This year's live action shorts nominees are a strong bunch, and there's even one comedy to break up the serious fare.
The Confession (United Kingdom)
In The Confession, nine-year-old Sam, the son of a farmer, and his best friend are preparing for their first confession. The problem is that they have nothing worth confessing. Sam is concerned because he thinks that you can't be a real Catholic unless you've been absolved. Reviewing the list of confession-worthy offenses, he comes across "practical jokes." So Sam and his friend steal Sam's father's scarecrow and put it in the middle of the road where the father is due to chug along in his tractor. But Sam's dad turns off into a field before he gets to the scarecrow. Seconds later, the practical joke goes horribly, tragically wrong. The Confession won the foreign film division of last year's Student Academy Awards, and it's not hard to see why. This is a tense and compelling story, and the conclusion is unclear until it happens.
Na Wewe (Belgium)
Na Wewe ("You too" in the Kirundi language) takes place in Burundi in 1994. A minibus stops to pick up some aid workers whose own bus has broken down. As they continue down the road, a white man blabs on insensitively, while the others in the bus either roll their eyes or listen to music on their headphones. Suddenly, as so often happened in Burundi and Rwanda during this terrible period, they are stopped by young boys carrying Kalashnikovs. Their leader orders everyone out of the bus. "Hutus to the left; Tutsi snakes to the right." Clearly, admitting to being a Tutsi means instant death, so everyone goes to the left. The bad guys are then confronted with the unexpectedly difficult task of determining who they should kill.
God of Love (USA)
God of Love, the winner of last year's Student Academy Award, is the comic relief of this year's set of nominees. Narrator Raymond is the crooner in a jazz band. Actually, his act is somewhat unusual because he throw darts while singing. He is in love with Kelly, the band's drummer, but she has a crush on the guitarist, Raymond's best friend, Fozzie, who, naturally, has no interest in Kelly. One evening, Raymond receives a mysterious gift...a box of darts that make a person fall in love with the first person they see after being hit... but only for six hours. Maybe it's because I'm generally a comedy fan anyway, but, even though Raymond is not the most sympathetic of protagonists, I greatly enjoyed God of Love.
Wish 143 (United Kingdom)
The hero of Wish 143, 15-year-old David, is dying of cancer. Approached by a well-meaning make-a-wish type organization, he makes it clear that his honest wish is to lose his virginity. A friendly priest tries to convince him that he should wish for something more appropriate, but in the end he decides to help David. This tragic situation is treated with a sense of humor, and David is an appealing character. However, Wish 143 suffers from that common short film flaw, an ending that doesn't really satisfy.
The Crush (Ireland)
Eight-year-old Ardal has a crush on his teacher, Miss Purdy. When he learns that teacher is engaged to be married, he does not take it well. He confronts the fiancé and challenges him to a gun duel. The Crush is distinguished by the fact that it doesn't go in the most obvious direction. The little boy who plays Ardel, Charlie Bonner, does a great job, but the film is still just a notch below the leaders in this category.