Friend ★★★★½

[Part 2 of last night's screening of Oscar Nominated Live Action Shorts]

A powerful look at the Kosovo war and the countless childhoods destroyed by violence. This one delivers a well-deserved gut punch, filled with enough perfect details to convince me it was borne from firsthand experience. Some people might criticize it as being manipulative; to those, I would suggest thinking a bit more about the situation in the Balkans, and considering the fact that people currently living and working among us experienced ethnic cleansing in the same decade as Palm Pilots and Seinfeld. To reflect on how absurdly modern these atrocities are, and not only in those parts of the world (Africa, the Middle East) that we've agreed as a society to collectively compartmentalize. How easy it is to forget how unfair, and lucky, my own upbringing was.

Whether the events depicted literally happened is ultimately irrelevant: it feels overwhelmingly true, because it's conveying a harsh reality. These kids are a substitute for every outcast, born in a world that has somehow decided it can justly ignore them -- that livelihood is a privilege, that certain people are discardable, that disparity is somehow a part of the natural order. One man's child gets a bicycle, another man's child gets shot. You can wrap it in labels like "Personal Responsibility" or "Manifest Destiny" or "Original Sin", but a lie is a lie is a lie. It's terrifying because while it changes faces and locations and thinly-veiled justifications, it never seems to die.

Shok is brutal in precisely the way it needs to be. My personal frontrunner for the award.