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‘The Neighbors’ Window,’ a story of voyeurism and empathy, wins the live-action short film Oscar

A scene from "The Neighbors' Window," winner of the 2020 live-action short film Oscar
A scene from “The Neighbors’ Window,” winner of the 2020 live-action short film Oscar.
(ShortsTV)

The Oscar for live-action short went to “The Neighbors’ Window,” a story about the intersection of voyeurism and empathy.

“I want to dedicate this to my mom, who grew up on a peach farm in Chesterfield, South Carolina,” said writer-director Marshall Curry, a four-time nominee, from the Oscar stage. “She was the best storyteller I ever knew. She always had a story about some crazy thing that happened, with her siblings when she was growing up, or some weird dog that she had seen, or something the taxi driver had told her about his life that would break your heart. I learned from watching her that a well-told story is a powerful thing. It can change the way we see the world and it can help us to notice other people and care about those other people and maybe love each other a little bit more. So this is for her and for all the storytellers.”

Curry’s tale of a couple who realize they can see into the window — and the lives — of their beautiful, younger neighbors was inspired by a true story he heard on a podcast (Love + Radio’s “The Living Room”).

“This woman became obsessed with watching her neighbors,” he previously told The Times, noting his film also took the podcast’s primary plot twist, but everything else in “Window” is invention. Curry had earned three previous Oscar nominations, all for documentaries.

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“When I’m directing a documentary, I do a first pass of the edit, and then we work hard to make it feel like a fiction film. We try to make the narrative arc. ... When I was working on this, I worked hard to make it feel like a documentary. In the edit, I tweaked lines to make them feel less pat. With documentaries, everything wants to be chaotic. With fiction, everything wants to be cliche. I [wanted] to make it feel more naturalistic and organic.”


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