On Nov. 9, 2005, Ashraf Al-Khaled was happily marrying Nadia Alami in an Amman, Jordan, hotel when a suicide bomber killed 27 in their wedding party, including the fathers of the bride and groom. There were two other al-Qaida-coordinated attacks that day.
In Jed Rothstein's Oscar-nominated short documentary Killing in the Name, the genial, determined Al-Khaled sets out to recruit fellow Muslims in a revolt against jihadists who advocate terrorism.
Al-Khaled's journey takes him to the home of the still-confounded father of a man responsible for one of the deadliest suicide bombings in Iraq. Then, in Indonesia, Al-Khaled speaks with the widows of men killed in the Bali bombings of 2002.
After a hiatus, The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2011: Documentary package is back. Kudos to Magnolia Pictures and Shorts International for offering the three-hour collection, shown in two parts this weekend at The Kentucky Theatre. The films included — none of them particularly short — are worth seeking out.
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These shorts do better than fight the good fight. They might be characterized as meetings with remarkable people who, like Al-Khaled, didn't set out for glory.
In Ruby Yang and writer Thomas Lennon's environmental drama, The Warriors of Qiugang, Chinese villagers challenge a pesticide factory that has made their once-thriving rural community toxic.
In Jennifer Redfearn's Sun Come Up, the mood is as blue as the South Pacific waters that surround and are beginning to encroach on the Cartaret Islands. This melancholic beauty puts strong, sorrowful faces on the problems of climate change as a group of islanders travels to nearby Bougainville to ask for land to begin anew. Their humility and hope are wrenching.
The title of director Sara Nesson's Poster Girl cuts a couple of ways. Robynn Murray was a sergeant in the Army and appeared on the cover of Army magazine. The native New Yorker is now one of a reported 300,000 returning vets struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the Mideast. A former cheerleader and Civil Air Patrol cadet, Murray — engaging, raging, artistic — is full of very human contradictions.
None of this year's short- documentary nominees promises easy viewing. But Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon's Strangers No More comes the closest to joy. The film was shot at Tel Aviv's Bialik-Rogozin school, which opens its door to refugees from as many as 48 countries.