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Promise rears its head in DC Shorts’ Showcase 15. This series of mostly well-made—-and sometimes excellent—-shorts offers a contrast of themes, styles, and stories. Juaritos and Uisce Beatha are the obvious standouts among the bunch. Aside from some significant misfires, Showcase 15 delivers an overall enjoyable lineup.
Uisce Beatha: Mass tragedies are rarely without true tales of dumb luck. This vernal short offers just one more. Told with the Gaelic verve and heart of an Irish pub tale, Uisce Beatha follows a young man off-to “fame and fortune in America.” But unbeknownst to him, his voyage is doomed—-he’s slated to take the Titanic. The lore-ish tone is capped by one last pub romp and some disguised luck.
Marking the Distance: Gweneviere Mann doesn’t process short-term memories. In this StoryCorps entry, Mann and boyfriend discuss the impact of her condition on life and relationships. Personable and never self-pitying, Mann’s story is a unique view of the victories that fill the void left by memory’s absence.
Shenanigans: Shenanigans revels in one joke. But it’s a good one. This short giddily weaves a “yes, and…” joke structure—-no element dismissed, only built upon—-into a precipitous farce. Shenanigans’ one cardinal flaw is how closely it hews to formula. But its slapstick tempo and some inspired line deliveries overcome what would otherwise be formulaic.
Juaritos (pictured above): A blogger undertakes a quick grocery run. But one thing: He lives in the cartel battleground of Juarez, Mexico—-and the Zetas are fast approaching. Juaritos is an apocalyptic short about cartel violence’s grip on Juarez. With matter-of-fact precision, the filmmakers focus most of the short not on violence, but the methodical caution exercised in running this last-minute errand. Eventually, the specter of violence manifests in the film’s climax. But by that time, Juaritos has already proven its point—-fear is sometimes a necessity.
Sufferin’ Till You’re Straight: Gay rights struggle as a Schoolhouse Rock episode. On paper, this short could sound like an entry the Saturday morning series neglected to make, but in execution, it disappoints.
Pishto Goes Away: Another travel story. This time, a farmer’s grating neighbors drive him to leave his village. Animators rely on a washed-out color tableaus to portray our hero’s dissatisfaction and inevitable change of heart.
Beyond Belief: Magicians are an easy target. Beyond Belief opts for a sympathetic lens on this too-often-mocked profession. Yet tonally, the film never finds its place and jokes often fall flat. Plus, a penchant for Mickey Rourke-inspired brooding from the actor serves only to remind viewers of the story’s shaggy-dog potential.
Ed.: An establishing shot offers viewers the first taste of any story. Ed. opens on a rabbit ready to end it—-Hemingway style. But this intrigue is quickly dashed, and Ed. never matches the awe factor of its initial fade-in. Instead, this animated short spends most of its time on an almost-realized concept that should have been ditched at the screenwriters’ workshop from whence it came.
Not reviewed from this showcase: El Ultimo Consejo, for which a screener was not available
Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. at E Street Cinema
Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. at Angelika Film Center
Sept. 29 at 4 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center