A Year in Shorts Day 88: "Black Sheep"
The 91st Academy Awards were interesting to say the least. Some of the wins were exciting and cool; others, not so much. But of course the one that stood out the most to everyone was Green Book’s controversial Best Picture win. Now is Green Book the WORST film to win Best Picture? I don’t think so. But it is one of the most infuriating. Considering the fact that 2018 also saw the release of films like Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman and If Beale Street Could Talk, Green Book wasn’t even the best film about racism of 2018, let alone best film over all. And that holds true even in the shorts categories, as can be seen with Ed Perkins’ documentary, Black Sheep.
The documentary is a very versatile genre, with films appearing in a wide variety of forms. Black Sheep takes the form of an interview with Cornelius Walker, with reenactments showing the events he describes. Walker talks about his life in a small town after his Nigerian mother insisted on moving from London after the murder of Damilola Taylor. But their small town in Essex proves to be no less safe or tolerant, and it isn't long before Walker decides he needs to fit in. How exactly he does that is best explained by Walker himself; luckily The Guardian has put the entire film for free on YouTube.
Cornelius Walker's story is undeniably a powerful one, and the film tells it in a way that is interesting and engaging. That said, I don't think Black Sheep is necessarily a great documentary. While the reenactments are well done and nicely shot, I think at times they distract from Walker's interview, which is really the heart of the film. And even though at 26 minutes this is one of the longer shorts we've covered, I feel like there's a lot left to explore that the film doesn't get into. Perhaps this is an example of another short that might have been better served as a feature. By the time the credits roll it feels as if we've only scratched the surface of the story.
Perhaps that was intentional. And even with these complaints, I still think it's a film worth watching. The great thing about documentaries is the way in which they allow you to experience the life of another person. And for a half hour, Black Sheep allows us to experience the heartbreaking and complex story of Cornelius Walker.
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