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Today Arts Desk begins its annual coverage of the DC Shorts Film Festival, whose 10th year kicks off tomorrow at E Street Cinema and the U.S. Navy Memorial. Showcase 1 is a mixed bag, but it’s made essential by the best short I saw in the slate, Jonathan Ng‘s animated Requiem for Romance (pictured above). With two truly awful entries and one mediocre film in the group (alongside a few solid selections), Requiem has some mistakes to make up for, but it really is good enough to drown out the rest.
Chippendale: Roald Dahl‘s short story, Parson’s Pleasure—-about an underhanded antique dealer swindling country folk out of their unknown treasures—-is an entertaining slice of the author’s frequently cruel black comedy, ending with the most punitive of ironic twists. But this Russian adaptation thoroughly ruins it by substituting broad slapstick for Dahl’s biting wit. It’s acid tragicomedy neutralized by base cartoonishness.
Grandma’s Not a Toaster: It was a dark and stormy night, and three siblings engage in hard-boiled noir bickering over their rich, dying grandma’s inheritance. Played for comedy, with a fun rotating POV gimmick that actually works, Andrew Napier‘s exercise in style and structure only falters on its final joke, which doesn’t quite live up to the inventiveness that precedes it.
Mi Ojo Derecho: An unapologetically, overwhelmingly sentimental look at a young man, once close to his grandmother but now frightened by the the reminder of his own mortality that she represents as her vitality leaves her. This one skirts close to maudlin territory, but in the end you’ll still feel the urge to call grandma to tell her you love her.
Requiem for Romance: Audio from a modern-day breakup phone call accompanies hand-drawn animation and swirling watercolors depicting two ancient warriors locked in battle, the visuals of the fight an abstraction of the conversation. Gorgeous, heartwrenching, and perfect.
Practice Makes Perfect: (Very) young love, short and sweet. That first kiss may only last a moment, but that doesn’t mean hours of effort haven’t gone into it.
Not Anymore: A Story of Revolution: An all-too-brief look at intensely personal takes on the Syrian Civil War from an opposition photojournalist and a rebel fighter. In this form, it’s more of an educational PSA. There are probably feature-length stories to tell about both of these characters, so the quick-hit treatment feels frustratingly incomplete.
Zero Hour: Some gorgeous desert cinematography is wasted on a fairly pointless non-story about a couple who do something terrible in the middle of nowhere. But nowhere is where this goes.
The Summons: Local native Gabriel Rodriguez-Fuller offers up a completely silly and highly amusing look at one nun’s fall from grace. Joe’s Record Paradise in Silver Spring makes a cameo as the source of satanic temptation, and a Metro car serves as a hotbed of impure thoughts.
She is Love: If Zack Snyder made a short film about a displaced teen seeing apparitions in pools of water after a World War II battle, it’d probably look something like this. This one’s got style to spare, meticulous compositions, and gratuitous slow motion, but not much else going for it. It’s a music video in search of a song.
Showcase 1 showings (see a complete schedule):
Thursday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. at E Street Cinema Sunday, Sept. 22 at noon at E Street Cinema Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 9 p.m. at E Street Cinema Friday, Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. at Angelika Film Center