DC Shorts Film Fest returns to E Street Cinema with ‘cinematic dim sum’

September 17, 2019

February 4, 2023 | (Jason Fraley)

Are you ready to watch the best in short filmmaking from around the world?

The 16th annual D.C. Shorts Film Festival returns to the nation’s capital with events at Landmark E Street Cinema and Miracle Theatre from Sept. 19-28.

“It’s a fun time regardless of what we’re going to screen,” festival director Joe Bilancio said. “You know it’s going to be good quality and we’re going to have a lot of parties and activities. It’s a great way to meet people and see films at the same time, so we’re excited as always.”

This year’s festival received 1,500 submissions, which were whittled down to 156 selections from 36 countries, from the U.S. to Canada, from France to Taiwan. These films are broken down into 90-minute blocks for your screening pleasure.

“We use the term ‘cinematic dim sum,'” Bilancio said. “We give them the breadth of what short films are. People may have a connotation in their head of what that means, but there’s documentary, narrative, animation. We try to include a U.S. short and we try to include an international short, so foreign language.”

One of the judges’ favorites this year is the animated film “La Noria.”

“It’s one of those where you aren’t quite sure what you’re seeing,” Bilancio said. “It’s beautifully animated. Part of it is these gothic creatures, but I don’t want people to think it’s heavy. At the end, get your tissues ready because you’re going to cry. It starts out being one thing and turns out to be something equally beautiful and moving. It’s the power of film to put you through those reactions.”

Another highlight is the short sci-fi comedy “Two Puddles.”

“People fall into a puddle and stay in the puddle until someone else falls into the puddle, which ejects them out of the puddle,” Bilancio said. “Family dynamics are put on their head when one of the family members falls in. You’re sort of: ‘What do I do? I can’t get them out without sacrificing someone else and I have to make this decision about who’s more important.’ Wow! I’m glad I don’t have to decide.”

You’ll also be able to enjoy the films in special thematic blocks.

This includes the series “A Question of Faith.”

“One of the films is ‘The Rage of Evil’ about a potential school shooter who ends up not doing it because ‘something’ intervenes and keeps him from doing it,” Bilancio said. “We want to use [film] to talk about religion in our lives. Bishop Allyson Abrams will moderate that panel along with four visiting filmmakers.”

There’s also the annual “LGBTQ+” showcase.

“We have such a wide LGBT community here,” Bilancio said. “One of the films I really like is ‘Father Figures’ from the Netherlands. It’s sort of ‘Paris is Burning,’ but done in an area where we don’t often think of this culture. It’s interesting to take something we’re familiar with and interpret it through a different language.”

In addition to the films, there is also the annual Screenplay Competition on Sept. 27, showcasing short scripts under 15 pages. Last year’s winner, “By Any Other Name” by local filmmaker Peter Kimball, will now screen at this year’s festival.

“It’s a crazy competition,” Bilancio said. “We picked five that really stood out. … We cast those on the second Friday [and] then we do live screenplay readings. Those five screenplays will be read at Miracle Theatre. The winner receives $2,000 — $1,000 for winning, then when their film is complete they get the other $1,000. … Seeing it go from script to screen is really special.”

There’s also parties, including the City View Party on Sept. 21.

“We like to say that it’s a rooftop party, but it’s a different roof,” Bilancio said. “We’ve moved from Downtown Carroll Square to the Cambria Hotel on O and 8th [Streets], so we’re excited to see a different view of the city.”

It’s just one of many chances to mingle with the filmmakers themselves.

“We’ve reached this status where we’re really sought out,” Bilancio said. “We’ve had people from Israel, Spain, Japan, China. They really believe in what we do and want to be there to share their films with audiences. Almost every showcase has a Q&A afterward to ask questions, and if you see them walking down the hall, they love to talk about film, so don’t ever feel bad about asking them.”

The next 10 people who buy an All Access Pass get $10 off with the code “Joe.”

“It’s just a really good time,” Bilancio said. “We do all this work to see people enjoying themselves. … To transport yourself to a different world, to a different time and use film to get away from everyday life, which can not always be fun and festive. We’re the fun and festive part! I encourage you to come on out, say hi, see films, meet filmmakers, meet each other and enjoy the experience together.”

Find out more on the festival website. Hear our full conversation below:

February 4, 2023 | (Jason Fraley)

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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