D.C. Shorts Film Festival
Continues through Sept. 16
Landmark E Street Cinema
555 11th St., N.W.
535 8th St., S.E.
There’s a reason why short films are becoming increasingly popular.
The best ones are exhilarating distillations of the filmmaker’s experiences and viewpoints. They linger with you. They leave you with a great punchline, an indelible image or maybe even a tear or two. They definitely give you something to talk about on the way home.
As for the worst ones, they’re over quickly.
Luckily for D.C. movie audiences, the acclaimed D.C. Shorts Film Festival and Screenplay Competition, which is running through Sept. 16, is offering the best short films from around the corner and around the globe. Festival Executive Director Kimberly Bush says she and her dedicated staff and volunteers reviewed about 1,200 films and 70 screenplays for this year’s event.
From those submissions, the team selected 125 short films and seven screenplays. Directed by filmmakers from 30 different countries, the films range from two-40 minutes in length and cover an amazing array of stories and genres.
Bush is especially proud of the number of female filmmakers who will be participating in this year’s festival.
“The movement within the industry toward expanding the presence of women behind the camera in the director’s role is reflected in a notable milestone in the festival’s history,” Bush says. “With a total of 40 women directors, we offer more films directed by women than any prior year in the festival’s history.”
The films are divided into over 25 general and thematic showcases that will be screened at the Landmark E Street Cinema. The logistics can be a little daunting, but the festival website (festival.dcshorts.com) offers a handy guide to the films and information on getting festival passes or tickets for individual films. With D.C. Shorts Online, it’s also possible to watch films from home or on your favorite mobile device.
The website also offers information of the festival’s impressive schedules of both parties and filmmaker workshops.
For LGBT audiences, one of the highlights of the festival, now in its 15th year, will be Cinema 10%, a collection of exciting queer shorts that will screen on Wednesday Sept. 12 at 7:15 p.m.
After the success of his movie “Pool” in last year’s festival, director Leandro Goddinho returns to with a fascinating two-part drama called “The World Is Round So That Nobody Can Hide in the Corners.” Part One (13 minutes) is subtitled “Refuge” and is about the journey of a gay African refugee seeking asylum in Germany. Part Two (five minutes) is subtitled “The Kiss” and is about the visit of an African refuge to the Gay Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.
“Short film festivals are necessary and extremely important for young filmmakers,” Goddinho says. “Festivals like D.C. Shorts have become a crucial stage for revealing new talents. Cinema history started with short films. For many years, feature-length films have been the standard, but we are now seeing a new short film era. We are living in a digital era where people watch movies on a variety of devices so short narratives are becoming the best way to communicate with audiences.”
World War II is also the subject of “The Red Tree,” a documentary by Paul Rowley. The film uncovers the little-known history of Italian gay men who were arrested and exiled to a remote island during Mussolini’s fascist regime.
“I wanted to give the film a contemporary resonance, so I came up with the idea of focusing on an older man returning to the island where he was a prisoner many years before,” Rowley says. “This allowed me to see the history from the present day and draw parallels to what is happening still to our community.”
The impact of war on the LGBT community is also the subject of “Sparrow” by Welby Ings. He notes that the movie is based on “a true story about a gay soldier who deserted in Egypt in the second world war when his lover was shot. He was shamed and died alone in a psychiatric hospital. I wanted to place the story into the world because the role and experiences of gay soldiers are almost invisible.”
Family history and family secrets are the subject of “Life After” by Ria Tobaccowala who was inspired by Indian American movies like “The Namesake” by Mira Nair as well as the recent release “Captain Fantastic.”
This short film follows Nisha, a single mother and Indian immigrant, who travels to New York City to clear out her recently deceased daughter Zara’s apartment. Out of her element in her daughter’s environment, Nisha discovers surprising new details about Zara. In the midst of her grief, Nisha must decide whether to embrace or ignore the truth about her daughter’s short life.
Mothers and daughters are also at the core of “The Pick Up” by local filmmaker Giovanna Chesler. Loosely based on an incident from her own childhood, Chesler says, “’The Pick Up’ is a sweet, and surprisingly steamy, ride home from swim practice with sullen teenager Melanie, her mother and a mysterious passenger.”
The film, which Chesler describes as “a love letter to my own mother,” was produced as part of the Mason Film Lab at George Mason University, a program which brings together students, professors and industry professionals together on a movie set.
The Cinema 10% showcase also includes “Let Me Dance,” a French drama directed by Valérie Leroy. The film centers on Myléne, a trans woman working as a maid on a ferry boat who gets an unpleasant reminder of her past during a surprise party for her 45th birthday.
Joe Bilancio, the festival’s director of programming, points that one special showcase could not contain all of the great LGBT films that are part of this year’s D.C. Shorts Film Festival. He recommends that interested audiences also keep an eye out for “Empire on Main Street,” “Marguerite,” “Casey” and “We Know Where You Live.” The films featured in Cinema 10% can also be seen in other showcases during the festival.
The festival also includes a screenplay competition on Friday Sept. 14 at the Miracle Theatre in Eastern Market. At 10 a.m., the public can watch local actors audition for a role in one of the screenplays. At 7 p.m., audiences can watch table readings of the selected screenplays and vote for their favorite. The winner will walk away with a $2,000 prize to help produce their movie. The evening will also include a screening of last year’s winner, “The Pharaohs.”
Bush says the festival has helped change the way people think of short films.
“The filmmakers represented feature the best in modern-day cinematic creativity and offer insight as to how to cultivate the future we want to see — one that is full of hope, equality, imagination, uplifted voices, determination, humor and vulnerability,” Bush says.