DC Shorts Film Festival celebrates 20th anniversary with stacked film blocks

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews D.C. Shorts (Part 1)

The D.C. Shorts Film Festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary in the nation’s capital.

The largest short-film-only festival on the East Coast runs this Wednesday through Sunday, Sept. 24.

“Keep it short, keep it real, no need to keep it real short. Twenty years of filmmaking and we’re making films for 20 more,” festival director Beau Canlas told WTOP. “Not only are we keeping the traditions started by Jon Gann in 2003 … we are trying to start new traditions. … We have 16 world premieres and 55 women filmmakers, which highlights the mission of D.C. Shorts with the idea that we champion short filmmaking and the idea of inclusivity.”

The five-day festival kicks off Wednesday at the JxJ: Edlavitch Jewish Community Center of Washington D.C., located on 16th Street, Northwest, with a slate of international short films and documentary shorts.

“The way I planned these blocks is I tried to give the audience a ride,” program director Joe Carabeo told WTOP. “There’s a film [on Day 1] called ‘The Steak’ that takes place in one single take, I think it came from Iran, it’s a serious film, but it shows one shot of an invasion that’s happening in a household from a war perspective.”

Thursday moves over to the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema located on Rhode Island Avenue, Northeast, to screen music and performance-themed movies, followed by a special concert across the street at Metrobar on Thursday night.

“Thursday is such a perfect day for anyone who’s connected to music,” Carabeo said. “We have a film block called ‘Listen,’ which is films with scores that we love; ‘Play’ is the films where music is part of the story about musicians and stuff like that, then we have ‘Act’ where we focus on actors and stories about people who are performers.”

Friday’s screening is devoted entirely to so-called “genre” films, so get your popcorn ready.

“What’s better on a Friday than watching some genre films?” Carabeo said. “We’ve got horror, we’ve got sci-fi, we’ve got thrillers. What’s another thing you do on Fridays? You go for a date, so we’ve got date night. … We have a film called ‘Nude,’ which I believe is a French film and they pronounce it a different way, but it’s entertaining. Imagine ‘Cabin in the Woods’ but conquering your fear of being naked. … Imagine ‘Evil Dead’ but being naked.”

After partying with genre flicks on Friday night, we wake up to serious films on Saturday.

“It’s #SeriousSaturday,” Carabeo said. “How do we follow date night but with postdate night? Basically, films that happen after the first date: having a kid, marriage, dealing with in-laws and stuff like that. … We have dramas happening on that day, comedies happening on that day, we get to showcase our alliance, our LGBTQ+ film block.”

Sunday brings the animated and local showcases before culminating with the awards ceremony.

“What better way to spend your Sunday morning than to start with animations?” Carabeo said. “Then we have our local documentaries, then I call it ‘We Make Movies Here,’ but it’s also the local [fiction] filmmakers showcase. Then also Sunday we have the directors panel and the writers panel, so Sunday is just stacked … For the awards show, we said, ‘Let’s make it a mixture of the Golden Globes or the VMAs somehow.’ It should be a blast.”

Each of the 16 screening blocks runs for about an hour and 45 minutes with eight to 10 short films, so if you don’t like a film, just wait a few minutes and you’ll get another one. Each block is also followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers.

“If you love to binge watch … if you love cinema, or if you just love being entertained, you can just sit here and let it pour over you, let this craft, let this amazing art form pour over you, it’s really cool,” Carabeo said. “Nothing against mainstream movies — Marvel, DC and stuff — but this is a way to realize there’s more than just that, there’s more than feature films, there’s more than just what you see online. You can’t click away!”

Find more information here.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews D.C. 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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