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If there’s any theme to DC Shorts’ Showcase 5, “Shifting Perspectives,” it’s that youth is wasted on the young. Two shorts have boys (On the Roof) and girls (Balcony) acting dumb, with potentially serious consequences. In Youth, meanwhile, a long-married couple’s determination to recapture the titular bloom is derailed. Other entries range from pointless to sublime, with most falling somewhere in between. Its best entry, however, makes this showcase worth the price of admission alone.
Harder Not SmarterThis 46-second animated film wouldn’t be so puzzling if not for its title, which has little to do what goes on: An ER employee pretends he’s a doctor and offers split-second diagnoses. He’s neither working harder nor smarter, just idiotically.
DCDCA doc about the DC Downhill Club, a group of guys who search for neglected District-area swimming pools in which to skate. These dudes aren’t Lords of Dogtown trespassers, instead going up to the doors of houses with unfilled pools and offering the homeowners, say, a bit of yard work in exchange for the right to clean up the pool and rock their ‘boards. It’s win-win for all involved, and makes for a winning documentary as well.
FrogmanThis film is told from the perspective of an adult son whose father was a “frogman,” or the equivalent of a Navy SEAL before their was such a thing. He then became a spy, leaving behind his family in mystery as he’d suddenly leave for an unknown length of time or speak a code word to have his team show up at the door. The frogman’s wife claims that she still doesn’t know the particulars of her late husband’s job, which makes the documentary both intriguing and somewhat frustrating.
BalconyA British schoolgirl tries to do good, protecting and befriending an Afghan classmate who never socializes and is regularly mocked. But then she does something stupid that has fatal consequences. The themes expand beyond being an outsider to sexual abuse and how different kids respond to it—which gives this film some weight, but not enough to compensate for the melodrama.
Fragile StormThe standout of the group, this film packs a lot of power into its nearly 10 minutes. A young woman is apparently held captive by a man in the beginning of his senior years. He’s alternately gruff and tender with her, but all she wants to do is escape. The twist is brilliant and heartbreaking, and its message will resonate long after its ending.
On the RoofEven in the Middle East, boys will be boys. But these boys are of the dangerous, dare-provoking variety, bullying the weakest or the different among the group. One of the bullied has a revelation when he’s almost killed pulling a stunt, and it’s one that finally gives him the sense of freedom to be himself. It’s applaudable.
The Quantum LighterAn unbelievable premise makes for an unsatisfactory film, culminating with you wishing as much ill on one of the main characters as the woman who walks out on him.
YouthAnother heartache, though with less force than Fragile Storm. A senior couple saves money to undergo procedures that will extend their lives. But after the wife has it done successfully, the man finds out it will be more difficult for him. His decision is a slightly pulled gut-punch, but affecting nonetheless.
Showcase 5 screens Friday, Sept. 9 at 9 p.m., Monday, Sept. 12 at 5 p.m., and Wednesday, Sept. 14 at 9 p.m. at Landmark’s E Street Cinema.