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Posted at 01:16 PM ET, 09/08/2011

DC Shorts Film Festival kicks off


Sarah Paulson stars in Neil LaBute's “After-School Special,” which is showing at the DC Shorts Film Festival. (Photo courtesy of DC Shorts)
Short films are the poetry of cinema. It’s not easy to translate emotion and meaning to an audience while still being economical with words and time, so when it works, it can seem almost magical. And Washingtonians will have the chance to wonder “How’d they do that?” quite a bit when the DC Shorts Film Festival kicks off tonight. Through Sept. 18, audiences can catch 145 films from more than 20 countries at venues across town. But with 17 showcases of shorts — all clocking in at 20 minutes or less — it can be tough to figure out what’s worth a look. After spending way too long watching previews, I’ve highlighted some of my most anticipated festival shorts below, each accompanied by a preview so you can judge for yourself.

Playwright and screenwriter Neil LaBute is a master at making audiences uncomfortable, while simultaneously giving viewers food for thought. His short “After-School Special” touts talented actors Sarah Paulson (“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) and Wes Bentley (who will always be known as that creepy kid from “American Beauty” to me).

(7 p.m. Thursday (tonight) and 9 p.m. Tuesday at E Street Cinema and 11 a.m. Sunday at Artisphere)

It’s hard to imagine a short about illegally crossing the Mexico-U.S. border could be laugh-out-loud funny, but that’s what you’ll find with “La Línea (The Line).”

(7 p.m. Thursday (tonight) and 9 p.m. Tuesday at E Street Cinema and 11 a.m. Sunday at Artisphere)

The unique look of “Stanley Pickle” is thanks to a technique called Pixilation, but I prefer to refer to it as a supercool live action-animation mash-up with people instead of clay.

(9:30 p.m. Thursday (tonight) and 5 p.m. Wednesday at E Street Cinema and 1 p.m. Sunday at Artisphere)

Stanley Pickle 2010 Trailer from Vicky Mather on Vimeo.

Amid many shorts inspired by love found and lost, “Tattoo” fills a void for suspense fans. This one seems sinister and potentially nightmare-inducing, which should delight the horror-loving crowd.

(6:30 p.m. Thursday (tonight) at Artisphere, noon Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday at E Street Cinema)

Tattoo - Trailer from New Dawn on Vimeo.

It’s possible that “Worn” seems amazing just because of the Beach House song in the trailer. But the premise also sounds promising — a woman finds it impossible to face her wardrobe because every shirt and dress recalls her sketchy past indiscretions.

(6:30 p.m. Thursday (tonight) at Artisphere, noon Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday at E Street Cinema)

You can’t glean much from the trailer for “The Strange Ones,” but the mysterious aura coupled with the short’s selection at both Sundance and SXSW bodes well.

(9 p.m. Friday at Artisphere, 6 p.m. Sunday at E Street Cinema and 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16 at U.S. Navy Memorial)

The Strange Ones Trailer from Lauren Wolkstein on Vimeo.

It’s got comedy, sweetness and sadness — and that’s just during the trailer for “Miracle,” which follows a man who finds out some surprising news while getting a vasectomy.

(2:30 p.m. Saturday at E Street Cinema, 7 p.m. Sunday at Artisphere and 9 p.m. Sept. 16 at the U.S. Navy Memorial)

"Miracle" Trailer from Jim Zoolalian on Vimeo.

Among the 145 films, there are a few experimental offerings, including “Only in Dreams,” which carries the same conceptual air as “Life in a Day.” The film is made from found sounds and more than 3,000 images shot on a flatbed scanner.

(5 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Monday at E Street Cinema and 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at the U.S. Navy Memorial)

'Only in Dreams' Trailer from Adam Badlotto on Vimeo.

Apocalyptic science fiction meets comedy during “The Interview,” which tells the tale of the last two men on Earth, as one tries to get a job from the other.

(5 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Monday at E Street Cinema and 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at the U.S. Navy Memorial)

The Interview Trailer - short version from Room 101 Productions on Vimeo.

Actor-musician Will Oldham stars in the Sundance-selected short “Pioneer” about a man telling his son an epic bedtime story.

(1:30 p.m. Saturday at Artisphere, 8 p.m. Sunday at E Street Cinema and 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17 at Atlas Arts Center)

PIONEER - Trailer from David Lowery on Vimeo.

“Toy Story” answered the question: What do stuffed animals get up to when their child owners are at school? “Sidewalk Wars” discloses what those little men in the pedestrian stoplights do when no one’s looking. And it’s a lot more violent.

(1:30 p.m. Saturday at Artisphere, 8 p.m. Sunday at E Street Cinema and 6 p.m. Sept. 17 at Atlas Arts Center)

It seems like Collette and Allen could provide enough fodder for a feature-length documentary, but we’ll have to settle for 20 minutes with them. “Two’s a Crowd” looks at the couple’s unconventional married life — the two live in separate apartments in New York. But when sky-high rent forces them to cohabitate, things get even more interesting.

(1:30 p.m. Saturday at Artisphere, 8 p.m. Sunday at E Street Cinema and 6 p.m. Sept. 17 at Atlas Arts Center)

The Tribeca-selected short “Last Resort” fits neatly into the realm of suspenseful drama. After a car-jacking goes awry, a criminal has to make some tough decisions.

(6:30 p.m. Saturday at Artisphere, 5 p.m. Tuesday at E Street Cinema and 2 p.m. Sept. 18 at the U.S. Navy Memorial)

“Cataplexy”puts quite the twist on boy meets girl. After a man hires a prostitute (for, um, medical reasons), he realizes the hooker is an old friend. And I thought Neil LaBute would provide the most awkward situation...

(9 p.m. Saturday at Artisphere, 7 p.m. Tuesday at E Street Cinema and 4 p.m. Sept. 18 at the U.S. Navy Memorial)

By  |  01:16 PM ET, 09/08/2011

Categories:  Movies

 
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