All this month we’ll be reviewing the Oscar nominees for the best animated, live-action, and documentary short films, alternating daily between categories. Check back tomorrow for the next installment.
I can’t help but notice that the Oscar rules for short documentaries limit them to 40 minutes and that most of the nominees come within a hair’s breadth of that length, which makes me wonder whether they were originally conceived as features but then trimmed down to qualifying length when their commercial prospects made any sort of Oscar nod the best avenue toward finding an audience. Open Heart, which clocks in at exactly 39 minutes and 28 seconds, tells the story of six Rwandan children traveling to Sudan to undergo open-heart surgery at the Salam Centre or Cardiac Care, whose free, state-of-the-art pediatric facility is the only institution of its kind in Africa. Few things are as painful to watch as children fighting for their lives, yet the film never digs into their experience enough to distinguish itself apart from the worthiness of its topic.