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‘DC Shorts Film Festival Reviews’ by Erica Laxson

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Showcase       Title                                                Stars

Showcase 1

1          Why Do We Put Up With Them          4 Stars 

Why Do We Put Up With Them‘is a cute, animated poem that tugs all the right notes on your heart strings. Pet owners everywhere will enjoy this short by David Chai and hug their furry bundle of love a little closer the moment they get home. Beautiful and vibrant, the animation highlighted wry humor and temperamental love with more flair than real life could have managed.

‘Thinking Inside the Box’

1          Thinking Inside The Box                5  Stars

In no time at all, Thinking Inside The Box’explores the wants and needs of someone not so different from you and I. Every heartfelt moment triggers endless smiles and you’ll only wish something in your life could be this adorable. Imagination lovers and fans of the quaint, cute, and sweet will squeal in delight. Director James Hickey envisions a world where being brave doesn’t always mean being bold, but requires a little ingenuity instead.

1          The Photographs Of Your Junk (will Be Publicized!) 4 Stars    

Slam poetry is at its best in ‘The Photographs Of Your Junk will Be Publicized!’ Take a dose of social truth and laugh at the absurdity of our world along with creator Ronnie Butler Jr. Mingling technology with live performance Butler not only presents his case, he is able to back it up with flair. Delve into the impact and absolute power sex has over our global media as rhymes and beats spill the oily story that nobody wants to hear, nor clean up.

1          Schrodinger’s Box       3  Stars  

The ultimate test of your faith is guaranteed to change your perception of the world.  ‘Schrodinger’s Box’ questions everything you’ve ever known about this quantum paradox with a little twist of horror. Dive into the consciousness of an unstable person that could too easily be your own. Despite the intriguing premise, this short fails to make its mark.

1          Pyka (hand)     3  Stars    

Step into a gritty fantasy and suspend your disbelief for this hands-on short. What do you need to feel complete? ‘Pika’ stumbles through themes of loneliness, forgiveness, and compassion ungracefully, but with honest integrity. The sensitive subjects remind the viewer that wants and needs never seems to line up.

1          Murder Mouth  4 Stars        

Filmmaker Madeleine Parry delivers an impressive, if long, look at her own consumption. Have you ever questioned where your food comes from? ‘Murder Mouth’ makes a statement with both its production style and its message, but the snappy intercuts distract from the importance of the point. Is being disconnected from your meal a benefit of our society?

1          La Mirada Perdida (the Missing Looks)          3  Stars      

The stakes are high and hard to bear in this piece from South America. ‘La Mirada Perdida‘ sheds light on a true plight that is nearly unheard of in our every day, but is all too familiar around the world. Director Damian Dionisio displays the power of a Mother’s love, but the whole thing is not quite as authentic enough.

1          Guang      4 Stars    

One man’s trash is another autistic man’s treasure in this look at the extraordinary of the everyday. Understanding and compassion have their limits in Guang, but its those who can take a deep breath that carry on. Shio Chaun Quek’s artful film is a symphony of beautiful music and pure joy. If you open your eyes, maybe you too can see what others miss.

1          Good Karma $1           5  Stars

Good Karma $1 is a look at the purest form of advertising on the street. Cardboard signs offer a snapshot of a message, so the homeless know it has to be good. See ad man Alex Bogusky market test his own signs created with ad agencies techniques. Is a sign a crutch or a help?

Showcase 2

2          The Sugar Bowl          4 Stars        

What starts off as an uncomfortable history lesson turns into an interesting look at culture rarely displayed in our media. The smallest ripples in the US have an effect around the world and can drastically change the way of life for countless people. ‘The Sugar Bowl’ shows how US consumption can make or break the success of small nations in Rich Williamson and Shasha Nakhai’s eye opening vision.

2          The Queen Of My Dreams      4  Stars      

A unique look at traditional Indian culture spun on its head by directors Ryan Logan and Fawzia Mirza. See the expectations forced on women by family, the media, and overbearing tradition. How long does it take to realize what you need is different than what you been told to want? This Lesbian friendly film is bright, honest, and fun!

2          The Mcgrory Clan       1 Star         

This simplistic documentary about a family preparing food is extraordinarily commonplace. Little to no artistic thought was put into this short piece, and if it did, it went unnoticed. While the message is universal, the presentation is bland and unimaginative.

2          The Lonely Pair           3 Stars

Old memories and new feelings come to life when two lonely souls come together by chance around the holidays and reconnect over high school memories. Directors Nick Hartanto and Sam Roden share a unique take on two people making life out of unwanted lemons. A weak ending and stiff acting dragged down what could have been an endearing tale of love.

2          My Night With Andrew Cunanan         3  Stars

Gay men are perceived in media a certain way, no matter what they do to dispel certain myths. ‘My Night With Andrew Cunanan’ reveals how the pressure to have sex can go horribly wrong. Bravdo and risk go hand in hand in this harrowing story based on real life events. Director Devin Kordt-Thomas explores the small twists of fate that can change your life and the lives of countless others from an alternative point of view.

‘Happy Voodoo’

2          Happy Voodoo            5 Stars      

Imagine fixing all the world’s problems with a little bit of craft and art know how. This infinite power could be used for the greater good, or you could use it to manipulate a little more happiness into the lives of those around you. Director Jenny Goddard delights with a world we don’t want to let go! At the end of the day, friendship is all you need when you have a problem.

2          Forever Beautiful         2 Stars

What attempts to be a conversation about witty and insightful banter is instead banal and trite. ‘Forever Beautiful’ is more like a bad car commercial than a film. The dialogue is unnatural and uncomfortable, and despite the premise, it still doesn’t fit. If you want to be true to yourself, the first step is not hiding behind your words. Unfortunately, the message gets lost in the lazy writing.

2          ExtraÑos (strangers)   4 Stars

Gender changes how we perceive a person and taking advantage of this social judgement is an artform in its own right. Knowing how most people view the world is a survival tactic, developed by those who need it most. Fast paced exergy paired with a naturally brilliant cast make ‘Extranos’ a must see short. Director Valeria Bolivar plays with the audience’s expectations, but delivers with a bang.

2          Big Breakin’     5  Stars        

A community dance team brings the funk when the stakes go from footloose and fancy free to a once and a lifetime opportunity to shake what their mama’s gave them. This is a mockumentary gone right! Director Mattio Martinez has captured the best of his cast in this fun little flick. Throw out your first and second expectations and ride the roller coaster of laughter, teamwork, and fabulous dance moves.

Showcase 5

5          The Man At The Counter        5  Stars    

The Man At The Counter is a sweet and romantic short that actually left me in tears. When you have no words to convey your feelings, the possibilities are truly endless. Wet eyes and foolish grins are the horizon for viewers of  Brian McAllister’s darling film. Your life will never be this amazingly perfect, but enjoy the feeling while you can.

5          The Last Man On Earth           2  Stars    

The Last Man On Earth is a common theme in shorts, but this right to the point film misses the target. What you would do if you were the last person alive is a rhetorical question until you’re actually in that situation. Extremely rushed and too short, this mini movie could have gone in so many better directions.

5          Sun Devil Tough         3  Stars        

Sports fans and lovers of the underdog will smile during every minute of this inspirational wrestling film. Sun Devil Tough not only chronicles the hopes and dreams of a reborn team, it demonstrates the power of hardwork and determination. Footage of the athletes is raw, but it transports the viewer into the moment so we can experience the ride right along with the wrestlers.

5          Private Sun     4 Stars        

Culture and medicine clash in this brutally honest look at life in the middle east for a woman who cannot do the only thing that will make her well. This is opportunity to see inside a hidden world thats existence is hard to come to terms with as a Westerner. Set at an engaging pace, the naturally talented cast brings the story to life under director Rami Alayan.

5          ParaÍso (paradise)      4 Stars

Everyone has seen the lonely window washer hanging high above the city streets, and maybe you’ve thought about what it would be like. ‘PARAÍSO’ delves into the world of  brave, death defying men just trying to make ends meet. Not only do we get a peek at the world up high, we’re treated to a tantalizing taste of the world only window washers are privy to. A genuinely unique and original idea for a documentary that will make you question your own beliefs about the profession and the people behind it.

‘Luminaris’

5          Luminaris        5  Stars        

Beautiful stop motion wizardry illuminates the imaginative world of a man with an out of the box kind of plan. Color, costumes, and a unique concept will delight the sense and send you home with a sparkle in your eye. Director Jaun Pablo Zaramella wows without relying on any cheap tricks or unnecessary dialogue. This is art in its purest form bravo!

5          Junior    3 Stars      

While the melodramatic and inauthentic acting was the biggest distraction to the story, a gaping plot hole didn’t help the lukewarm film either. ‘Junior’ attempts a raw, heart wrenching, edge of your seat  film, but it falls short in the final product. When I could turn on any episode of CSI and see the same, predictable mess play out, I fail to see the point. If you skip it, you won’t be missing out.

5          A Morning Stroll          5 Stars        

Animation unleashes the wild and compelling curiosity of the what’s been and what could be. Humor and stunning imagery fill every single frame. I couldn’t wait to see more!  Director Grant Orchard has created an award winning piece that deserves all the acclaim it can possibly earn! This is absolutely my favorite animated short in the festival.

Showcase 6

6          Unremembered           4 Stars      

‘Unremembered’ is a wonderfully mysterious tale you can’t quite wait to puzzle out. Despite the slow pacing, this beautifully shot piece tickles the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boy inside of us all. Challenge your imagination to find the answer before the end, but don’t be surprised if escapes you.

6          The Bench       2  Stars    

Quirky and dated, ‘The Bench’ is hard to get through without wincing. Silent films can shine with the best of them, but this is not an ideal example of the genre. Simply put, it’s unimpressive and unoriginal, and even the subtitle cards are a chore to get through. The final nails in the coffin come as a predictable twist and an unimaginative ending.

‘Shave Ice Is Nice’

6          Shave Ice Is Nice        5 Stars         

Shave Ice Is Nice is colorful and fun! Story and heart are bursting from this short and I only wish I could see more of the wonderful world and hard to dislike characters. Let yourself visit a tropical paradise and go along for the shaved ice adventure. Young actor Aidan Laprete Powell is incredibly adorable is this silly short and perfectly embodies the role writer and director Roman Cortez has imagined.

6          Naagahaan, Zinat… (suddenly, Zinat…)        4 Stars     

In a country that puts women second, one woman must put her daughter first to protect her. Naagahaan, Zinat presents a breathtaking conundrum that many of us couldn’t even begin to fathom. It’s tragic, but it’s beautiful. Director Navid Nikkhah Azad broaches a topic that is uncomfortable at best, but does so with incredible grace. Even in the very worst situations, there is a ray of light when you have someone who loves you.

6          Four Daughters           3 Stars  

The idea behind ‘Four Daughters’ is endearing, but the twist was visible a mile away. Cute, but overdone, the concept failed to wow in any way. Not only did it feel out of touch, but even the actors’ enthusiasm was questionable at best. With a little more production value and an imaginative ending, it might have shone, but instead this piece is simply lackluster.

6          Deleting Emily    4 Stars

Reminiscent of quirky coming of age movies, “Deleting Emily’ is an adorable work of everyday fiction. It doesn’t take much to see yourself in the same situation and you can’t help but root for the hero. By the end you’ll be left asking, would I delete Emily? As an added bonus, prepare to be initiated in the etiquette of modern dating via social media.

6          Aquadettes      3 Stars      

Grandma’s go underwater as Aquadettes explores the strength of women past their prime, but bursting with a desire for life. United by a love of the water, these lovely ladies are an stunning inspiration to live every day to the fullest. The desire to have a goal in life is stronger than the mere urge to live. Fans of compelling true stories and reality TV junkies will come away satisfied, but with no cohesive story this short will feel like a drag to others.

6          Applications     4  Stars        

What does beauty cost too much? Applications explores that unanswerable question with a gut-wrenching, artistic piece that will cause strong feelings no matter what your thoughts are on subject. Visceral and almost too real, I couldn’t help but wince and turn away several times. Be prepared for something you’ve never seen before, and most likely won’t seek out again by artist Paul L Hugins.

6          A Night At The Office     3 Stars

You think your office is bad? ‘A Night At The Office’ takes a look at what could be when real life clashes with the unusual. Tawdry quips and palpable sexual tension attempt to lighten the mood, but it feels flat instead of funny. Add a cut throat attitude, and it’s hard to like the characters even a little bit. Expect a few shallow laughs, but don’t look for much substance.

Showcase  9

9          Wednesday’s Child     4 Stars         

When your parents are a question instead of an absolute, childhood can be a bit tricky. Wednesday’s Child presents a brilliant household where up is down and left is right. Kelly Marble is precocious and stubbornly hilarious. Director Rocco Cataldo’s final product is sharp and entertains til the very end.

9          The Gay Who Wasn’t Gay Enough     3  Stars

What could have been a clever spin on traditional Gay stereotypes quickly fell in line with the same old unnecessary jokes. A lackluster story with more heat than heart. This is a  topsy turvy tale of self actualization, but it feels completely inauthentic.

9          Necking           4 Stars

Love is eternal and I’ve seen no greater example than in the delightful Necking. This heartfelt interview film is honest, wonderful, and completely reaffirms your faith in love and devotion. Director Lindsay Lindenbaum captures some great advice on love and happiness from three lovebirds couples and a devoted widow. Keep you ears open and revel in happiness as they relive their decades of love.

9          Flowers For Amber Gordon    4 Stars

Flowers For Amber Gordon is a quaint story about young love told through the whimsical eyes of a growing boy who hasn’t given up on life. Follow his journey and relive your own first love with a little 20/20 hindsight. Director Jason Yamas uses childish stream of consciousness to touch on some very adult themes in this funny flick.

9          Child Of The Desert    3 Stars        

In Child Of The Desert two lonely souls come together by chance, but come to lean on each other as they accept the hand that life has dealt them. Gritty and candid, its hard to imagine a life so far from the beaten path. Painful to watch at times, the dragging speed is an outright nuisance. Grief is a powerful force, but it must be wielded carefully to make an impression instead of a dent.

‘Chase’

9          Chase     5 Stars

When life seems like a movie, it may come as a surprise when hitting the pause button doesn’t work. Chase is a stunning example of non-linear storytelling full of heart and emotion. The simplest things can become a symbol that will shine like a beacon of hope. Three cheers for director Rachel Kopilow and this stunning short you won’t be able to forget.

9          Charlie    4  Stars        

The initially sweet Charlie by director Brett Cramer will take you by surprise! This clever short starts off with a little cheese, but it quickly falls into place. The child inside will gleefully root for the right thing, but you never know what boys will do. Goofy special effects are completely forgivable and even add to its charm. Kids and adults alike will enjoy.

9          Cart     2 Stars

Despite the cute idea, Cart fails to deliver its full potential. Stiff acting and a distressingly annoying whistle stunted what life the film had. An inanimate object coming to life is a popular topic for short films, but this means it must be approached with spunk and zeal, instead of caution. Questionable acting and the lack of an appealing setting seals this short’s fate as a flop.

9          Angela Wright    4 Stars

The stress of school can drive students to do desperate things and Angela Wright is no different. Driven to the edge, she must make a choice that will affect the rest of her future, but what happens when you can’t go too far? Director Mu Sun delicately explores the exciting possibilities of going rogue with a red bow on top. A well executed conundrum that lacked only a truly brilliant ending.

Showcase 10

10        נגטיב (negative)           4 Stars

Negative twists the expected on its head in this adorable, heart warming short from Israel. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder is a common message, but when a young man eagerly explores this age old adage, sparks truly fly. Director Yoav Hornung’s choice of black and white only intensifies this romantically charged film and the momentary injection of red only increases the heat.

10        The Funeral          3  Stars

When life doesn’t go as planned, you come to lean on the people who really care. The moment they aren’t there, it can feel like the whole world is crashing down. ‘The Funeral’ explores support, grief, and second chances in three parts. The most important decisions of your life may not seem like it at the time, so make your choices wisely.

10        Mlk: A Living Legacy   4 Stars

Mlk: A Living Legacy is a historical delight for civil rights movement admirers and Martin Luther King Jr. fans. Follow the waves of change he inspired across the nation and hear about first hand accounts of this living legend.  Historical images are tastefully cut with informative interviews and stunning shots of the new memorial in Washington D.C.

10        Hatch   5 Stars

Life doesn’t always go as planned and you can’t always get what you want, but love heals all in the endearing Hatch. Director Christoph Kuschnig weaves a moving tale of longing, desperation, and love around two couples and an unlucky infant girl. A life changing decision is all the harder to make when it will affect more than just your own life.

10        Crossing          5 Stars

No punches are pulled in the racially tense ‘Crossing’ directed by Gina Atwater.  Emotions flare for father and son when they are confronted with the terrible possibility of racial injustice. Set in 1965, every moment will touch you to the core. Both beautifully presented and tactfully written, this historical fiction could all too easily be fact. Remembering where you’ve come from is just as important as looking at where you’re going.

10        Cookies           3  Stars

Cookies is a little short on production value, but the unexpected twist will surely put a smile on your face. Writer Jessica Robinson expertly pulls the wool over your eyes until the perfect moment of reveal. The over the top acting and choppy cuts are disappointing, but this short merits a nod for simplicity and originality.

‘Cockatoo’

10        Cockatoo         5 Stars

Sometimes, all you need is a little closure to get on with your life, so why not go all out! Cockatoo by director Matthew Jenkin takes a fun jaunt down what-could-have-been lane and steers us straight into something unique, wonderful, and larger than life. Choosing between the real thing and a fantasy can be a challenge, but it’s a first step toward a new beginning.

Showcase 13

13        Waiting On A Train      3 Stars

Waiting On The Train presents a sad situation, but neglects to inspire true sympathy. Uneven sound distracted from the somber film and ruined the illusion. Weak acting pulled the short even further from believability, though the costumes were a bright spot. Director David Joyce manages to twist his tale unexpectedly, but the overall package is disappointing.

13        Tiny Miny Magic          5 Stars

Gem doesn’t even begin to describe the sparkle of Tiny Miny Magic! Director Danielle Lurie delivers in this memorable short full of whimsy and joy. When you take a leap of faith, you’ll be surprised by what you can accomplish. You must do onto others as you’d have them do onto you, and it’s never more true than when you’re looking for love.

13        The Windmill Farmer   5 Stars        

Director and animator Joaquin Baldwin creates a vibrant world full of hope in The Windmill Farmer. The power of progress is highlighted in this imaginative look at energy in a different kind of universe. Hard work and ingenuity will pay off in the end. Color dances through the animated story, perfectly emphasizing the mood throughout our farmers journey. Delight in every minute of it!

13        The Future      4 Stars

Be careful what you wish for in director Venetia Taylor’s comical short film, The Future. Simple and sweet, the possibility of a sneak peek into the rest of your life can be too tempting to ignore to a young couple in their prime. A minimalistic set and great lighting enhances this out of the box story to a surreal level that feels like your own life is on the screen.

13        The Freedom Chair     3 Stars

While Josh Dueck’s story is unfortunate, it fails to capture the viewer early on. Rather than sell the idea, they wait far too long to deliver the hook. Welcome this inspiring story into your heart, but expect to wade through copious amounts of aimless exposition first. Director Mike Douglas delivers an unpolished time suck. Switching between archive footage, interview, and artistic shots can be done with style, but this is not an example.

13        Say It Ain’t Solo           3 Stars          

Despite the semi-star studded line up, Say It Ain’t Solo is a far cry from comedy gold. While it makes use of the film inside a film concept, but it’s distracting to watch a good portion of the video on a simulated computer screen. Jason Alexander, Stephen Zillian, Christopher Lloyd, Stephen Tobolowsky may cause a chuckle or two, if you happen get the industry jokes. Too much expectation was put on the funny, but incohesive cameos, leaving the film with disappointing ending.

13        Retrato De Una Familia (Portrait Of a Family)    4 Stars

Director Victoria Rivera explores the myth of a man and the power one person can hold over happiness in Retrato De Una Familia. Death can be the end or the beginning of a new chapter and Rivera masterfully presents both sides of the coin. Free of an oppressive shadow, watch a family have their chance to thrive in the sun.

‘Dziad I Baba (the Old Man And The Old Woman)’

13        Dziad I Baba (the Old Man And The Old Woman)      5 Stars        

Director Basia Goszezynska visualizes a short story by Polish author Józef Ignacy Kraszewski with great imagination and creativity in this animated film. This unconventional world highlights the common situation a stubborn old woman and crotchety old man find themselves in. Dziad I Baba’s stunning design perfectly pairs with the somber story and makes every word come to life on the screen.

Showcase 14

14        The Capital Buzz         5 Stars         

The Capital Buzz investigates bees’ recent disappearance across the globe and delves into how urban beekeepers in Washington, D. C. are working to save this important pollinator. Enlightening and engaging, director Diana El-Osta weaves a wonderful world where honey and education are the first steps to a solution. This documentary is the embodiment of being the change you want to see!

14        Showing The Ropes    4 Stars         

No rock star in his field likes to get his toes stepped on, even if his challenger has a better claim to fame. Writer Simon Gray makes the most of his gruesome subject with side splitting jokes, and doesn’t shy away from chuckle worthy wordplay and puns. The old English was a bit rusty at times, but there were too many laughs to hold it against the actors long. You’ll never guess what’s waiting at the end of Showing The Ropes.

14        Merry       2 Stars        

Christmas comes but once a year, but Merry takes an off-the-wall peak at one man who can’t quite cope with that truth. Wacky hijinks are good for a chuckle or two, but the presentation isn’t quite up to snuff. Cheesy, over the top acting is hard to swallow and time seems to drag on and on and on.

14        High Heels And Hoodoo         4 Stars          

Immediately intriguing, High Heels And Hoodoo doesn’t need fancy effects to make a mark. Contrasting colors pop on the dark screen and set each character up perfectly in our minds. Writer Jocelyn Rish goes right for the payout and viewers can expect to be surprised in this ghoulish short. Director Brian Rish knows simple is sometimes best, especially when you deliver a little justice.

14        First Match      5  Stars        

Filmmaker Olivia Newman follows a young girl’s struggle to find acceptance from her all male wrestling team. On top of the gender discrimination, this little girl just wants to shine in the eyes of her overworked father. This authentic and genuine short is sure to put a smile on your face and send you back in time to your own high school days. Beautiful production value and a tight script would have been nothing without the wonderfully talented actress Nyasa Bakkar.

14        Die Weisse MÜcke (the White Mosquito)       4 Stars

Director Marco Gadge has a comedic gem on his hands with Die Weisse MÜcke! Lazy backwoods cops are an pop culture favorite in any country, but Madge delivers a constant supply of laughs when the dynamic duo hatches a plan. You’ll be happily surprised at what they do to protect something they hold dear. The subtitles were a little hard to read so you may feel like you’re scrambling to understand, but luckily for us humor can’t be stopped by the language barrier for long.

14        Cool Toys        4 Stars

Writer and director Jordon Fong shares an up and close look at a terrifying true story I wouldn’t wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Suspenseful and utterly captivating, you’ll soon be on the edge of your seat. The term ‘boys will be boys’ comes to mind, but no parent would ever let this kind of mischief fly. Truly harrowing, Cool Toys will do more than entertain; it will spread an important public service announcement to both children and adults.

14        Cahaya            4 Stars    

Just like a stone causes ripples across calm water, anger can spread when it’s left to grow unchecked. But, what happens when you drop kindness instead? Actress Inneke plays Cahaya, a little girl who is faced with a life tougher than most, but no less deserving of a little happiness. Despite her environment and the challenges she faces, she refuses to compromise her beliefs.

LINKS

The DC Shorts Film Festival  ends tomorrow, September 16th. Check the schedule on their website.

Find all these shorts and watch their trailers here.



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