By Elias Savada.
I love shorts. Bermudas. Boxers. Short’s Brewing of Michigan. (Yes, there is a beer tie-in. Read on.) But for this column, I’m talking film shorts. And I guess most of them aren’t even shot on film anymore. Video, digital, etc. But they’re all great for little emotional snacks and fun pick-me-ups.
You can find lots online. Even Oscar and other award winners. They come in all shapes and sizes. Fiction, animation, documentary, experimental, comedies, dramas, sci-fi, horror. If you go to a Pixar animated feature, you always get a cartoon before the main attraction.
If you live in the Washington, DC, area, you can dose yourself with an abundance of them, portioned out in 90-minute samplings at this year’s DC Shorts Film Festival & Screenplay Competition. Now in its 12th year, this showcase of 125 films and 6 screenplays from 24 nations will provide a smorgasbord of 14 screenings (all repeated at least once, most twice) over 11 days (September 10-20).
The 2015 edition sports films running 2 to 30 minutes, with filmmaker Q+A’s following many of the programs. If that’s not special enough, there are several free screenings, including 60-minute Family Shows on Saturday the 12th at eight DC Public Library locations, and lunchtime presentations. There are special groupinsg of LGBT-themed shorts, a date-night show about Modern Relationships, and a selection of the Best of Sunderland Film Festival (September 16th—selected from the first short film festival in England, held at DC’s sister city and ancestral home of George Washington. As usual, there’s the annual Best of DC Shorts Showcase to round things out on September 19th and 20th. For most titles, each filmmaker adds a brief intro to his/her work and a shout-out to the attendees.
There are over 70 local, 19 U.S., and 15 world premieres. Watch rising talent with numerous first time director efforts. A dozen local productions made the cut.
Free filmmaker workshops (all but one held on Friday the 11th) for emerging and established filmmakers (covering fundraising to festival showings and beyond) at Landmark’s E Street Cinema (one of the several downtown venues hosting events for the festival and the sole location for all workshops and all regular showcases, except the Best of Show programs). A screenplay competition (at the U.S. Navy Memorial Burke Theater on September 18th) in which you can watch and vote for one of 6 screenplays table-read for the audience. The winner receives $2,000 to shot the project and return with the resulting film at next year’s festival. Last year’s winner, Breakin(g), about an elderly mother cunningly foiling a burglary attempt, unspools in Show 3. This year’s contestants hail from California, Georgia, Brooklyn, and two local writers (Fireworks for a Funeral, from DC’s Madeline Dennis-Yates, and Lift from Arlington, Virginia’s Joshua Goldman).
There are also two adult (21+) parties on tap. Remember, I did say beer factored in this year’s festival. First up is Das Biergarten, which celebrates 9 German short films, to be watched while enjoying German snacks and brews (or specialty cocktails). This will be held, appropriately, as the Goethe-Institut on Friday, September 11th. The other celebration is the Annual City View Party held at Carroll Square on the 12th, a roof deck affair with a live musical performance by Ocho de Bastos.
If you’re not in the Washington, DC, area, you can still enjoy many of the films (over 100!) via the DC Shorts Online Film Festival, which unreels alongside the extended event week. Stream the digital shorts to your home computer, mobile device, Roku box, etc. $30! $15 if purchased with tickets for ANY of the theatrical showings!
Check out the schedule and pricing at www.dcshorts.com/festival. Consider an all-festival pass, where major priorities do apply, including admission to all parties. It comes with the DC Shorts t-shirt, a swag bag, and access to the online festival.
Whether enjoying the world in 90-minute snippets while visiting DC’s downtown Penn Quarter/Gallery Place neighborhood (where festival venues are all within a very walkable (and Metro-accessible) five block radius, or watching leisurely via the online portal, there are some real nice short gems (culled from over 1,200 entries) to savor.
Elias Savada is a movie copyright researcher, critic, craft beer geek, and avid genealogist based in Bethesda, Maryland. He helps program the Spooky Movie International Film Festival, and previously reviewed for Film Threat and Nitrate Online. He is an executive producer of the new horror film German Angst and co-author, with David J. Skal, of Dark Carnival: the Secret World of Tod Browning.