Three of the five short documentaries nominated for an Oscar this year are chapters in the same story: the Syrian refugee exodus. 4.1 Miles is an absolutely shattering verité look at the Greek coast guard as they pluck refugees from the waters between their home island of Lesbos and the Turkish mainland nearby; the raw human desperation is totally heart-crushing. The White Helmets introduces us to the members of a volunteer rescue squad in Aleppo: When the bombs fall, they run into damaged buildings to pull out survivors. Amazing men doing incredibly dangerous work, they are genuine in the belief that the lives of their neighbors as just as valuable as their own. Watani: My Homeland is comparatively cheerful, following one family’s refugee odyssey from ruined Aleppo to a small town in Germany. The universalities of human experience come to the fore here: the resilience of kids; the hopes of parents. Also nominated: the aching and precarious Extremis, in which doctors struggle with the ethics of end-of-life treatment in an intensive care unit; and Joe’s Violin, the only truly feel-good nominee, about the power of music and the unlikely friendship of a Holocaust survivor and the schoolgirl to whom he donates his beloved musical instrument.