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Short reviews of films showing at the D.C. Independent Film Festival, which runs March 6-10.
In Ryan McKenna’s stark, quirky The First Winter, a Portuguese DJ named Robert makes a pilgrimage to Winnipeg after he learns that the Canadian tourist he recently bedded is pregnant. That plot description may sound bare, but The First Winter is just that—a bare-bones, minimalist, pseudo-comedy that contains as little plot as it does dialogue. McKenna’s film strives to occupy the same space as Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismaki‘s early work, jocking their signature deadpan delivery and comedic style. Unfortunately, that’s where it fails.
When Robert arrives unannounced at the doorstep of his pregnant fling, Sophie, he isn’t greeted warmly: she seems confused and annoyed. The film then tailspins into one painfully uncomfortable scene after another, wherein Sophie makes subtle, passive-aggressive cues to shoo Robert away—-before she eventually gives him the boot. He rents a dingy room in a factory and spends the rest of the film traipsing the frozen landscape delivering fliers to make ends meet. In the end, the film left me as cold as its bleak, dead-of-winter setting.
Update: The D.C. Independent Film Festival’s opening night has been postponed due to inclement weather. The film will show Thursday, March 7 at 8:45 p.m., not Wednesday as planned.