Directed by Trish Adlesic, Nazenet Habtezghi and Sheila Nevins


In the United States, school boards across the country have banned children’s books from the curriculum and the library.  Some of the books are famous such as Margaret Atwood’s THE HANDMAID’S TALE.  The short begins with and is bookended by an invigorating speech by a 100-year-old woman speaking out against the school board.  She is the widow of a husband who died in the war defending America’s freedoms.  She claims, and with reason that words should never be banned and the banning prevents knowledge from being passed down.  The topics of the books being banned, restricted, or classified include Jewish persecution; LGBT issues, racism, and feminine and black issues.  Various children around the age of 10 also have a say through quite a few series of interviews.  What is missing is the rebuttal of the school board.  It would be definitely interesting to hear their defense.

THE AFTER (UK 2023) ***½

Directed by Mishan Harriman


There are two scenes in this 20-minute short that would affect one emotionally, the second one enough to get tears swelling in the eyes, and especially more so if one has experienced traumatic grief in the past.  Shot on location in London, one can see the Overground tube as the ride-share driver (David Oyelowo) drives his car around after the death of both his daughter and wife after a random stabbing  The random stabbing segment is shown and executed extremely well.  The segment in less capable hands would definitely look silly or unbelievable.  Actor Oyelowo is a terrace actor able to communicate tons with the use of minimal dialogue,  This is not the only short film nominated in this category about grief, the other being KNIGHT OF FORTUNE which looks at grief differently with deadpan humour.



Directed by John Hoffman and Christine Turner


THE BARBER OF LITTLE ROCK explores America's widening racial wealth gap through the story of Arlo Washington, a local barber whose visionary approach to a just economy can be found in the mission of People Trust, the nonprofit community bank he founded.  The short traces how Mr. Washington progressed from his barber shop to loaning the local black community loans before setting up the trust,  Experiencing the effects of generational poverty and structural racism firsthand, Arlo understands his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas and the profound mistrust of financial institutions that have historically excluded his community from financial stability and economic mobility.  “Give me a chance.  I will succeed,” says a client.  Operating as the sole bank within a ten-mile radius, Arlo's People Trust fosters economic progress for underserved and underbanked residents, providing an economic beacon of hope that could reshape the future of banking.  Nothing spectacular but an earnest portrayal of the bias black people face in baking and all other facets of life.



Directed by S. Leo Chiang

Filmmaker S. Leo Chiang reflects on his relationship with Taiwan, the United States and China from the islands of Kinmen, just a few miles from mainland China.  For seven decades, this small island of around 70,000 residents has been caught in the middle of a geopolitical power struggle. Kinmen is part of Taiwan, but is located hundreds of kilometres from Taipei, while just a few kilometres across the strait, visible through the haze, is mainland China.

In 1949, this island was the front line in a bloody civil war between the Communists and the Nationalists, which saw Kinmen separated from the Chinese mainland and become part of Taiwan.  Director Chiang shot his doc, essentially a home movie, during the Pandemic dealing with his feelings and how Taiwan, China and the United States are all vying for his attention like a quarrel among three parents.  THE LAST ISLAND is not particularly spectacular, and it would be a major surprise if this one won the Oscar.  Educational and informative though!


THE LAST REPAIR SHOP (USA 2023) ***** Top 10

Directed by Kris Bowers and Ben Proudfoot


Spectacular, heart-breaking, moving and inspirational, THE LAST REPAIR SHOP gets my vote and is almost certain to win the Oscar for Best Doc Short.  It tells the story of four unassuming heroes who ensure no student in L.A. is deprived of the joy of music.  It is also a reminder of how music can be the best medicine, stress reliever and even an escape from poverty.  It has an unbelievable stupendous ending with the orchestra playing illustrating that music and instruments are everything.  “We do what we can to make sure that no child goes without an unprepared instrument,” so says the tireless and dedicated workers of the shop.  Interspersed with the intricate repair needed to fix the broken instruments, no matter how minute, the metaphor for fixing one’s life makes the point. The four stories of the repair staff, one of a gay man, another of a refugee and the young musicians who share their experiences add to the narrative.


NAI NAI AND WAI PO (USA 2023) ***½

Directed by Sean Wang


In Mandarin, the words mean grandmother and old lady.  This short doc is a love letter of director Wang to his two grandmothers.  The doc was shot during the Pandemic.  The camera follows the two women, who are really close (they share the same bed) and enjoy each other’s company.  The audience sees their daily routines which include eating, sleeping, dancing and reminiscing about life.  One of them looks at old photographs daily.  The one who is 84 says she feels as if she was 20 while the 92=3 says she feels like a hundred,  They also talk about the sensitive topic of death, saying that many of their friends and loved ones have passed on.  They claim that they are not afraid of dying.


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