This Nicaraguan Film Student Just Made It to the Oscars Shortlist

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What does Cantinflas have in common with a slaughterhouse employee named Efraín? If you guessed that both are the subject of the Mexican productions presented for consideration at the 2014 Oscars, you were absolutely right (although you definitely didn’t guess that.) Earlier this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences published its long awaited shortlist for Best Documentary Short, and wouldn’t ya know that a Mexican film school exercise made coveted the list? The short, titled La Parka (The Reaper) and directed by Nicaraguan Gabriel Serra Argüello, was produced by the world-renowned Mexican film school, the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica (CCC), some of whose award winning shorts we featured a few months back.

While the trailer doesn’t give away much in the way of information, it does give a good idea of the short’s slow, patient aesthetic and the quietly disturbing nature of Efraín’s daily ritual. Even after 25 years of working at the slaughterhouse, he still feels pangs of guilt and even dreams about the animals he’s killed.

Selected from among 58 entries, La Parka’s moment under the spotlight is not 100% guaranteed as of yet since only three to five of the eight finalists will be officially nominated, but after making it this far the odds are certainly in La Parka’s favor. If the shortdoes end up taking home the statuette, it would join Robert Amram’s 1971 doc Sentinels of Silence as the only Mexican productions to win in the category since it was first incorporated into the Oscars in 1941.

The final list of nominees won’t be announced until January 15, but in the meantime Oscar watchers should keep an eye out in December for the Best Foreign Language Film shortlist, which will hopefully feature a Latin American contender or two. And hats off to the CCC for once again proving that Mexican cinema can do it like no one else.