The DC Shorts Film Festival, one of Washington's most popular, presents the largest U.S. showing of shorts by Russian filmmakers, plus some 150 other selections from more than 20 other countries Sept. 19-29.
The main country featured this year was chosen before the Russian controversies of: harboring leaker Edward Snowden; passing an anti-gay law; banning adoptions by U.S. families; and jailing the rock band Pussy Riot, festival founder and director Jon Gann told a recent press preview.
"Russia's politics are abhorrent," Gann said. "As an openly gay man, I am appalled ... and horrified. Initially, I worked with the Russian Embassy and their staff, but since, I have cut ties with them."
However, "We shouldn't be punishing emerging filmmakers for the policies of their government," Gann added.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (of the Academy Awards) seems to agree; the Academy's generous grant helped underwrite the festival's Russian program.
Here's a selection of the 16 Russian dramas, comedies, experimental, and animation:
- Two World War Two films:
-- "We Are Not Slaves" -- During World War Two's siege of Leningrad, a boy who's an outsider shows his bravery.
-- "Convoy" -- Separated from their battalions, a Russian and a German soldier must decide which of them will live.
- Several animated films, including:
-- "The Primeval Father" -- A caveman's excellent invention, and spirits, are crushed by his dastardly dad.
-- "Umba-Umba" -- A stray cat rescues miners trapped underground.
-- Animation/documentary "System Preferences" -- Computer pioneer Bashir Rameyev tries to achieve something extraordinary for his country.
For the festival's full schedule, click here. And click here for a description of each film, organized by Countries; Genre (Animation through Thriller); Interests (African American through Women's Issues)...
One of the most ingenious and effective is "Stalled", composed entirely of messages scrawled in women's rest rooms.
Another most powerful one is "Frost" -- "All things leave a mark in this world." In the Canadian Arctic, a young Eskimo's hunt for food takes her beyond a sacred boundary, and she makes a terrifying discovery.
One of the most poignant documentaries is "People of Dogs". Johannesburg's poorest people are seen through their animals. One volunteer says, "I've been hijacked; I've been shot; I've been kicked (but) helping the people and their animals is a way of making society more compassionate."
- If your main interest is LGBT:
-- "Sufferin' Till You're Straight", a rockin' rollin' animated U.S. film
-- "Gay 4 Pay", a documentary from Singapore
-- "The Commitment", a U.S. drama of a gay couple's quest to adopt a child brings their relationship to new levels.
- If the comedy genre interests you more than gender, and U.S. is your most favored nation:
-- "Social Media Anonymous" -- Snippets from this desperately needed support group: "Instagram is passé, and not in a good way." A prep school rejects a girl because she's "posted 47 pictures of herself dressed as fruits."
-- "A Little Something on the Side" -- "Eatin' ain't cheatin'".
-- Speakin' of eatin' -- "Mile High Pie" is mighty cute. Ed & Kay's Restaurant serves mountainous meringue pies in Benton, Arkansas.
Pies, including one called PCP -- Pineapple, coconut, pecan, and lots more food will be offered at the festival's "Grand Bash" party on Sept. 20 at the U.S. Navy Memorial plaza. And a roof deck party at Carroll Square also has dancing to music from movies on Sept. 19. At both, you can mingle with filmmakers as well as fellow film lovers.
The fest has grown so popular that this 10th annual DC Shorts is expanding to six theaters across the metro area: not only downtown, but also in Anacostia, and suburbs of Rockville, Maryland and Fairfax, Virginia.
It includes free weekday lunchtime shows Sept. 23-27 at three locations.
Oh, how long is a short? One to 20 minutes. And although the fest is 11 days long, tickets sell out in short order.