One more sign of Slumdog Millionaire’s appeal is the presence of two films in this category revolving around maladies affecting the lives of impoverished children in India. The stronger of the two films is Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant’s elegantly shot The Final Inch, which focuses on a group of foot soldiers devoted to eradicating polio from the face of the earth. In India, a Good Samaritan reveals how Muslims are more likely to receive the vaccine she brings to impoverished regions of the country if she’s wearing a bhurka, while in America a man cycles across Texas to raise polio awareness and a 70-year-old North Carolina woman wishes she could leave her iron long to do the same: As such, this is less an exposé of the disease’s effects on the private lives of its victims than it is an inquiry into personal and global responsibility in preventing the spread of polio. Voting for the film will make academy members feel as if they’re paying its message forward, but so will Smile Pinki. Thousands of children are born with cleft lips every year in India to largely poor and superstitious parents and Megan Mylan’s film documents the concerted efforts of a group of social workers and medical professionals to give these children pro bono cosmetic surgery so they could live lives without shame. Even though you feel Sally Struthers could walk on screen at any moment and shed a tear, the documentary provides moving insight into the fears and insecurities of impoverished denizens of the third world. More interestingly structured is four-time Academy Award nominee Steven Okazaki’s The Conscience of Nhem En, a loose portrait of the man who took photographs of the tens of thousands of citizens who passed through the Khmer Rouge’s S21 processing center in Cambodia, but this one seems like an easy win for Smile Pinki, unless voters feel that a vote for the PBS-grade The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306, a series of reflections by the last living witness to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., is a way of acknowledging how they helped realize MLK’s dream by voting for our new president.
Will Win: Smile Pinki
Should Win: The Final Inch
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.