As their tandem theatrical release demonstrates, Oscar's 2006 nominees for Best Documentary Short were united by themes of man's inhumanity to man. All of the films are between 27 and 40 minutes; none emphasizes artistry over information; and every one is a primer in the enduring popularity of mass cruelty.
The Death of Kevin Carter: Casualty of the Bang Bang Club memorializes a troubled photographer who dedicated himself to documenting South African apartheid. His photo of a starving Sudanese child won a Pulitzer, but witnessing so much suffering drove him to commit suicide. In God Sleeps in Rwanda, we meet some of the Tutsi women whose lives were rent asunder by their nation's genocidal Hutus; AIDS, unwanted pregnancy and early widowhood are all part of their legacy. The Mushroom Club looks in on today's Hiroshima, still coming to terms with the devastation both societal and personal wrought by the atom bomb.
The winner on Oscar night, though, was the short with the most self-congratulatory slant. A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin remembers the World War II radio broadcaster whose on-air poetics culminated in a V-E Day salute to the triumphant American fighting forces. Celebs like Studs Terkel and Norman Lear trumpet Corwin's talent for reminding America that it was morally superior to its "barbaric" adversaries. There's a particular relevance in the story of one of his earlier programs, an anniversary salute to the Bill of Rights that Corwin suspected might be pre-empted by the attack on Pearl Harbor. It stayed in the schedule when FDR pronounced its lessons "more important now then ever." As timely messages go, that beats anything you'll find in all 113 minutes of Crash.