Something about this towering stack of screener tapes and DVDs sitting atop my desk, completely blocking out the gorgeous rays of sunlight that should be pouring in through the window of my cluttered little cubicle, tells me that it’s film-festival season. But some are more exciting than the rest. Now in its third year, the D.C. Underground Film Festival—a two-day affair including more than 45 films—documentary, short, animated, and experimental—kicks off with Deborah Stratman’s documentary Kings of the Sky (pictured; at 6 p.m. Fri., Sept. 30), which follows tightrope artist Adil Hoxuor and his troupe as they tour western China. Other highlights include POPaganda: The Art and Crimes of Ron English (at 10:55 p.m. Fri., Sept. 30), Pedro Carvajal’s documentary on the counterculture cartoonist and activist, and Instrument director Jem Cohen’s first fictional film, Chain (at 8:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 1), a study of the “vast American wasteland of chain retailers” seen through the eyes of a Japanese businesswoman and a world-weary video diarist. (Cohen’s musical documentary, Burn to Shine: Chicago, screens at 7 p.m. Sat., Oct. 1.) This year’s DCUFF also brings back its Women in the Director’s Chair program (at 9:30 p.m. Fri., Sept. 30), a collection of shorts including Tara Mateik’s Operation Invert, an investigative look into the “different regulations mediating Botox-related plastic surgery and gender reassignment,” and adds an all-animation program, “Animation Underground” (at 4:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 1). The festival opens Friday, Sept. 30, and runs through Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Goethe-Institut, 812 7th St. NW. $6. (202) 289-1200. (Matthew Borlik)