DC Shorts Film Festival and Screenwriting Competition

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First-Time Filmmakers And Local Chefs Unite

Nothing makes watching films better than the inclusion of food. This year at DC Shorts Film Festival, foodies can sit back and relax knowing their hunger cravings are being taken care of. Local chefs have been paired up with relevant films to create complimentary one-of-a-kind snacks.  Intensity douses these films that range from the thoughtful documentary to the undeniably raunchy drama.

The average documentary about animals within the food industry would most likely be met with groans and a half-filled theater. Two documentaries, Murder Mouth and Tastes Like Chicken?, develop narratives that distinguish their films from previously preachy cinema. The accounts are personal and very real, giving audiences a chance to watch informative films and left to develop their own opinions on the matter.

“The one thing I always knew about the film was that I didn’t want it to be too fundamentalist, I wanted it to be subtle and more poetic than a simple ‘punch in the stomach,’ said first-time filmmaker Quico Meirelles, director of Tastes Like Chicken, who drew inspiration for his film from Jonathan Safran Foers’ book Eating Animals. The book describes in horrid detail the treatment of animals within the meat industry. Matchbox Chef Jacob Hunter is complimenting Tastes Like Chicken? with his signature dish of cornbread with organic honey and homemade whipped butter. It seems reasonable that the inclusion of chicken within this food pairing was not pursued.

The film is narrated by none other than a small chicken stuck in a factory farm who dreams of making it out one day. Combing shocking images and undeniably human characteristics within an otherwise unfamiliar world will surely affect many audience members. It is this power within cinema that is so desperately wanted but rarely achieved.

“I always say that I don’t expect people to stop eating chicken just because of the film, but that at least right after the screening they don’t buy a packet of McNuggets,” said Meirelles, fully appreciative of any newfound awareness the audience may encounter by viewing his film. The desire is not radical, but hopeful; that audiences will leave the theatre with an awareness not otherwise fulfilled by following the journey of an innocent feathery friend.

Good films call for discussion and can be relatable to people of various beliefs and ideals. Local filmmaker and cinephiliac Jason Fraley creates such an atmosphere with his first film Liberty Road. The film explores the impact of seemingly random acts of kindness and how they can possibly prevent an overly violent act. It could also be argued that such a description is too restrictive when describing the film. Every detail is significant and with purpose. For Fraley, a good film is one that holds layers of symbolism and grows in meaning after each viewing. The intensity of the film becomes all the more powerful because it holds a hopeful voice. When everything seems to be falling apart, the good we do as individuals does hold a strong sway in our lives.

“I want audience member to reconsider their preconceived notions about others and be a little kinder in their daily lives. I want viewers to be a little more empathetic,” said Fraley, “I want to offer a bittersweet hope that we as a people will endure.”

Liberty Road was shot in Fraleys’ hometown of Libertytown, at a local seafood restaurant where he had worked while growing up. It comes as no surprise that delicious crab cakes are paired with the film and prepared by Chef Peter Smith of PS7. The intentional layers of the film are subtle but significant. At one point in the film, the spectrum of political ideology is represented by vehicles on a road; the blue car for democracy on the left and the red car for republicans on the right. Both vehicles are cleverly divided by a solid indestructible line, representing the obvious barrier that needs lifted between the two parties. The movie, intended for all viewers, takes the heavy-duty task of merging current economic, social and political issues within a short time frame.

Having a luxurious dinner never seemed so outrageous in first-time filmmaker Per Muhlows’ Swedish drama The Order. A man orders food for his dinner in a manner that most would not tolerate but one female waitress manages to make it to dessert. Chef Nick Stefanelli of Bibiana offers a delicious Pork Sandwich on Potato Roll with the film.

Watching films is made all the more fun when disgusting, heinously behaved characters are thrust into our lives. We love to hate them and hate that we love them so. So one cannot help but jeer and scoff at the antagonist within the film. He is cruel and uncensored in a way that not even Patrick Bateman could pull off. The deliberate cruelty is offensive and immense sympathy for the protagonist grows by the minute. Viewers will feel a personal bond with the woman who is treated so cruelly in an altogether familiar environment. The restaurant was chosen as the ideal setting because of its emphasis on fulfilling a basic craving.

“Also, it was metaphorically perfect to show how we as individuals ‘feed off’ each other in various ways. Often in a positive mutually beneficial way… sometimes not,” said Muhlow, who wanted to create an emotional roller coaster within the film for an audience that will get more than what they expect. Things are not always what they seem at first, second or tenth glance. Assumptions will be made about the film, but in the end the audience may find themselves a tad surprised. It is a hard task to knock a viewer off their feet and loosen their jaw, but with The Order, it is a guarantee.

By: Shilah Alibakhshi


The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences Copyright 2012 DC Shorts/DC Film Alliance

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