with mental health and judgment from others, and despite all this, their
perseverance to push through and come out on top. It’s hard not to be interested in
what comes next for these boys. The Queen of Basketball chronicles the story of Lusia
Harris, one of the pioneers of women’s basketball, whom filmmaker Ben Proudfoot
explained he had to dig into old archives that were never digitized by the NCAA, let
alone any organization. Despite the high dichotomy between her high regards as being
the first woman and first black woman to play basketball professionally, and also
somehow not being recognized as a household name, Ben was able to get her on the
phone and set up an interview with her relatively easily. This proved to be the
foundation of the entire documentary, and listening to her speak is an awe that can only
be experienced by watching this incredible piece. The Queen of Basketball can be
streamed for free on YouTube courtesy of The New York Times. And we should all be
thanking Mr. Proudfoot personally for capturing all of her awe-inspiring story before she
passed away this January. May her legacy be remembered.

One thing that was extremely prevalent in all of these pieces, especially Elizabeth and Gulistan Mirzael’s Three Songs for Benazir, is that despite the poignant, and sometimes harrowing, subject matter of the pieces– none of them necessarily fell victim to being “misery porn” if you will. I think this is truest for Three Songs. It has an extraordinary ability to show their subjects as human beings with agency and aspirations, and despite being in a hell of a situation in a Kabul internment camp, show the hunger Shaista had for becoming a soldier of the Afghan army. It was incredibly shot and beautifully scored, touches upon many familiar, but deeply immediate issues like foreign surveillance, addiction, and family obligation, and only made me wish it were a longer piece so it could leave even more of a lasting effect. Hearing Miss Elizabeth talking about finding
so many people like Shaista dead under bridges from heroin overdoses while filming this piece over a period of nine years was tough.

Let’s not let this story be left unheard.

Audible, Lead Me Home, and, Three Songs for Benazir are now streaming on Netflix.

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Valerie Milano is the well-connected Senior Editor and TV Critic at TheHollywoodTimes.today, a website that aggregates showbiz news curated for, and written by, insiders of the entertainment industry. (@HwoodTimes @TheHollywood.Times) Milano, whose extraordinary talents for networking in the famously tight-clad enclave of Hollywood have placed her at the center of the industry’s top red carpets and events since 1984, heads daily operations of a uniquely accessible, yet carefully targeted publication. For years, Milano sat on the board as a chief organizer of the Television Critics Association’s press tours, held twice a year in Beverly Hills and Pasadena. She has written for Communications Daily, Discover Hollywood, Hollywood Today, Television International, and Video Age International, and contributed to countless other magazines and digests. Valerie works closely with the Human Rights Campaign as a distinguished Fed Club Council Member. She also works with GLSEN, GLAAD, Outfest, NCLR, LAMBDA Legal, and the Desert Aids Project, in addition to donating both time and finances to high-profile nonprofits. She has been an active member of the Los Angeles Press Club for a couple of years and looks forward to the possibility of contributing to the future success of its endeavors. Milano’s passion for meeting people extends from Los Feliz to her favorite getaway, Palm Springs. There, she is a member of the Palm Springs Museum of Art and a prominent Old Las Palmas-area patron.