What personality shifts happen during the donning of drag?
What happens to a person in their 70s who’s been suppressing trans urges for a lifetime?
What does an empty swimming pool like like if used as a personal memory box?
These are just some of the LGBT themes explored in the reliably gay-themed D.C. Shorts Film Festival, back for a 14th year Sept. 7-14 at various venues (details at festival.dcshorts.com).
“Better Known as Peaches Christ,” directed by Jeff Dragomanovich and Nate Visconti, is a fascinating documentary portrait of the drag icon.
The film is about the visual transformation and personal journey of Joshua Grannell who performs in drag under the name Peaches Christ.
“We asked Joshua and Peaches the same questions and were struck by the subtle personality shifts that occurred as Joshua become Peaches,” Dragomanovich — the irony of whose name one cannot help but notice — says. “In the edit we worked to draw that out.”
Another LGBT documentary is “Little Potato” by Wes Hurley and Nathan Miller, based on a piece Hurley originally wrote for the Huffington Post. Hurley describes the film as “an autobiographical documentary about growing up gay in the USSR during Perestroika and my amazing mom who became a mail order bride and brought me to the States.”
Two narrative shorts focus on trans issues. Director Brandon Kelley says, “’The Real Thing’ is about Allie, a young transgender girl who has transitioned while her father Michael was away on a tour of duty. He comes home early to surprise her for her birthday. While he’s already accepted her, he’s still worried that he might say or do something that would hurt her feelings.”
British filmmaker Jake Graf describes his latest film “Dusk” as the story of a trans man’s life over seven decades. He says he was inspired to make the movie after receiving an unexpected email last year from a woman in her 70s who had lived life as a gay man but felt a strong female identity and just needed to tell someone.
Brazilian director Leandro Goddinho was also inspired by LGBT history. Sparked by a visit to the Dachau concentration camp, Goddhino says his film “Pool” juxtaposes recent achievements in LGBT civil rights with the persecution of gay people during the Nazi period. In the movie, a young German lesbian named Claudia goes on a quest to understand her grandmother’s past and meets Marlene, “an old woman who’s created an homage to her memories inside an empty swimming pool.”
Spanish filmmaker Julián Quintanilla used his own life as the inspiration for “The Whole World.” He says the film “came about from the need, if only for a short while, to speak again to someone who has gone.” In the movie, just as in real life, the filmmaker makes an annual trip to visit his dead mother at the village cemetery. Quintanilla shot the film in his hometown and says some of his old neighbors were taken aback by the resemblance between actress Loles León (Almodóvar’s “Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!”) and his deceased mother.
Set during the worst Christmas dinner ever, “Ruby Full of Shit” by Canadian director Jean-Guillaume Bastien is about the battle of wills between Denis and Ruby, his lover’s spoiled 6-year-old niece. The movie is based on a theatrical monologue by Sébastian David and Bastien says he was drawn to the material by “the fact that I came from a very Catholic family, that my brother is gay and that the first grandchild of a family always gets a monstrous ton of gifts for Christmas.”
Finally, while it’s not a formal part of the LGBT film slate, “Toys” by filmmaker Amanda Quaid is a delightful and thought-provoking exploration of gender roles. Based on an autobiographical poem by Peggy Pope (who also narrates), the film is a two-minute marvel of stop-action animation.
When she first encountered the poem, Quaid says, “I instantly knew it had to be a film. The idea of animation kept knocking at my head, so I taught myself stop-motion animation using YouTube tutorials. The process consisted of having actors act out the narrative against white walls, printing the photographs, cutting them out by hand to make hundreds of paper dolls, and re- assembling them against collage backdrops to photograph again.”
Most of these films can be seen during the LGBT showcase on Thursday, Sept. 14; all of them will be screened at least twice during the festival which features 170 short movies from 30 countries in more than two dozen showcases and other special events.