The take-away from Friday’s DC Shorts 7 p.m. Showcase is that you can get away with a lot more in a short film; it can be that much more raunchy, bizarre, offensive and opinionated. And I was a happier viewer for it.
Here were my thoughts on the films in Showcase 3, which will screen again Sunday September 13 at 6 p.m. at the E Street Landmark Theater.
Rite: A young girl faces a sick and violent ritual her family members say will bring her into adulthood. Pros: The film serves as a strong commentary on organized religion and the actions we take for the sake of the people around us. Cons: This film is not for the squeamish.
Made in Japan: A man tells his girlfriend a tall tale for why he missed a date—it’s an elaborate story about searching for his Japanese father after learning the man he thought was his father was not. Pros: This flick is never short of humor as the main character’s story is brought to reality. We see him searching the streets of Japan for his real father even though he admits he has not a trace of Asian features. His girlfriend is unconvinced, yet listens with a smirk. Cons: The production is documentary-style, which attempts to lend authenticity to a tale that is clearly not authentic.
The Response: A panel of US military judges decide the fate of a suspected enemy combatant in this courtroom drama based on true events. Pros: The military judge’s dearth of evidence against the Guantanamo detainee is especially arresting in that the story’s true. Cons: The film takes place solely in the courtroom, so the audience is left little evidence of their own to judge the suspect themselves.
Hillel’s Angels: A documentary about clans of Jewish motorcyclists. Pros: The best part of this film is the self-deprecating humor of the motorcyclists, who, clad in leather and Harley-Davidson insignia yarmulkes, are proud of both their Jewish heritage and of their love of the open road. Cons: This nearly twenty minute film could have said as much in 10 minutes without audiences having to fidget in their seats.
Paul and His Wall: A recluse falls in love with his neighbor through a hole in the wall. Pros: A cute story, and aptly titled. Paul’s wall represents both his fear of the outside world and the wall of his own apartment, where a chance meeting opens his eyes to love. Cons: This film looks more like a play than a movie with its overly apparent visual symbolism, stage-like lighting, and unconvincing props.
Papiroflexia: A skillful paper-folder shapes the world with his hands in this 3 minute animation. Pros: This film is so visually entrancing that it catches one’s attention with just the actions on the screen and the sound of crinkling paper and quirky music. Cons: It has the look of an American Express commercial, not an indie film, perhaps a good thing for the director who could easily transfer skills into a commercial future.
Interpretation: Encountering a gang of thugs, a couple uses a 6th-century Chinese book on warfare to plan their attack strategy. Little do they know that the man they encounter also knows a thing or two from the same text. Pros: This film cleverly uses an attention-grabbing action scene to demonstrate how two different people can interpret the same philosophy in opposing ways. Cons: The beginning of the film focuses a little much on the flirty banter between the couple, a stroke with no bearing on the rest of the film.
The Hollerings: Three Stories In Wood: Common human anxieties are expressed in three short acts by faceless wooden figurines. Pros: Static shots of doll-house settings set to quirky narration make for a creative look at common human interaction, whether between a frustrated teacher and her hyperactive student or a couple in a now loveless marriage. Cons: So little happens visually that it is sometimes difficult to follow the story solely through narration.
Clamp and Grind: A superhero wannabe takes to the streets against parking enforcement. Pros: A set of headlights enter the darkened frame. A booted man exits a van, armed with goggles and a chainsaw. He approaches an apprehensive businessman. The setting is that of a horror movie, until the goggled man proceeds to cut the boot off the business man’s sedan. It’s a perfect surprise for this simple story. Cons: The setting is a little unclear—it’s nearly pitch black with nothing else in sight. Are we in a parking garage, a city street? While it’s always good to keep viewers figuring out things for themselves, its never good to leave them in the dark, literally.
William’s Christening: An image-conscious couple go to great lengths to recover a child after their own goes missing. Pros: The gothic mansion setting is absolutely beautiful and lends to the intrigue that carries the viewer throughout the film. Cons: Viewers learn so little about the characters that their morally reprehensible actions carry little weight.
A Christmas Carrot: When Ramona seeks to cure her holiday boredom in the privacy of her bedroom, she opens the door to an embarrassing new problem that happens to bring the family closer than ever. Think about the title and use your dirty minds. Pros: I love that this film takes the story THAT far. A great script and superb acting makes this comedy one of my favorite shorts of the year. Cons: Maybe they take it a little too far; I found it difficult to swallow my dinner after the screening.