If you’re like me, you’ve been slowly making your way through the 2017 Oscar nominees, because most of them are still in theaters and seeing movies in theaters is the best thing in life. But just when you thought you were done with your list of must-sees, in waltz two programs collecting 2017’s Oscar-nominated short films. These shorts and cartoons are sad as hell, and will snap your heart in two!
If you aren’t going to see both programs, don’t miss the live-action films, which are suspenseful and deeply tragic. Reed Van Dyk’s DeKalb Elementary—set in an elementary school office during a hostage crisis—is bone-shaking in its empathy and realism. The tension that emerges between a substitute receptionist (Tara Riggs) and a mentally unstable young man (Bo Mitchell) simultaneously asks relevant societal questions and showcases the talents of both actors.
Another standout is My Nephew Emmett, Kevin Wilson Jr.’s film about the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till. Told from the perspective of Till’s uncle, Mose Wright (L.B. Williams), My Nephew Emmett explores the weighty silence of a good man living in Mississippi under Jim Crow laws. Wilson spools the audience’s affection around Mose, then breaks him down before our eyes. In that heartbreak, the film offers an important lesson: We need to remember our past, and continue fighting for a better future.