DC Shorts Film Festival Returns

Special Screenings Target Families, Latinos and LGBT Community

D. Kevin McNeir | 9/3/2014, 3 p.m.
The DC Shorts Film Festival, which features a screenplay competition, several parties, lunchtime screenings and filmmaker workshops, runs from Sept. ...
One man featured in the film about the 1968 riots in D.C. and the aftermath said sports saved his life after he, along with his four siblings, was forced to confront the death of their mother when she tried to break up a fight. (Courtesy of DC Shorts Film Festival)

Americans are comfortable with multitasking, giving short shrift to activities that once took hours to perform.

Perhaps that’s why short films, as opposed to feature-length movies, continue to gain in popularity.

“We started in 2003 with a bold idea and took a huge leap of faith to support shorts and filmmaking,” said Jon Gann, director of programming, DC Shorts Film Festival 2014. “Eleven years and some significant technological advances later, MovieMaker Magazine named us ‘one of the most influential film festivals’ and the ‘coolest short film festival’ in the country. We are proud to earn that praise, featuring truly independent films and filmmakers in the process,” said Gann, who’s been leading the festival since its inception in 2003.

The festival, which features a screenplay competition, several parties, lunchtime screenings and filmmaker workshops, runs from Sept. 11 through the 21st in venues in both downtown D.C. and in Northern Virginia.

More than 1,400 filmmakers submitted entries, two to 30 minutes in length, that includes a mix of dramas, animation, science fiction, comedies, documentaries and experimental films.

“Great storytelling, the kind that challenges, surprises, satisfies, and stays with audiences long after the lights come back on . . . that kind of storytelling deserves to be seen on a big screen,” Gann said. “This year the festival features great storytelling from around the world – 135 films, five screenplays, several genres, from 25 countries. And if you come to the opening weekend showcases and meet the filmmakers, you’ll discover the backstories you won’t find anywhere else.”

Local filmmakers and writers offer compelling stories on topics that include one woman’s use of medical marijuana and how it has changed her life, an enlightening perspective of the effects of gentrification along H Street Northeast and how one man discovers that a significant other can come in all shapes and sizes.

“[My] short film, ‘Heal H Street,’ tells the firsthand stories of people in the neighborhoods surrounding H Street NE who witnessed or participated in the 1968 riots and went on to feel the direct effects of decline, neglect and eventual gentrification,” said Craig Corl, a resident of Northeast who has been making documentaries for the last two years. “This is my first entry for DC Shorts and I found it a challenging opportunity to tell a compelling story under the constraints of time,” said Corl, 52.

One filmmaker took a project from his master’s thesis and turned it into a short film whose topic continues to be debated in the U.S.

“The legalization of medical marijuana in the District actually saved the life of the woman featured in my film, ‘Balinda,’” said Jasper Colt, a resident of Philadelphia and a first-time participant in the festival. “Balinda, a 62-year-old survivor of cancer who is HIV-positive, creates art as both a coping mechanism and a source of income to pay for the medical marijuana that keeps her alive – all while raising her teenage granddaughter. We have to overcome the stigma that comes with using medical marijuana,” said Colt, who first started making short documentary films while in graduate school at Corcoran College of Art + Design in Northwest.

Films that advanced into the final viewing lineup underwent intense scrutiny by Gann and a select group of seasoned filmmakers, movie critics and other members of the industry.

“We wanted more feedback from those screening the entries but I personally watched 400 films myself,” Gann said. “We had a great group of volunteers that watched hundreds of films and I think the public will agree that we chose some outstanding films. This festival is about filmmakers not particular genres – they’re the reason for this annual event.”

One filmmaker from Northwest said because he gets bored easily, short films have always been among his favorites.

“I’m fully entrenched in the YouTube and Facebook culture and prefer a story that cuts out the fat and gets straight to the point,” said Tom Goss, a music video producer who entered the comedy genre in this year’s festival. “My short film, ‘Bears,’ drives home the message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’m very excited to be part of this collaborative, multidisciplinary event.”

For schedules and information go to www.dcshorts.com.