Watu Wote from director Katja Benrath is one of five films nominated for the 2018 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film
Watu Wote is a beautifully-captured film. Shot mostly at night with low-light lighting schemes, the short nevertheless captures the streets of Kenya wonderfully.
Much of the action of the short, however, takes place inside of a bus. It is cramped and framed tightly, an adequate cinematic way of framing the cultural tensions between Muslims and Christians that the narrative grapples with.
In many ways, Watu Wote is a bitter film. It is a film depicted with a realism toward a fear that comes with holding specific religious beliefs. Terrorist threat from the Al-Shabaab make travel risky. Being on a bus without a police escort is exceedingly dangerous.
For its bitter realism, the short resolves itself with a shadow of hope, a sacrificial exercise of tolerance that is surprisingly heart-wrenching for the film’s brevity.
Of the five Academy-nominated short films—not that comparison is the most appropriate means of criticism—Watu Wote is the most mature, both from a cinematic and a narrative perspective. While the short does not give us time to really come to know these characters and thus become part of their struggle, it does capture the tone of the situation in an effective manner.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)