A good film speaks to the depths of the human condition, eliciting joy, sorrow, empathy, disgust, euphoria, hope, sadness, angst, or love. It is the rare, exceptional film that causes the viewer to experience more than only a couple of these emotions within the span of a two hours, though often we can expect to feel but one or two depending on our choice of comedy, drama, documentary, etc. But at the DC Shorts film festival (September 9-16), in the amount of time it takes to view one full-length movie, festival attendees see 8-10 brief (under twenty minutes) presentations. Each of the 97 films, from 11 different countries, is housed in one of 9 showcases. One of the showcases I saw included 6 comedies, two dramas, one documentary, and a piece categorized as “experimental” (the acclaimed short, Next Floor).
I’ve never been one to seek out short films (in fact, the only reason I knew they existed at all was because of the Oscar category and an occasional Pixar presentation that precedes the full length movie). A friend I invited to join me skeptically asked, “Will this be like watching a bunch of YouTube videos?” In some ways it was, with the brevity of the pieces and the jump from storyline to storyline. But in many ways, watching several brief films that deal with a wide range of issues elicited many different emotions, and the movies have been the impetus for several interesting conversations in the days following the first showcase.
Like any film playing at the megaplex, some of the movies were heartwarming if a little silly (Lift), others were heinously overacted and self-important (Baines), and some were thought provoking (Chapter 21 and Sister Wife) and hopeful (Worked for Me). Most were interesting, well-produced stories that offered messages, lessons, ideas, or simply a welcomed escape from reality (if only for a few minutes). Most people love hearing and seeing stories, and short films must tell captivating and compelling stories in only a few minutes. Overall, the short films I saw offered a glimpse into the complex world of emotion and thought. If you find yourself in DC during the next several days, be sure to check out some of the remaining showcases.