Short reviews of films from this year’s DC Shorts Film Festival

Family can be tough. They can infuriate us, disappoint us, and say precisely the wrong thing. This crop of shorts, which veer from tragic to lighthearted, are (mostly) about the ties that bind and unravel.

Showing the Ropes: There are few relationships more personal than an executioner and his prisoner. Showing the Ropes is all about an affable hangman who intuits that there must be a friendly face to public executions. His rival tries to be more serious about the business, and he just doesn’t get the point.

First Match: A young athlete is about to have her first wrestling competition. The catch is that the match is against a boy. This short is all about uncomfortable gender differences, and how sport only exacerbate them. The poor girl only wants to please her father, and his reticence is infuriating.

The Capital Buzz: You probably didn’t know there’s a guy in Georgetown who keeps thousands of bees on his roof. The Capital Buzz is all about the blossoming trend of urban beekeeping, with a focus on two successful hobbyists. The tone may be gentle and fun, although the jury is still out on whether the documentary will inspire your neighbors to join in. Even this guy hates to get stung.

High Heels & Hoodoo: Clearly, when you go to a graveyard in the dead of night, the only appropriate attire is a red dress that shows off your curves. At least that’s the case when you want to raise your aunt from the dead for the most nefarious of reasons. This short is a like an episode of True Blood, but without all the nudity.

Merry: One of the reasons I don’t love Christmas—-and there are many—-is that affection for the holiday would make me depressed whenever it’s not close. In this short, a Santa Claus only wants to make kids happy, except his yuletide cheer is creepy in the middle of the summer.

Cahaya: This short is going to make you feel miserable. There’s no way around it. A homeless girl in India leads a horrible existence, and tries to be decent despite random acts of cruelty. Cahaya left the deepest impact, to be sure. I’m just not sure I’m thankful for the experience.

Cool Toys: I thought I was watching a thoughtful short film, not a fucking PSA. Cool Toys is about as subtle as a brick to the face, and deserves the accompanying scorn. I don’t care whether it’s based on a true story; it’s still too cloying to be taken seriously.

Die weiße Mücke: The White Ribbon is a wicked comedy about two inept policeman. Their plan—-attracting negative attention to their town so it’s not overrun by tourists—-is elegant, though they’re too stupid to consider one crucial detail. The filmmakers were clearly influenced by The Coen Brothers, making this the most offbeat short, and also the best.

Saturday, Sept. 8 at 4 p.m. at U.S. Navy Memorial (followed by Q&A)

Tuesday, Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. at E Street Cinema

Saturday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. at Angelika Film Center