Behind the Curtain: Meet the Bloggers!

Shilah Alibakhshi
What has your role been in the Festival?
I shared the role as Blogger with Hadley, I watched many of the films and wrote reviews, interviewed the filmmakers and wrote articles about the festival.
Why did you decide to intern with DC Shorts?
I love films and I wanted to gain some insight into the entire aspect of there creation.
Did you watch any of the films; if so, what was/were your favorite(s)?
I did enjoy Harry Grows Up and Applications. To me it all comes down to storytelling and whether or not a film can bring something unique to me as a viewer.
Where are you from?
I grew up in Rockville, MD but I was born in Tennessee.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I studied English at the University of Maryland.
What is your favorite movie?
 Hmm… I couldn’t possibly choose between the many that I obsess over and the fact that there are so many I haven’t seen. I would have to say the Evil Dead Trilogy holds a firm spot in my heart. Oldboy is another film that is utterly fantastic. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is also at the top of my list. The french film Love Me If You Dare is another one I adore. I don’t have a favorite genre or category, that’s too restrictive. If it’s a good film, it should be respected regardless.
Do you have a favorite actor, actress, director and/or writer?
Actors I absolutely love are Daniel Day-Lewis, Harvey Keitel, Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard, and Juliette Lewis. My favorite renaissance man would have to be Charlie Chaplin, his charm and talent are untouchable. There are elements from Tarantino and Scorsese films that I admire.

Behind the Curtain: Meet the Bloggers!

Hadley Fielding

What has your role been in the Festival?  

I was both a film blogger and a photography coordinator for the Festival parties.  I also worked on the social media publicity for the festival via Facebook and Twitter.

Why did you decide to intern with DC Shorts?

I found out about DC Shorts through GW’s Spring 2012 Internship Fair.  I love writing, acting and film, so the opportunity piqued my interest.

Did you watch any of the films; if so, what was your favorite?

I watched about half the films, and I enjoyed so many of them.  I was enthralled by the animation techniques in Dziad i Baba (The Old Man and the Old Woman).  I also loved Friend Request Pending and High Maintenance.

Where are you from?

I’m from Lake Bluff, IL, a northern suburb of Chicago.

Where do you go to school and what are you studying?

I am pursuing an English major and theatre minor at the George Washington University in DC.

What is your favorite movie?

My favorite movie, since I was three years old, is Mrs. Doubtfire.

Do you have a favorite actor, actress, director and/or writer?

I love the work of Meryl Streep, Marion Coutillard and Johnny Depp.

 

Shilah Alibakhshi

What has your role been in the Festival?

I shared the role as Blogger with Hadley, I watched many of the films and wrote reviews, interviewed the filmmakers and wrote articles about the festival.

Why did you decide to intern with DC Shorts?

I love films and I wanted to gain some insight into the entire aspect of there creation.

Did you watch any of the films; if so, what was/were your favorite(s)?

I did enjoy Harry Grows Up and Applications. To me it all comes down to storytelling and whether or not a film can bring something unique to me as a viewer.

Where are you from?

I grew up in Rockville, MD but I was born in Tennessee.

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

I studied English at the University of Maryland.

What is your favorite movie?

 Hmm… I couldn’t possibly choose between the many that I obsess over and the fact that there are so many I haven’t seen. I would have to say the Evil Dead Trilogy holds a firm spot in my heart. Oldboy is another film that is utterly fantastic. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is also at the top of my list. The french film Love Me If You Dare is another one I adore. I don’t have a favorite genre or category, that’s too restrictive. If it’s a good film, it should be respected regardless.

Do you have a favorite actor, actress, director and/or writer?

Actors I absolutely love are Daniel Day-Lewis, Harvey Keitel, Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard, and Juliette Lewis. My favorite renaissance man would have to be Charlie Chaplin, his charm and talent are untouchable. There are elements from Tarantino and Scorsese films that I admire.

 

DC Shorts Film Festival Winners!

“Best of” Screening Is Almost Here! 

While every film we show is a winner, a few are selected by the jury and our audience as exceptional works. These films represent the next generation of filmmakers — and their incredible visions. The films are divided into two showcases with tickets currently available. Don’t lose the opportunity to experience truly unique cinema, buy your ticket today!

Best of DC Shorts — Showcase A

La Boda is a twelve-minute dramedy from Spain directed by Marina Seresesky. The film follows a maid on her journey to attend her daughters wedding. She’ll lose her job, find a new dress and avoid a raid. The genuine passion behind the story is evident. Viewers will be satisfied with the love that emanates from the screen. It is a genuinely heart-warming film.  AUDIENCE FAVORITE

Harry Grows Up  is a charming film directed by Mark Nickelsburg that follows an adorable 18-month old boy named Harry maneuvering his way around New York City.  In the satirical short, Harry faces heartbreak after the object of his affection, his babysitter, leaves for college.  Luckily a trip to the park leaves him with a new love interest (someone his own age).  Screen actor, Josh Hamilton voices Harry’s absurdly ironic “inner-thoughts.”AUDIENCE FAVORITE

Argentinean director Juan Pablo Zaramella creates a short with both live-action and animated influences in Luminaris.  The film is sweet, original and remarkably creative.  Its ardent protagonist is an innovative thinker and creator just as its director proves to be in this one-of-a-kind short.  AUDIENCE FAVORITE

Everything is Incredible is a documentary short, collaborated by three American filmmakers, Tyler Bastian, Trevor Hill and Tim Skousen.  The filmmakers travelled to Siguatepeque, Honduras to illuminate the life of a local disabled man named Agustin who has been building a helicopter in his home for the past 53 years.  Afflicted with polio as a boy, Agustin is now confined to a wheelchair.  He has faced physical handicap, loneliness and poverty, and despite continuous ridicule, he has not given up on his fanatical dream.  FEST DIRECTOR’S CHOICE (TIE)

If you’ve ever been on a date, and things haven’t really gone that well; you’ll appreciate First Date. What seems like a swell night turns into a shitty one, literally. First-time filmmaker Steven DeGennaro creates a hilarious short that will make you laugh and make you groan from disgust. If you don’t find the film funny, there has to be something wrong with you.  OUTSTANDING FIRST-TIME DIRECTOR

Good Karma $1, directed by Jason Berger and Amy Laslett, is a fourteen-minute documentary making its World Premiere at DC Shorts Film Festival. The film follows Alex Bogusky, advertising guru, who collects signs created by the homeless. It is a compassionate look at the creative art that is involved with the homeless and their ability to appeal to their constantly changing audience. It is a genuinely heartwarming look into the importance of the homeless individual. The signs they make are clever and honest, and the message is very simple; giving does indeed cause change.  AUDIENCE FAVORITE

Gerard Depardieu stars as a mourning widower in the French short, Grenhouille D’hiver (Winter Frog) directed by Slony Sow.  A French winemaker, Depardieu, is in a state of mourning at the recent loss of his wife.  Yet, he begins to find reparation for his heartache when he is visited by young Japanese tourist.  While a solemn film, the story is thoughtful and heartfelt, and also features the beautiful backdrop of the French countryside.  AUDIENCE FAVORITE

Relationships have never been simple; Facebook has only added to the overabundance of issues when it comes to dating and especially to breaking up. In Deleting Emily, the expectations of deleting someone especially close is brought to the screen with hilarity. Director Zak Klein uses experiences from his friends difficult relationships to highlight the difficulties posed by Facebook courtesy. Should you delete an ex after a break up or not at all? The short is fun and doused with relevant humor that any social media devotee or inexperienced Facebooker can enjoy.  AUDIENCE FAVORITE

Best of DC Shorts — Showcase B

Cockatoo, directed by Matthew Jenkin, is an eleven-minute comedy from Australia. A man attempts to cope with the six-month anniversary of a failed relationship by hiring a call girl to pretend to be the fiendishly fickle ex. If only she could get the damn British accent right! And who knew the ex would show up with a bit of surprise for the increasingly irritated man. With humor galore, it’s not hard to sit tight and genuinely enjoy this little treasure. The performances are the added cherry on top of this well-made short.  AUDIENCE FAVORITE

Paraíso (Paradise) is a film about three Hispanic immigrants who are window washers of Chicago’s skyscrapers.  This line of work is not commonly thought about, yet it takes a great deal of courage and fortitude to rappel these 100 story buildings—a job which has cost some their lives.  In the film, these men contemplate the pros and cons of their work, from the light-hearted topic of people watching to the topic of death in a job that puts their lives on the line everyday. AUDIENCE FAVORITE

Tiny Miny Magic, a film by Danielle Lurie, depicts a woman who is seemingly infatuated with her mailman, thus prompting her to pursue a series of exchanges with him via her mailbox.  She grows quite enamored by this mystery man, and as they share personal mementos to one another he reveals himself.  The atmospheric cinematography has a hand-held camcorder feel which helps to underscore the film’s intimacy.  AUDIENCE FAVORITE

Waiting on a Train, a film by David Joyce, immediately emanates an air of uncertainty as a man waits in anxious anticipation at a train station, intermittently smoking cigarettes and checking his antiquated pocket watch as he waits for a train to arrive.  The man’s dress suggests he is from a former time, yet passengers departing the train are attired in contemporary clothing.  There is something peculiar and unearthly about the scene, and in a heart-rending twist the man is beset with the oversights of his past.  OUTSTANDING LOCAL FILM

Angela Wright, directed by Mu Sun, is a thirteen-minute drama attesting to the pressures any high school student can relate to. The film shines light on the realities that teenagers face in choosing their future. There are certain points quite painful to watch. It is an honest portrayal of what one girl is willing to do in order to achieve that future. AUDIENCE FAVORITE

Chris Foggin makes a laugh out loud satire out of the social networking boom with Friend Request Pending.  The film also features one of Britain’s leading ladies, Dame Judi Dench!  With tips on online flirting, the rules of LOL usage and other online jargon told from the points of view of two seniors who sound more like boy-crazy teenage girls, this film will have you chuckling throughout. AUDIENCE FAVORITE

The Capital Buzz is a documentary short that provides insight into the DC beekeeping community.  The film includes interviews with members of DC Honeybees, a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop beehives within the DC area and inform the public on the importance of the honeybee.  We even meet one member with a hive on roof of his Georgetown row house.  The film was created in a collaborative effort by students at the Institute for Documentary Filmmaking at the George Washington University.  WHOLE FOODS MARKET GOLDEN PINEAPPLE AWARD

Guang, directed by Shio Chuan Quek, is a fourteen-minute drama from Malaysia. It has won multiple awards in the prestigious short film competition BMW Shorties 2011. Guang attempts to find a job to appease his brother, but his autism makes it genuinely difficult. The film celebrates the autistic individual by brilliantly capturing a young mans simple desires. One cannot help but celebrate the beauty this film captures.   FEST DIRECTOR’S CHOICE (TIE)

 

Senescent Shorts: Exploring the Motif of Aging in Film

This year, the subject of aging was a particularly prevalent theme in the Festival’s short film selection.  Two films of interest not only extend this motif in their films, but also incorporate specific cultural influence to senescence.

The first of these films is Obake (Ghosts), featured in Showcase 4, which avails the ubiquitous burden of death to shape a story that implements both Japanese and Hawaiian influences.  The film’s creator, Christopher Yogi, cites his main source of inspiration for the film to be the death of his grandfather and his “personal experience of death in the family.”  Yogi strived to capture some of his own experience in this film that depicts a dying man’s moments of reflection and vivid recollections of life in his youth.

“Watching someone pass away, that moment when they are both here and not here, dreaming and awake, is such a powerful, profound experience. I wanted to make a film that captured that feeling — sad, haunting and beautiful.”

Yogi references the Japanese phrase mono no aware, “the awareness of the transience of things,” as the film’s “guiding principle.”  The director also wished to pay homage to the Hawaiian people with the production of this film,

“I made this film for the people of Hawaii. And to honor the 2nd generation Japanese Americans, my grandparents’ generation, who really built Hawaii into the place that it is today.”

 

Furet, Innbitt (Ideologies) of Showcase 12, employs perhaps the antithetical tact to depict coping with aging.  The film’s writer and director, Norweigian, Jarl Omestad, took a topic that sparked his own interest, the ideological battle of the Cold War—Liberalism versus Communism—and developed it into his film’s comedic concept.  Omestad explains his inspiration,

“I started to play with the thought of forcing persons filled up with different ideological values together in a public institution, and the nursing home was perfect. But I decided to settle this universe in a Norwegian nursing home.”

The film centers on the imaginative battles of two WWII veterans living in a group nursing home.  The “old and stubborn men fight as if they were 20 years old,” Omestad says, but in the end they realize their eccentric, yet genuine friendship, despite their staunch opposing beliefs.  Of the film’s amusing charm, Omestad says, “It is a story and a situation that perhaps makes people think getting old is not a big deal after all, on the contrary it can be a very playful part of life.”

 

Omestad succeeds in his aim to take “satirical look at the 1900′s and the Cold War,” with the humorous depiction of “two old men play[ing] out warfare in a nursing home corridor.”

These films, in addition to the many others that relay the motif of aging, are sure to be appreciated by audiences young and old for their poignancy and relevance.

 

By:  Hadley Fielding

 

Wonders from Down Under: Australian Films at DC Shorts

As an international film festival, DC Shorts has the pleasure of welcoming film submissions from filmmakers around the globe.  In the 2012 festival, we are featuring the distinguished work of a handful of filmmakers from Down Under.

While filmmaking exists as a universal art form, there are striking differences between the film and arts scene in Australia compared to the United States.  Aussie, Joe Hughes and creator of the short, Devoted Husband, explains, “Most feature films in Australia are at least partly funded by the government.  Because our population is so small, we just can’t compete with the US, so we need government support.”  Jordan Fong, the filmmaker behind Cool Toys, adds, “It seems as though projects are more likely to get funding if your film touches on social issues.”

Fong is a 3rd generation Chinese American and filmed his short while on a one-year collegiate study abroad program in Australia.  Working in Australia has allowed Fong to garner a newfound appreciation for the global filmmaking scene.  Australia also offered its own influence in the social implications of Fong’s film, which depicts two young boys’ play date with an old revolver.  Fong says,

“On a broader scale it [the film] does touch on guns but not very directly.  In Australia gun control is extremely strict and it’s almost impossible for normal citizens to acquire a permit.  If it were up to me I would push for laws closer to those of Australia rather than the ones we have here in the U.S.”

 

 

Cockatoo’s director, Matthew Jenkin, elaborates on the Australian arts scene and the struggle the country faces due to Hollywood’s polarizing influence,

“Australians love film but as a whole, we seem to be a bit impartial to our own films.  Many films struggle to get cinema releases here due to the influx of Hollywood films.  But from time to time we get a ‘Shine’ or ‘Priscilla’ or ‘Animal Kingdom’ that really stands out from the pack.”

Australia also possesses a quirky sense of humor in its films. Cockatoo, for one, is about a man who hires a call girl on the six-month anniversary of his recent break-up to recreate a falsified experience with his ex.  Interestingly, Jenkin derived his influence for the films from actual newspaper ads.  He explains,

“I was reading a newspaper article about a companion service that is offered in Sydney. If you’re lonely and would like someone to join you when you go shopping or to the movies or the museum, you can contact an agency that will match you up with a ‘friend.’ The article also sighted a similar service in Japan where men who are soon to get married could hire a woman to play their future wife in order to prepare them for married life.”

 

 

Jenkin also discloses that the idea for the film “started as a dark drama/thriller.”  However, with the feedback of one of his “mates,” he was inspired to transform the burgeoning story into a comedy.

David Pyefich’s jocular farce, Showing the Ropes, about a hangman in Old England is also exemplary of the Aussie sense of humor; Pyefinch describes his short as “a whimsical film about a very bleak period in history.”  He elaborates,

“We are all influenced by the different things that our own home countries bring to us. I think Australian’s are great at irony for instance and I think we also excel at offbeat and observational humour; if I can carry that tradition on – well that would make me proud to be Australian!”

 

 

Pyefinch certainly carried that Australian legacy in his film, and cites the eccentric and wry irony of the Coen Brothers as a major artistic influence.

In the words of Joe Hughes, “Australia has an incredible wealth of film making talent and actors.  Our industry is tiny compared to the US, but I think that breeds a greater determination in the film making community. I’m proud to be part of it!”  It is filmmakers such as these that foster and promote the incredible artistic talent that comes from a country under-recognized for its cinematic ingenuity.

 

By:  Hadley Fielding

 

Uncovering Scarce Art Forms: Films about Lost Crafts

The world is becoming increasingly industrialized and mechanized as each year goes by.  Miscellaneous trades, crafts and art forms have become lost with the advent of our technological age.  This topic of lost crafts was of particular concern to three filmmakers who created films that serve to challenge a world of stock imitation.

The first of these films is Look to the Cookie; screening in Showcase 4, this film takes a look at the family owned and century old Glaser’s Bake Shop in Manhattan, NY.  Glaser’s is one of the few scratch bakeries left in the city and a jewel in the crown for that reason.  The astute direction of filmmaker Lindsay Lindenbaum brought the nonfiction narrative to the screen.  In the documentary short, Lindenbaum conducts a personal interview with the now 3rd generation owner, Herb Glaser, and chronicles the baking ace in his workshop/confectionery.  Lindenbaum describes Glaser’s laudable process,

“The way Herb Glaser maneuvers his way around the kitchen, deftly shaping each piece of dough for his Apricot Butter Crunch Squares, and meticulously icing his infamous Black and White cookies is truly an art in itself, and one that I tried to capture on film.”

 

 

Lindenbaum believes that the film’s subject matter is redolent of a bygone way of life, and the film’s “universal themes” are applicable to many.

“While this film takes place in New York, one need not have to be a New Yorker to relate to these themes of feeling lost in such an increasingly modernized world and longing for the past. While businesses that rely on mechanization are essential to our day-to-day lives, I do feel like in many cases, there’s something that gets lost in the process. Even if something takes ten times longer to create by hand, there’s much more of a connection between the consumer and the creator of the product as well as a deep appreciation of the craft. I think we’ll really be missing out if we lose that.”

In Everything is Incredible, included in Showcase 7, three visionary craftsmen, Tyler Bastian, Trevor Hill and Tim Skousen, delineate the true account of an indigent Honduran man named Agustin who has devoted his life to the fanatical dream of building a helicopter.  Agustin has faced a life of ridicule for his steadfast commitment to erecting this personal grail.  Bastian attributes the consistent condemnation to the fact that Agustin’s “success was measured as flying and not persevering.”  Agustin has certainly persevered in keeping his dream alive for the last 53 years.  Bastian cites a “loss of patience and a loss of the ability to keep at tedious tasks” with the plight of an ever-expanding world based on industry and uniform efficiency.

 

 

Accompanying Everything is Incredible in Showcase 7 is Paul Houston’s documentary short, McKenzie, which follows veteran silkscreen artist Jeff McKenzie at work in his small Oklahoma City, based screen-printing business, McKenzie & Company.  McKenzie got his start in screen-printing in the early 1970’s.  In the film, he expressed his amazement at how little the trade has changed in the last 40 years.  And while the art form has been challenged by the development of automated technology, McKenzie has successfully withstood any mechanized competition in order to carry on the cultivation of a personal passion and art form.

 

 

These films extend an appreciation for the artistic wonders still abiding in a world regretfully falling victim to insipid homogeneity.

 

By:  Hadley Fielding

 

 

Starstruck Shorts: Celebrity Films at DC Shorts

This year DC Shorts is thrilled to showcase six films that feature the work of some renowned artists in the film business.  As I watched the films, I was struck with questions surrounding their shared component of celebrity—How do shorts featuring such prominent actors differ from shorts with unknown actors?  Do these films require higher budgets and longer production phases?  Surely I assumed, yes.  Yet, I was surprised and enlightened on the reality of my guesswork after speaking to some of these very gifted filmmakers.

I was fortunate to interview Marc Brener, creator of the Hollywood satire, Say It Ain’t Solo, featured in Showcase 13.  The film depicts the story of a father (Stephen Tobolowsky) and son (Josh Brener—Brener’s younger brother) who attempt to derail the production of a Star Wars remake.  In Brener’s words his inspiration for the film centers on the storyline itself, “Every movie seems like it’s a remake these days.”  Brener’s short featured an ensemble cast of Hollywood entertainers, all of whom he had in mind and were happy to take part in the film.  Hosting a relatively famous cast, Christopher Lloyd, Malin Akerman, Jason Alexander, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Joe Mantegna, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Kunal Nayyar, was not as huge a financial undertaking as one might suspect.  Through the Screen Actor’s Guild Short Film Agreement, Brener was able to negotiate working with these actors affordably, which assisted him in retaining a low budget.  And while the film was shot over the course of a year, there were only “eight or nine shooting days,” according to Brener.  Brener cites his intended audience as, “Star wars fans, overall movie lovers and inside Hollywood.”  Film enthusiasts will certainly appreciate this film, and hopefully the powers that be in Hollywood will recognize the hackneyed and superfluous amount of remakes being produced in their studios today.

 

 

Another film in the 7th Showcase not only features the acting chops of Hollywood charmer, Adam Brody, known for his break out role in Fox’s The O.C., and roles in films such as In the Land of Women and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but was written by famed director, screenwriter and playwright, Neil LaBute.  I was given the opportunity to speak to LaBute and the film’s director, Nathaniel Krause about what it was like to make the short film, Double or Nothing.

 

 

The short depicts a typical spat between a couple Clark (Brody) and girlfriend Becca (Louisa Krause—LaBute’s sister), which progressively evokes a great deal of uncertainty and surprise in the viewer.  The theme of the unexpected is consistent with LaBute’s inspiration for the film, which he imparts,

“I wanted to do something that went in one direction then surprised the viewer by being about something else–a diversion that I’ve employed a number of times as a writer and very much enjoy as a reader and/or audience member.  In this case what looked like a racial/economic conflict turned out to be something very different.”

LaBute’s script was enough to stimulate Krause’s inspiration as a director.

“As the director, the inspiration came from the script.  What immediately drew me in was the raw nature of the interaction between the three characters; Clark, Becca and the homeless man.  Without giving too much away, I felt there was an underlying truth behind Clark’s ploy—something a lot of people can relate to (at least those who have found themselves in a relationship they would rather not be apart of).  As such, I wanted to tow a line between both despising Clark’s actions and being charmed and oddly familiar with them.”

Both LaBute and Krause agree that it was the collaboration of the filmmaking team, “the people who come together to make it happen,” as Krause says, that made the film a success.  This includes the work of the actors.  Of Brody, Krause said, “Adam was a pleasure to work with.  He is an extremely open and fearless actor willing to take risks and explore all avenues of a character.”  The role of Becca, Clark’s girlfriend, was written for actress, Louisa Krause.  Thanks to producer Andrew Carlberg, they were able to get Brody onboard for the film.

To my surprise the film was not a high-budget short, and it was shot in only 8 hours—the biggest challenge Krause faced when making the film.  However, the film was a success.  Krause, the director, hopes that audiences will leave the theatre with more “questions than answers,” and commends LaBute’s writing with this thoughtful sentiment,

“The beauty of Neil LaBute’s writing is that—as in life—it ultimately poses more questions than answers.  It is simply my intention to give the audience an intimate look at a situation that exposes some of the surprising motives behind an individual’s actions.  It reveals why sometimes those we know best can act in ways we least expect.  In that respect, despite the disrespectful way in which the protagonist behaves, the charm he inherently exhibits is meant to maintain his relatability showing that we may not all be that unalike; what truly separates us is how we deal with our similar thoughts and fears.”

Friend Request Pending of Showcase 3 is a particularly noteworthy film directed by Chris Foggin, and written and produced by Chris Croucher.  The film stars British screen and stage icon Judi Drench, as Mary, a lonely senior citizen navigating the new frontier of social networking in search of love.  The story has an authenticity that is perhaps partly amassed by Croucher’s inspiration for the story, “Put simply, my Mum!”  He elaborates saying,

“She has recently started social networking and watching her learn really fascinated me. This very ‘of now’ story about how older generations deal with what for my generation is an everyday occurrence is funny and heartwarming. The way we all communicate now has changed completely and I am intrigued by the digital revolution and it’s impact on dating. The game has changed.”

 

 

Dench brought that inspiration and Croucher’s idealized character to life.  Croucher commends Dench as a key factor to the film’s success, in addition to its “very real and funny take on a very modern reality; Silver surfer dating.”

Of working with Dench, Croucher gushes, “She is a dream, so funny and just how you imagine she would be in person.”

In terms of getting Dench onboard for the film, Chris Foggin, the film’s director, had developed a working relationship with the actress through previous productions.  Croucher was lucky enough to have Dench as his muse for the script, as Foggin had spoken to her ahead of time about the project.  Croucher recounts these dealings with wistful reminiscence,

“When we started on the short, we showed her [Dench] the script, she said yes and a few months later we said ‘Turnover.’  If only everything in life was that simple.”

The film certainly garnered attention for its star, however this did not determine the film’s expenses, which Croucher quotes as “relatively cheap,” around $8,000.

Scott Schaefer’s film, The Carrier, screening in Showcase 3, features performances by three famed names in the business, Rita Wilson, Chad Michael Murray and Anna Paquin.  The film depicts the posthumous implications of an STD carrier, Thatcher (Murray).  Schaefer reveals “legacy” to be the impetus for the film, “I am always intrigued by legacy.  What items or stories that people leave behind.  I feel that this is the ultimate legacy story.”

 

 

Certainly a mother (Wilson) obliged to deal with the death and subsequent discovery of her son’s HIV infection is burdensome, and carries a degree of weight on the remnants of the past.  The film articulates a significance that lingers even after the credits roll, and with that comes natural contemplation on the film’s subject matter.  Schaeffer hopes the audience will “walk out of the theatre wanting more, involved in discussions about what do you think happened next.”

On working with Wilson, Murray and Paquin, Schaeffer extols the trio.

“It was amazing.  They have all been in the business for quite some time and they are amazing actors who were extremely professional and a blast to work with.  I was truly lucky to have them a part of the production.”

With the encouragement of Paquin, who Schaeffer was working with on another project, the film got its start.  And thanks to a casting agent, “everyone else fell into place,” Schaeffer recollects.

While Schaeffer faced challenges with the film’s costs, which amounted to a medium to high budget short, it only took a mere three and half days to shoot.

In terms of what differentiates shorts with celebrities from shorts with unknown actors, all of these filmmakers divulged in some capacity that while prominent actors certainly create more exposure for films, that does not necessarily designate a finer film.  Jonah Ansell, the creator of the animated short Cadaver, featuring the voices of Christopher Lloyd and Kathy Bates, so eloquently extends his viewpoint,

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t.  Movies are about stories.  Successful movies are about finding the right actors to help tell that story.  Great actors (regardless of their fame) are potent partners in helping you create a compelling emotional journey for your audience.  I have such a respect for actors and the talents/nuances they bring to storytelling.”

These are undeniably a superb set of filmmakers who were admittedly fortunate enough to work with experienced performers.  But it was the collaboration of the expert casts, great storylines, conscientious crews, combined with the passion and conviction of the filmmakers that made each of these films a success.

 

By:  Hadley Fielding

 

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

 

Showcase 14: Strength of Character

Successful stories possess characters of consequence and interest.  The characters on screen must entice, thereby facilitating a bond between the character and viewer that captivates the viewer’s frame of mind.  The filmmakers of Showcase 14 constructed characters (and a number of actors portrayed these characters) in such a way that is mesmerizing and attention grabbing.  Not only are these characters formidable within the context of the respective script, but they are captivating as projected images of people, of human behavior that bears truth and meaning.

 

In David Pyefich’s Australian short, Showing the Ropes, Gregory is the hangman of his village, extolled for his “talent.”  However, his profession and renown amongst the townspeople becomes threatened when his nefarious adversary develops a new hanging technique.  This jocular farce parodies turgid old English prose in its dialogue and the deplorable execution customs of the time.

 

 

In First Match, a film by Olivia Newman, Monique is about to wrestle in her first match.  As a freshman and the only girl on her high school team, she is taunted by her male teammates.  All Monique really wants is to get closer to her detached father, who was a wrestler in his youth.  Newman poignantly depicts familial struggle and the search for connection in this sports short.

 

The Capital Buzz is a documentary short that provides insight into the DC beekeeping community.  The film includes interviews with members of DC Honeybees, a non-profit organization whose mission is to develop beehives within the DC area and inform the public on the importance of the honeybee.  We even meet one member with a hive on roof of his Georgetown row house.  The film was created in a collaborative effort by students at the Institute for Documentary Filmmaking at the George Washington University.

 

In High Heels & Hoodoo, an eerie comedy written by Jocelyn Rish and directed by Brian Rish, Tiffany is determined to gain access to her deceased grandmother’s fortune.  In a zealous attempt of financial exploitation, she solicits the services of a Gullah root doctor to contact her grandmother from the grave.  Tiffany’s wish is met as her avaricious ways transport her to the land of the dead to see her Nanna once again.

 

 

An off-season Santa Clause struggles to find meaning in life without the holidays in Merry.  He explores some part-time work, but nothing seems to be as fulfilling as his work as Kris Kringle.  In this film by Conor Byrne, you’ll be rooting for this Santa to find some jolly cheer in his spare time.

 

 

Cahaya, a young girl who works as a trash collector in the slums of North Jakarta dreams of riding a bicycle in the eponymous short film, Cahaya.  She is fortunate to find part of a dilapidated bike that she makes her own.  However, she meets conflict after it becomes the envy of the neighborhood children.

 

In Cool Toys, created by Australian filmmaker Jordan Fong, Bradley and Timmy’s play date becomes the object of suspense after Bradley’s snooping leads him to discover Timmy’s father’s old revolver and bullets.  Bradley coaxes Timmy to play with the “cool” toy, and unbeknownst to their parents barbequing outside, the boys entertain some very violent mischief.  You will not be able to predict what will happen next in this tempestuous short.

 

 

In Marco Gadge’s foreign German short, Die weiße Mücke (The White Mosquito), two policemen hatch a plan to save their provincial village from a resort developer.  The two take extreme measures to derail the development, however, mother nature has another plan.  With beautiful scenery of rustic Germany, this film is engaging for its dialogue, storyline and cinematography.

 

By:  Hadley Fielding

 

Showcase 8: Defining Oneself

Some define themselves by their occupation and passions, others by their actions, relationships and personal attributes.  Every individual differs in his or her self-definition and path to self-discovery.  The nine films that comprise Showcase 8 reveal a segment of a character’s journey to self-realization and fulfillment.  The infinite forms of self-expression and self-definition are underscored in the content of these short films.  They present relatable material, allowing audience members to empathize with the characters and uncover a personal connection with the stories.

 

 

In Score, a French-Canadian film by Lawrence Côté-Collins, a couple Audrey and David, air their dirty laundry in what better a location than a Laundromat!  The two discuss the conventionalized double standards between men and women, as Audrey struggles to decide whether or not to reveal her number of sexual partners to David.  This short is sardonically witty and amusingly relatable.

 

 

Water documents the ritual of water gathering in rural Tibet, a laborious duty bestowed upon the Tibetan matriarch.  Director Bari Pearlman captures a day in the life of one Tibetan woman’s toilsome water collecting obligations.  The woman must make multiple trips a day to a potable source of water near her family’s farm and transport it back and forth by means of a wooden barrel strapped to her back.  The task is not only menial, but is physically exhausting as the barrel reaches 80-pounds when filled.

 

Mike Liu makes an original animated short about the life of a ninja and his failed attempts to find work outside his skill set in Shinobi Blues.  With animation that reminds one of a feature length Pixar film, it is easy to forget this is only a 6-minute short.  Liu is an amazing animator and storyteller, and creates an inspiring pleasure with his film.

 

Laundry Day, a film by Thayer Radic, is a short about a man and a woman who meet in a Laundromat.  They take part in a seemingly engaging conversation; however, a slight blunder proves to be a major miscommunication.  This short presents a highly relatable subject matter in such a way that is ironic and germane in today’s world.

 

 

In the Greek foreign short, Mikros Vasilias (Little King), by Socrates Alafouzos, a man’s secret childhood abuse has led him to a life of deep-seated anger and bitter resentment.  His temper is volatile and disturbing, and beckons grievous implications in his personal and professional life.  Alagouzos grippingly depicts the egregious nature of abuse and its lifelong reverberations.

 

Pierre Coffin creates a kid-friendly delight with the French animated short Brad & Gary.  In the short, Brad and Gary, two animated creatures, face some “self-adhered” binds after getting a little carried away with their routine nose picking.  They are forced to use their fingers, nostrils and other extremities to save one another from the deathly consequences of their seemingly harmless habit.  The film is also featured in this year’s free Family Showcase.

 

In The Last Animals, a film by Mary Holyoke, bees have become extinct leading to a world without food and water.  This depiction of a post-apocalyptic world is both terrifying and heart breaking, as a woman must take extreme measures to protect herself and her infant baby in order to survive.  This film is reminiscent of the jarring full-length film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel, The Road, directed by John Hillcoat and staring Viggo Mortensen.

 

 

Can’t Dance, written and directed by Richard Uhlig, is a charming atypical comedy about a forlorn widower named Stu.  After he drinks his wife’s ashes on what would have been their 40th anniversary, she comes back to life to give him some much-needed guidance in his love life.  With witty dialogue and a heartening storyline, this film reinforces a positive message about love, loss and moving on.

 

 

Jeremy Smith creates a hilarious teenage comedy with 10 and 2.  The short’s main character, Wilbur, a nerdy and apprehensive teenager, is having a rough time of it in Driver’s Ed.  During his first driving lesson, in an unlikely turn of events, two rowdy thugs hijack his car.  He is forced to be their driver in what turns into a rollicking high-speed chase that may, or may not have been just the instruction Wilbur needed.

 

By:  Hadley Fielding