Oscar short films

My nephew Emmet

by Joanna Wyler

In 1955, Emmett Till, a young teen from Chicago, visited his family in Mississippi. He had been accused of whistling at a white woman in town. Unbeknownst to him, that simple, unsuspecting act would be the cause of his horrifying death. Till was brutally beaten past the point of recognition by the woman’s husband and and half brother. Till’s lynching was 63 years ago, but his death was never forgotten. Today, Emmett Till’s story has been made into the short film, “My Nephew Emmett,” directed by Kevin Wilson Jr., which was nominated for an Oscar.

This short film, however, has shifted the focus onto Moses Wright (L.B. Williams), Till’s Uncle. This shift shows the viewer how Emmett’s life and consequent death left a impact on his family and those around him. “My Nephew Emmett” shows Wright in close-ups as he waits for news about Till, or as he begs Till’s captors to take him instead. Wright is never mistaken about the fate of Till. His battle with his hope and sense of reality serves as a constant reminder to the audience that this is a part of history, and that it was a part of Wright’s reality that we are now privy to.

Williams portrays Wright’s emotions so clearly that the viewer is never confused about what is running through this man’s mind. Wright’s blatant emotional display complements the fact that the film has very little dialogue. Every scene is such a visual experience that enthralls the viewer that any talking might disrupt the story being played out on screen. The way this short was told almost makes the viewer forget they are watching the aftermath of a true story.

This short film may only be 20 minutes, but the effect is one that no one can forget — much like the true story that “My Nephew Emmet” is based upon. Till’s death puts a scar on the heart of anyone who hears of it. “My Nephew Emmett” does his story justice and deserves every nomination or recognition it receives.

5 Stars


The Eleven O’Clock

by Oliver Hopcroft

Directed by Derin Seale, “The Eleven O’Clock” is the only comedy in this year’s short film line-up. A clever take on a psychiatrist’s appointment, it features two men at an office, one a doctor and the other his patient. The catch: we don’t know who is who. The film first introduces Dr. Terry Phillips, played by Josh Lawson (also the writer of the script), who takes a confident and professional role. His counterpart, Dr. Nathan Klein (Damon Herriman) is jumpy and startled by the other man in his office.  The viewer is left to figure out the truth. Is the film trying to pull a trick by making the more disheveled man the doctor — or is it playing extra sneaky and going for the reverse?

As the two men face off and make their cases, we are drawn fully into their world. The dynamic duo never fail to get a laugh with snappy wordplay and the absurdity of their situation. The many references to the seventies as well as the architecture of Sydney University, where filming took place, create an entire world to back up the humor. As the film progresses, tension rises and the mystery grows until at the end we are left with a satisfying (though somewhat predictable) twist. Overall, the film meets its marks, delivering comedy, mystery and intrigue all packed in its 13-minute runtime.

If you’re the kind of movie-goer looking for a lighter short film, or just some relief from the otherwise heavier entries this year, “The Eleven O’Clock” could be just the film for you.

4 Stars