Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Open Heart (2013)

1 Nomination, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Documentary, Short Subjects - Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern

The Academy is prone to nominating documentaries and documentary shorts that tell amazing, inspiring stories, whether or not the story is told particularly well.  I always hope the Academy will recognize filmmakers who tell their story particularly effectively, rather than rewarding the story itself.  Of course, there are the rare occasions in which content and form excel simultaneously, creating a documentary truly deserving of award recognition.  "Open Heart" is such a film.

Director Kief Davidson tells the story of eight children in Rwanda in need of heart surgery who travel to the Salam Centre for Cardiac Surgery in Sudan.  Davidson details both the brave journey taken by these children, who must travel without their parents and face the surgery alone, as well as the doctors who are simultaneously working to keep the hospital doors open.

As a person with a touch of hypochondria and a low tolerance for pain, it's impossible for me to imagine the bravery required for these children to travel without their parents to face open heart surgery.  When I was their age I was upset if my mom was late picking me up from school, but Davidson elegantly demonstrates the fortitude shown by these children.  That fortitude is nearly matched by their doctors, who battle a lack of governmental support and bureaucratic maneuvering to continue to help these children who have no other access to the health care they need.  Davidson wisely chooses to involve himself in the action as little as possible, recognizing that he was gifted with a beautiful and compelling story and deciding not to "overtell" it.

As much as I was touched by "Open Heart," I agree with the Academy's decision to award the Oscar to  Inocente, one of the best documentary shorts I've seen in years.  Both films tell compelling stories, but the team behind "Inocente" were able to show more creativity in the storytelling due to the nature of the story being told.

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