DC Shorts Preview
Brandon Wetherbee | kaylee | Sep 10, 2015 | 9:00AM |

The DC Shorts Film Festival kicks off tonight with screenings at E Street Cinema. It’ll continue for the next ten day with additional screenings at the United States Navy Memorial. 125 shorts from 24 countries will be screened and it’s damn near impossible to see them all in the theater. Each show (all shows feature 7-9 shorts that add up to roughly 90 minutes) has at least one short we think you should see. We’re going to highlight those must-sees.

One of the best aspects of D.C. Shorts is the glimpse into multiple varieties of life. An average film goer isn’t likely to see a drama about the Kosovo war, a documentary about a lonely Swedish former stage actor and a robot tangentially related to 9/11 in one weekend. DC Shorts makes that possible.

Show 1

Shok

Set in the 90s during the Kosovo War, two Albanian boys do what young boys do. One is a businessman (at least he thinks he’s one), the other has a bicycle. Well shot, doesn’t look cheap. Tense.

Parts are melodramatic but it’s forgivable considering the dark subject matter. This could have easily stretched into a feature length but the brevity is one of its strengths.

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Show 2

Help Point

A drier, cuter version of the Seinfeld episode where Jerry and the gang wander around a parking garage that segue ways into a Waiting For Godot inspired chance potentially romantic, dramatic, somewhat cute first date. The kind of short that makes you want to follow the filmmakers next projects.

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Show 3

The Dogwalker

Documentaries can get away with simple shots. If the story or subject is captivating enough, somewhat decent shots are fine. This is the case with The Dogwalker. What you see isn’t exciting or innovative, but it doesn’t really matter. Former stage actor Lars-Gunnar Persson lives with his dog in a small apartment. He’s reflecting on his not entirely successful life. He fantasizes about what could have been. “Sometimes I wonder how I will die.” He’s not a likable man but he’s a sympathetic character. The Dogwalker is more of a meditation on a lonely life than a film. It’ll most likely be the one that sticks with the viewer.

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Show 4

Boxeadora

Boxing may be the best sport to document or dramatize. Last year we recommended a drama based around boxing. This year is a documentary about a female boxer.

Women’s boxing is banned in Cuba. The country with the most gold medals in boxing doesn’t allow women to compete. This documentary about a 38-year-old female, Cuban boxer is premiering in D.C. at the right time. The biggest, positive sports stories are Rondo Rousey’s domination and Serena Williams’ historic run. Namibia’s story has the potential to grouped in with those dominant athletes. It’s unlikely a boxer past her prime will ever get the chance to compete on an international scale, let alone dominate the sport, but that doesn’t mean her story isn’t worth telling.

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Show 5

On Dark Paths

Money was not spared on this 20 minute drama from Finland. The opening shot is gorgeous and grabs the viewer. An 8-year-old boy is afraid. He’s an 8-year-old boy, monsters are real to 8-year-olds. A helpful grandmother gives him a teddy bear to act as protector. It works until he drops it. And monsters may be real.

Kudos to the filmmakers for not copping out and giving a typical shots ending, something cute or funny. The darkness continues.

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Show 6

The Fly

Cops and robbers aren’t my thing. Heist films tend to disappoint. The Fly isn’t really a cops and robbers or heist short, it just uses those devices in a brutally cute way to attempt to destroy a fly.

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Show 7

Lookout

Great until the dream/moral sequence and the ending. The message is clear and doesn’t need to be so heavy handed. War is bad. Losing your childlike sense of wonder and awe is bad. Young soldiers have it bad. It’s a well made, well paced, well made short about bad things.

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Show 8

That Friend You Hate

I did not expect to like this short so much. I honestly thought it was going to be dumb and boring and stupid. I loved it. I loved that it was shot in black and white. I loved the terrible jokes. I loved the weird call out to Schindler’s List (at least I think that’s what that was…). This short is great. I seriously enjoyed every minute of it (including the credits!) and I’m not even joking.

I also really enjoyed the short Stutterer. It’s kind of funny, but it’s mostly very sweet and charming. The narration is very clever and adds quite a bit to the film, which is not something I often say because a lot of narration sucks.

So far, this group of shorts has been the best of the bunch. From comedies, to romance, to stop animation, it’s the best show. If you can only see one, I would highly recommend it.

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Show 9

Driving

I had been pretty disappointed in all the animated shorts up to this point, but Driving is excellent. The style is fantastic. Every part of the screen feels like it’s buzzing with life. The sound though, THE SOUND. It’s amazing. A lot of the shorts I watched were playing with repetition and failing, but this uses repetition, especially repeating the same sounds, to its advantage. I was not bored at all and that is saying something considering this short is basically just about cartoon road rage. It’s weird and beautiful and all around enjoyable. It’s also surprisingly dark, so get ready for some weird shit to happen.

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Show 10

Scheherazade

The terrors of Hollywood has always been a popular subject for the horror genre. Just look at last years Starry Eyes or even Polanski’s Venus in Furs (which is actually about the theater but whatever). Scheherazade is a fresh look at the old topic of what really goes on behind the scenes between a director and his subjects. As the actresses get more and more candid during casting call, the power dynamic between the two not only becomes clearer, but quickly veers into insanity. Scheherazade gets very weird very fast and if you like weird things then you will most definitely be pleased.

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Show 11

A Last Farewell

Are you ready for something super sad and heartwarming? Because this Swedish drama definitely delivers on both. Especially the sad. This short is all about grief and the process people go through when their loved one is gone, which is already a huge bummer, but the acting was very touching and realistic, even if some things felt a little rushed. Not to mention, the cinematography is restrained and comfortable. There are even a few funnier moments, but don’t be fooled, this one is definitely aiming to make you cry. At least a little bit.

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Show 12

Timmy II

I did not expect a single thing that happened in this short and I loved every minute of it. It starts off with a story about a robot named Timmy II that is built by a grieving father after his real son, Timmy, dies. Then suddenly 9/11 happens and the entire movie changes into something completely different. Well kind of. In the end it’s all about discovering who you are and being comfortable in your own skin, but man it really takes some turns. Also, all of the effects are terrible and it is hilarious.

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Show 13

Kara Walker: “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby”

I had no idea what I was getting into when I started this short and I can safely say I did not expect this. Kara Walker leads us through the process of her coming up with and building her installation, “A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby” at the Domino Sugar plant in Brooklyn, which features a 35 foot tall sculpture glazed with sugar and a series of smaller sculptures made entirely of the substance. Walker’s work explores racism and history and trust me, her work is a sight to behold. I love docs like this because not only do you get to go behind the scenes with a great artist, but you also learn a little bit about history. Even if it’s all terrible.

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Show 14

All You Do is Shag

This film has almost zero substance, but damn if it isn’t fun. The short centers around a couple arguing in a restaurant, and their fast paced quips about how perfect and wonderful their lives are really make this funny. I have to admit, I was not impressed with the beginning, but it really grew on me.

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Shows 1-7 reviewed by Brandon Wetherbee, Shows 8-14 reviewed by Kaylee Dugan