Short films offer an opportunity for filmmakers to experiment with genre and narrative. In DC Shorts’ Showcase 2, we see the product of some of those experiments. A handful of the selections strip away plot until there’s barely anything left. But the best short in Showcase 2 (The Morning After) is also the most conventional, both in terms of character and payoff.

FrostIn a snow-ridden postapocalyptic environment, a small family struggles to survive. Food is scarce, so the daughter leaves camp for supplies. This is the set-up for a science-fiction short, one that juxtaposes low technology with a blighted future. It’s lean and a little suspenseful, even if the narrator repeats her opening comments word for word at the end of the film.

Moving Day: Davis has only been with his girlfriend for two weeks, but she’s already getting ready to move into his house. He doesn’t know she’s a little quirky: She has a collection of creepy dolls, a pet snake, and a lot of other weird shit. Moving Day is a dark comedy that’s all about the personality differences that emerge in a new relationship, except these are comically outlandish. Only some one-liners stick; the character reversals happen too fast, so they’re never quite clever.

Sit With Me: A connection between two strangers is rare, which is part of the reason they feel so significant. Sit With Me is about that kind of connection, but it’s so slight there’s hardly any emotional impact. A young man walks through a city square, peddling an unidentified product. An older woman comfort him as he sits on the curb, wallowing in his own misery, and not much else happens. They may connect with each other, but the audience probably won’t with this film.

The Man Who Lived on His Bike (pictured above)This is not a narrative film, exactly, and more of high-concept experiment: We watch a man ride his bike while he simultaneously performs all the humdrum tasks of his day. He brushes his teeth, goes to work, uses the restroom, and even meets a girl. The filmmaker shoots from two perspectives—-handlebars and helmet—-and while it’s interesting, this Vimeo staff pick offers less ingenuity than the site’s usual curated fare. (Watch it on Vimeo)

The Morning After: This a romantic comic fantasy with some interesting constraints. A man and a woman wake up in the same bed after a drunken one-night stand. He’s a British stripper who spends the entire film naked; she’s a goody-goody who thinks sleeping with a hot stripper is beneath her (it isn’t). The man wins her over—-and the audience—-but not before the man and woman have some unexpected visitors. The Morning After is fanciful and light, with just enough realism that its overtly happy ending is not cloying.

The Donor: This is a documentary about Chris Love, a local schoolteacher who also tells stories for the organization Speakeasy. After Chris’ lesbian friends in New York ask him to be their sperm donor, Chris faces a problem: the clinic, following discriminatory FDA guidelines, rejects his sperm because he’s gay. The Donor is shot with matter-of-fact affection for its subject, but the director chops up footage from Chris’ Speakeasy telling of the tale, which effectively kills the story’s natural flow. It might have been better to stay faithful to Love’s own version. (Watch the film on Vimeo)

Not reviewed in this showcase: We Are Not Slaves, The Uprising, and Un Ojo, for which advance screeners were not available 

Showcase 2 showings (see a complete schedule):

Thursday, Sept. 19 at 9:30 p.m. at E Street Cinema
Sunday, Sept. 22 at 2 p.m. at E Street Cinema
Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 5 p.m. at Angelika Film Center
Friday, Sept. 27 at 8 p.m. at Angelika Film Center