Quality Children's Entertainment Family Movie Reviews

Oscar Nominated Shorts – Saria, Sisters and Walk Run Cha-Cha

While feature films with A-list actors garner the most attention at the Oscars, the award show also has three short film categories that seldom receive the attention they deserve. For that reason, the Malibu Film Society held a free screening for Saria (Nominated, Best Live Action Short), Sister (Nominated, Best Animated Short) and Walk Run Cha-Cha (Nominated, Best Documentary Short). 

Each film coveys wildly different topics but shares a universal goal of showing something that needs to be discussed. Saria’s haunting story shows that outside the developed safety of western nations, there exists corruption, injustice and innocents powerless to defend themselves, with humanitarian disasters occurring frequently that never receive the spotlight of the western world. Sister examines the very real and emotional connection between siblings and forces the audience to carefully consider the value of human life. Walk Run Cha-Cha mixes the passion of dance and shows how love can beat the boundaries of time and space.

Each film deals with loss in its story. Saria follows the true story of a group of children in an orphanage in Guatemala that suffer from constant abuse and their eventual revolt against their abusers, ultimately leading to a tragedy. Sister uses the beautiful expressionism of stop motion animation to creatively show the relationship between a big brother and little sister and by the end, it inspires careful thought about who has a right to be born. Walk Run Cha-Cha tells the story of a couple that falls in love in Vietnam before the Vietnam War, become separated by the political turmoil, only to reconnect a long six years later and have incredible talents as professional dancers.

Saria developed its main characters in a way that ensured the audience connected to the children’s suffering: the film took time to portray its young characters as normal teenagers. They felt jealousies, had their first loves, shared silly rumors and had colorful dreams of the future, which only helped further the pain of seeing such injustices committed against them.

Sisters, made by students at Cal Arts, shows how excellent stop motion can be. The movements look as smooth as digital animation and have as much possibility as digital animation. The short, eight-minute story develops its characters perfectly and feels authentic and relatable to anyone watching. Yet, its large reveal at the end could have been done better – minutes before the narrator unveils the twist, the visuals foreshadow the twist. By having this slow unveiling of the surprise at the end, it lowers its emotional impact on the audience. Yet, it perfectly tackles what can be considered a political topic in a very unbiased way, allowing viewers from any point of view to enjoy it.

Walk Run Cha-Cha perfectly connects the audience to the couple on-screen by examining their lives, habits and most importantly, their story. While the scenes of the couple dancing would warm anyone’s heart, the documentary poorly connects them to the story of how political turmoil separated their love, creating an odd contrast between the film discussing their past and their present love of dance.

All three films have many lessons for adults to learn but may be difficult for younger children to understand, so I recommend all three films for ages 14 to 18. While Saria may be intense for children as young as 14, it should be remembered that the youngest victims in the tragedy were 14 years old. Showing films like this can help children understand early on how people in the west have it much easier, compared to those in other parts of the world. 

Because of Saria’s exceptional reenactment of a heart-aching tragedy, I give it 5 out of 5 stars. Sisters portrays a real-life relationship between siblings, realistically and maintained and impressively neutral in a deeply partisan political issue but fails in the delivery of the most important twist of the story and so I give it 4 out of 5 stars. While Walk Run Cha-Cha shows the human consequences of global conflicts such as the Vietnam War quite well, it fails to connect its two subplots – the history of the couple’s relationship and their dancing, in a meaningful way. Hence, I give it 3 ½ out of 5 stars. All three are nominated for an Oscar, so keep that in mind when you watch the award’s show on February 2, 2020.

By Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 17

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