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“A short film is defined as an original motion picture that has a running time of forty minutes or less,” says Peter Morgan, director of the DC Shorts International Film Festival, quoting from the rules of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. “We have screened films, I believe, that are as short as 30 seconds.”
Fortunately, most of the shorts in the festival are not that brief, averaging out at around the 15-minute mark, with showcases running about 90 minutes apiece.
The festival, one of the largest of its kind in the United States, commences this weekend with a hybrid of live showcases and online streaming. Last year’s DC Shorts was online only due to the pandemic, but as COVID has loosened its grip and more people have gotten vaccinated, Morgan decided to include a few live showcases into the mix at both the DCJCC (1529 16th St. NW) and the Goethe Institut (1377 R St. NW).
“We’re so glad to be able to do the live events this year,” he says, “even though there are only seven of them.”
Among the magnificent seven is the annual LGBTQ showcase, this year entitled “Cinema 10%.” It will be held Saturday, Sept. 11, at 9 p.m. at the DCJCC’s JxJ Theater. Ever the diplomat, Morgan — himself a member of the LGBTQ community — politely refuses to pick a favorite. “All of them are fantastic,” he says. “They really are.”
Morgan, who has helmed the 18-year-old festival for the past three years, notes that there is additional LGBTQ content scattered throughout the various showcases. All showcases, including the live ones, will be available for streaming online through Sept. 19, with a generous watch-time (even if you were to purchase a $75 online festival pass the very last day, you’d still have seven full days to watch everything).
The 95 films represented in this year’s festival were culled from over 900 submissions. “They were the top reviewed films out of those nine hundred,” says Morgan. “So, as with every year, these really are the most amazing quality films.”
Titles within the LGBTQ showcase include the cancer documentary Eleven Weeks, Sungbin Byun’s comedy God’s Daughter Dances, the D.C. Premiere of Tebogo Malebogo’s South African drama Heaven Reaches Down To Earth, the Spanish drama The Ephemeral, and Michael Shumway’s comedy The Last Queen on Earth, in which a farmer, upon learning he’s the last person left on the planet, pulls out the lipstick.
Other LGBTQ films scattered throughout the festival include the French dramas Dustin and The Spark, the Belgian-made On My Way, Austrian drama Fabiu, and Coded, a 29-minute documentary about legendary illustrator J.C. Leyendecker, a gay man whose early-20th century advertisements were coded with LGBTQ imagery.
There’s also Seasick, a locally produced comedy from director Lindsey Ryan. “It’s a wonderful story about what people go through as they’re in the process of realizing where they are in their life, when they want to come out, and how they come out,” says Morgan. “It’s incredibly charming.”
There’s plenty beyond the LGBTQ spectrum as well, including an always-popular animation showcase event, live on Sunday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. at the DCJCC’s JxJ.
“We’re following the CDC guidelines as well as the local D.C. government guidelines,” says Morgan of the live events. “We will be requiring proof of vaccination upon entry into the venues. Also, masks will be worn once in the building and throughout the entire gathering.”
Morgan is hopeful that next year’s festival will again be primarily live, but he is fairly certain he will keep the streaming aspects of DC Shorts in place. For one thing, the online films are not just limited to viewings by local audiences, but are available throughout all of North America, widening the reach of the festival and its films considerably.
“You could be out in California or up in Washington State or even up in Toronto, Canada, and watch the festival,” he says. “I love that more people are able to see more films.”
The 18th Annual D.C. Shorts International Film Festival runs through Sept. 19. For full schedule and pricing details visit www.dcshorts.com.
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