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Short Film About Deaf Child a Winner and Other Oscar Education Moments

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A British film about a 4-year-old deaf child whose parents are insensitive to or oblivious to the fact that the girl cannot hear won the Oscar for live action short film Sunday night.

It was one of a number of education moments during the nearly four-hour Academy Awards telecast, which included defeats for some other education-themed short films and a couple of mentions of Parkland in reference to last month's fatal shootings at a Florida high school.

"The Silent Child," was directed by Chris Overton and written by Rachel Shenton, both of whom accepted the award.

"Our movie is about a deaf child being born into a world of silence," Shenton said in accepting the Academy Award. "This is happening—millions of children all over the world live in silence and face communication barriers, particularly access to education."

Shenton also stars in the 20-minute film and has been a longtime advocate for the hearing-impaired.

I haven't seen the film, but Variety wasn't quite enthralled in its short review last week, calling it "thoroughly depressing."

The film defeated, among other nominees, another education entry in the live action short category: "DeKalb Elementary," a dramatization of a real-life story of a school shooter situation at a Georgia school in 2013.

Although the shooter, equipped with an AK-47 and 500 rounds of ammunition, fired some shots, no one was killed thanks to school bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff, who talked the shooter into turning himself in to the police.

As The 74 reported last week, filmmaker Reed Van Dyk came across a 911 call between Tuff and the police (she stayed on the line while she spoke to the shooter) and decided to make the 21-minute film.

Meanwhile, another film with an education angle came up empty in the best documentary short category. "Traffic Stop," a 35-minute film by Kate Davis and David Heilbroner, tells the story of Austin, Texas, elementary school teacher Breaion King and her unfortunate encounter after being pulled over by a police officer.

Video of the traffic stop came from the dashboard camera of Austin police officer Bryan Richter, who is white. King, who is African-American, antagonized the officer early in the encounter, and Richter ends up slamming King to the ground and arresting her for resisting arrest and assault on a police officer. 

The rest of the film consists of footage taken of King with her students, at her dance class, or at home. The film notes that King's civil rights suit against Richter is pending and that the officer was fired after a later use of force. The film does not make clear what became of the criminal charges against King.

(The Oscar for best documentary short went to "Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405").

One surprise was that there were only a few mentions of the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel said during his opening monologue that Oscar winners should feel free to discuss things such as the "Me Too" movement or the Parkland tragedy. (Though one point of his was to encourage winners to keep their acceptance speeches concise; he offered a new jet ski to the winner who clocked in with the shortest time.)

"Speak from the heart," Kimmel said. "We want passion. You'll have a platform and an opportunity to remind millions of people about important things like equal rights and equal treatment. If you want to encourage the amazing students at Parkland to join their march on the 24th, do that. If you want to thank a favorite teacher, do that."

But the Parkland tragedy wasn't mentioned by any winners. The artist Common did refer to the incident in a rap at the beginning of a duet with Andra Day of their Oscar-nominated song "Stand Up for Something," from the film "Marshall."

"Tell the NRA, they in God's way," Common rapped. "And to the people of Parkland, we say ashay."

The Los Angeles Times reported that among the 10 activists for various causes who shared the stage for the song was Nicole Hockley, the mother of Dylan Hockley, who was killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Hockley is the founder and managing director of Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit group focused on school violence.

While I don't recall any Oscar winners thanking a teacher from the stage this year, the young best actor nominee Timothée Chalamet of "Call Me By Your Name" did thank one of his teachers during the Oscars red carpet show on ABC.

Red carpet host Michael Strahan surprised Chalamet with a video hookup from the high school he graduated from, LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in New York City. 

One of Chalamet's teachers, Harry Shifman, appeared along with a group of current students to wish the actor well.

"Just breathe," the teacher told Chalamet. "You always know where home is, pal."

"That's very moving," Chalamet said. "Wow. I literally would not be acting without that man, without that school, without public arts funding."

"And literally, that man who was just in that video," Chalamet continued, "he fought for me to get into that school. I would not be at the Oscars. I would not be nominated without him."

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