Political and coming-of-age themes continued in the live action short films this year, peppered with ruminations on life and death; mortality and memory. I must illuminate, however, that these films focus almost exclusively on the male protagonist, the male struggle through life, the default male – merely worth considering.

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Dood van een Schaduw (Death of a Shadow), dir. Tom Van Avermaet (Belgium)

A beautifully macabre tale woven of magical realism. The nearly unrecognisable Matthias Schoenaerts finds himself caught between his heart’s desires and the string of fate, in a cinematically gorgeous allegory of death and destiny.

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Henry, dir. Yan England (Canada)

Elegant and masterful, it is my favourite of the selections. It is an understated and emotional meditation on memory and mortality, and an ode to music and the past.

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Buzkashi Boys, dir. Sam French (Afghanistan/USA)

Bearing uncanny resemblance to The Kite Runner, the poignant relationship between two boys is set against the harshly dramatic landscape of Afghanistan. Despite a deep appreciation of the Afghani culture, I wonder if some of its authenticity is lost in its Western filmmakers’ love of neat and sentimental endings.

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Asad, dir. Bryan Buckley (South Africa)

Touching and humourous, a young boy seeks his future in war-torn Somalia. It gratefully avoids heavy-handedness, and instead opts for a quietly optimistic tale of survival and courage, rightfully dedicated to refugees of the ongoing civil war.

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Curfew, dir. Shawn Christensen (USA)

A sore disappointment in contrast to the other four wonderful films. Though with pleasant dark humour, it suffers from an uninspired plot and overly self-aware characters, I do wonder if American cinema will one day be able to move beyond self-absorption.

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