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The 2015 Oscar-nominated Live Action short films screen

Catch these on the big screen before filling out your ballot

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You're perhaps already bored hearing about the feature films nominated for this year's Academy Awards, but there are still the largely undiscovered short films in contention. Here's your chance to catch them before the golden men are handed out on Feb. 22.

Pittsburgh Filmmakers will be presenting all the short films, in three programs. On Fri., Jan. 30, through Feb. 12, Regent Square will screen the contenders for Best Live Action and Best Animated, in two programs. (On Feb., 13, both programs will move to the Harris for another week.) The documentary shorts will screen weekends in February at the Melwood. Below is a review of the live-action program. (The animated films are reviewed on the left.)

This year's selection of live-action shorts all fit comfortably together — five small-scale, warm stories about the mundane that nonetheless illuminates some of the better aspects of humanity.

"Butter Lamp," "Aya," Boogaloo and Graham" and "The Telephone Call"
  • In contention (clockwise from top): "Butter Lamp," "Aya," Boogaloo and Graham" and "The Telephone Call"

In "Aya" (Israel-France, 39 min.), from Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun, a woman waiting at the Tel Aviv airport makes an impulsive decision to pose as the hired driver assigned to transport a Danish musician, and the subterfuge lets a heretofore impossible relationship develop between the two.

It's the relationship between two chickens, two brothers and their parents that gets the comic tweaking in Michael Lennox's "Boogaloo and Graham" (U.K., 14 min.). Set in 1978 Belfast, the political troubles are no match for the enthusiasm the two lads have for their pet birds.

It's a sweet coming-of-age tale in Talkhon Hamzavi's "Parveneh" (Switzerland, 25 min.), which depicts a teenage girl, a recent Afghani immigrant who is overwhelmed and confused by her new home in Switzerland. But on an errand to Zurich, she befriends a punky Swiss girl, literally lets her hair down and catches a glimpse of the young modern woman she has every right to be.

Working at a suicide hotline sounds gloomy, but Mat Kirkby's "The Telephone Call" (U.K., 21 min.) finds the silver lining in the sad but hopeful conversation between the kind worker (Sally Hawkins) and the distraught caller (voice of Jim Broadbent). The two British acting pros easily sell the story.

The winner for me was Hu Wei's deceptively simple "Butter Lamp" (France-China, 15 min.). Before a motionless camera, we watch as an itinerant photographer works with several sets of Tibetan families, posing them in front of scenic backdrops (Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall). The chatter is incidental, as your eye takes in the odd moments of contrast between the Tibetans in their traditional dress and elements of modernity (a motorcycle, an Olympic torch prop). To say more is to ruin the film's effortless exposition of cultural, generational, political and even temporal tensions. See for yourself.

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