Festival Award Shorts 1 Review

By Eli Ralston

Keys of Heaven

      Set in war-torn Iran in 1984, Keys of Heaven is a story about two brothers, Majid and Adel, who are trying to survive day by day to make money to get away from the front lines and to stay in school. They are assisted by Adel’s, a teacher, to pass their final exams. Keys of Heaven is a powerful film that will throw you for a loop with the direction the narrative is going. The audience is confronted with the harsh reality of using children as suicide bombers, and how some willingly accept their task while others do so with a heavy heart. The color scheme of the film is gorgeous with a nice orange hue throughout. The cinematography is also top notch with shots that help convey the feelings of these characters. All in all, Keys of Heaven is a film that would have been long and drawn out as a feature length film, but as a short film, it creates a gripping and interesting narrative.

Verdict: 5 out of 5

White Earth

      White Earth is a short documentary that showcases the lives of different families in North Dakota during the recent oil boom. We step into the lives of three different children and an immigrant mother that have all been affected by the oil business. The first child’s story was easily the most interesting and is filled with hope and despair all at once. He doesn’t go to school and spends all day trying to find something to keep himself occupied. We also hear stories from a girl who lives on a farm and from the immigrant mother and her daughter who moved from California to be with their father who works long hours. It’s interesting listening to the viewpoints of these kids as they provide insight that makes so much sense. The one quote I remember is, “Why did they have to ruin this beautiful landscape? All these guys care about is money.” The hopeful outlook of these children in these bleak situations are inspiring and make me think my issues aren’t really that bad in comparison. Overall, White Earth is a surprisingly optimistic documentary that uses the positivity of the children to convey a powerful message about hope and the American Dream.

Verdict: 5 out of 5


      From director Bernado Britto, yearbook is a short about a man who is hired to compile the history of human existence on a super space computer before the planet blows up, due to an alien missile. We follow this guy as he decides what should be put into human history, and his process of weeding out information when the computers hard drive fills up. It’s amazing how using such a simple narrative can really convey such a complex message about how we will be remembered for our actions and to sometimes just appreciate the things around us. The ending monologue did kind of spell out the theme for us too plainly but that’s not a huge gripe. The crude animation style was actually quite charming as we go through crude drawings of well knows figures in history. All in all, Yearbook is a charming and clever animated short that actually has a deep message to convey.

Verdict: 4.5 out of 5

Our Curse

      Our Curse is a documentary that follows the family of Tomasz, the director of the film, and his wife, Magda, whose newborn child is diagnosed with the Ondine’s curse, a condition where people affected stop breathing during their sleep and must be put on a ventilator to survive. The film is extremely powerful, as we can see and truly feel the struggle this couple goes through to keep care for their child. The audience can really see their transformation from feeling hopeless and scared to feeling hopeful and making sure their son lives his life. There were parts in the film that made me cringe a bit, just because I couldn’t imagine having to go through that situation. Instead of the end of the film being an “oh, poor us” statement, we see a united family who will keep going on for their son and it ends on an inspiring and hopeful note.  Our Curse is a spectacular example of a documentary that showcases a very difficult situation, but at the same time shows that there is hope to be had no matter what.

Verdict: 5 out of 5


      Record is a narrative short that follows a father and his blind daughter who are still mourning after the death of his wife/her mother. We also discover that the daughter has recorded many different family outings and her mother’s voice on multiple tapes and now listens to said tapes over and over. We see the father trying to connect with her to no avail. The film is extremely well shot with gorgeous cinematography ranging from the lake to the girl’s room. Although the narrative drags on in the middle as the father is trying to connect, the last 5 minutes of the film is completely engrossing and powerful to watch. As we see the father connect with his daughter by using the story her mother told her before she died, I was truly moved to see this family begin to heal by the end of the film. Overall, Record is a powerful film that may stumble a bit in the middle, but finishes strong and leaves a great impression.

Verdict: 4 out of 5