DC Shorts kicks off hybrid film festival

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews DC Shorts (Part 1)

Last year, it was forced to screen all of its movies virtually due to the pandemic.

This year, the annual DC Shorts Film Festival is going hybrid from Sept. 9-19.

“We’re having live and virtual events,” Director of Programming Joe Bilancio told WTOP. “We felt it was important to give the option and opportunity for people to come back, sit in a dark room and watch films with like-minded people, but some people aren’t comfortable doing that, so we didn’t want to penalize them. … All things are available virtually.”

In-person events will be held at the Goethe-Institut on R Street Northwest and Cafritz Hall at the The Edlavitch Jewish Community Center at 16th St and Q St Northwest. The typical location, E Street Cinema, just reopened last weekend, too late for festival planning.

“We have 95 films from 26 countries,” Bilancio said. “We were expecting our submissions to be down … but we got 9,000 submissions! France, Spain, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, one from Iran. … Countries you’d expect like Canada, then some you wouldn’t expect like Jordan. We have six world premieres and eight or nine North American premieres.”

The 90-minute showcases feature a range of films across various genres, including a U.S. narrative film, a foreign-language film, a documentary and an animated film. There are also two thematic blocks, LGBTQ+ and Animation, for more specific viewing experiences.

“We call it cinematic dim sum, because it’s options and choices,” Bilancio said.

This year’s lineup of movies includes the end-of-life LGBTQ film “Fabio.”

“‘Fabio’ is a beautiful film about an older man and wife,” Bilancio said. “The woman is dying and the gentleman needs help caring for her, so they get a caretaker, who happens to be this gentle, loving, younger man. The relationship between the caregiver and the husband is just gentle, so sweet, and it’s just a beautiful film. … You appreciate the relationship.”

Another standout film is the quirky road-trip comedy “Jeep Boys.”

“It’s a country song done in film,” Bilancio said. “A guy is going cross-country in Canada to see his girlfriend, who may or may not still be his girlfriend, who may or may not be sleeping with someone else. He’s egged on by a passenger who he’s forced to take back home with him. As wacky as it gets, it still makes sense. It’s really hard to do comedy well.”

Also, don’t miss the aptly titled German film “Mazel-tov Cocktail.”

“It’s a teen angst film about a kid trying to deal with his Jewish identity within the context of Germany,” Bilancio said. “Some parts are historical, some parts are in your face, but it’s really unique in its style. It has a lot of comic-book ‘shazams’ and ‘pows’ that pop up on screen, but it’s not too wild … informing while educating while having a lot of fun.”

You can also check out the stop-motion animated gem “Souvenir.”

“It’s not drawn, it’s not computer rendered, it’s more stop-action with paper,” Bilancio said. “It’s a trip down memory lane with a father-daughter who are recollecting the trips that they took. They’re collecting souvenirs. Some are physical like you go to the beach and get a rock or a seashell … others are more ethereal where memories are the souvenirs.”

As always, the festival includes filmmaker Q&As and filmmaking workshops.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews DC Shorts (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

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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