LGBT Showcase at DC Shorts 2017: “The Whole World” is the best film

Here is a rundown of the LGBT shorts program at DC Shorts 2017, sponsored by the DC Center for the LGBT Community and DC Center Global.

The Whole World” (“El Mundo Entero”, directed by Julian Quintinalla, Spain, 30 min, in Spanish) was the best and principal film.  This film is set in a town in southeastern Spain, set up in sunlit, exaggerated colors, almost as if animated.  The town itself looks like a glimpse of heaven. Julian, an attractive 30—year old, visits the cemetery where his mother La Chary (Loles Leon), who had died at 51 from breast cancer, materializes in her only afterlife form.  She relates how she protected him as different, from the bullies, and from a rogue psychotherapist.  Then Julian will meet Peter (Candido Gomez), who was another attractive gay teen when he was growing up, ten years older.  But the overriding idea is that Julian himself seems to be in a layered afterlife of his own.

Pool” (“Piscina”, directed by Leandro Goddhino, Brazil 20 min, in Portuguese).   Claudia wants to investigate the family’s past as it fled the Nazis, and encounters a German lady, Marlene, who has set up an apartment in an empty swimming pool.  Marlene recounts the past persecution of gays, while there is a parallel story of Claudia’s own lesbian marriage in which she is raising a child.

Dusk” (directed by Jake Graff, UK, 15 min), tells the story of gender-fluid Chris Winters in the hostile 1950s, a time that took Alan Turing’s life.

Little Potato” (directed by Wes Hurley, 13 min, USA/Russia) invites a young gay man to tell his story growing up in Vladivostok, Russia, at the time of the fall of the Soviet Union. His mother also contributes.  But the film anticipates the hostile 2013 anti-gay propaganda law in Russia, which has led to asylum seeking in the U.S.

The Real Thing” (directed by Brandon Kelly, 7 min) puts a new spin on the whole debate about the relationship between the LGBTQ community and the military.  A father returns home from deployment to his home in Texas, in fatigues, to find his child has transitioned to female. He hugs her at the end.

Better Known as Peaches Christ” (directed by Jeff Dragomanovch, 4 min) lets a drag queen tell his story. Is he more than just an entertainer? I knew a bartender named Peaches in Dallas in the 1980s, but he was very cis.

(Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 10:45 PM EDT)

DC Shorts: “Be Careful What You Wish For”, especially in post-Soviet “Subotika”

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I got to one more DC Shorts program, “Be Careful What You Wish For”, a conservative adage.  It showed in a large auditorium at Landmark E Street.

The longest film shown was “Zero M2” or “Zero  Square Meters” (18 min, French) by Mathieu Landour.  An appealing young male graduate student (economics) arrives in Paris and looks for a flat to rent.  He finds a landlady willing to let him rent a room for a bargain basement price, and he doesn’t read the fine print on the lease.  So the room keeps shrinking.

The landlady, at one point, says she inherited the property, as if the inheritance came with strings (a “Dead Hand”) and social obligations.  So her goal is to increase the stock of affordable housing by shrinking the apartments into microtubules.

I wondered if this film could have been turned into a sci-fi story of being compressed into a black hole, and finding out what it would like to go into one.  If the black hole were really massive, you would be too sinful to notice,

Red Rover” (15 min, Australia), by Brooke Goldfinch, presents us with a young teen couple who don’t buy their evangelical family’s idea that an asteroid is going to destroy the world. They get out (after the family eats cyanide for dinner) to find the townspeople believe the same thing, and have a “motel hell” orgy.  The ending of the film will remind you of Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia”.

Subotika: Land of Wonders” (14 min, Switzerland, “realistic” animation), by Peter Volkart, has an appealing young couple taking their honeymoon in a hidden post-Communist (specifically Soviet) enclave, where slag heaps provide scenic attractions and communication is by pneumatic tubes.  The geography of the place reminds me of the wasteland in my own sci-fi screenplay “Baltimore Is Missing” which I entered into Project Greenlight in 2004. Actually, this film is fascinating to watch.  It looks like a real place, maybe on another planet.  Is this movie “conservative” (because of the obvious attack on Soviet-style collectivism) or “liberal” (because of environmental concerns)?

40h Anniversary” (14 min, Spain), shows a 60-something couple making confessions as they sit in an outdoors Madrid café.  The camera never moves.  The worst confession is that the husband euthanized his mother after she had become a vegetable through end-stage dementia, so he could get on with his life.

Boy-Razor” (12 min, Sweden, but with actors of color), by Peter Pontikis, has a troubled kid placing a razor blade in a crevice of a water slide to get even for being bullied.  We really don’t see many of the consequences.

Sundae” (7 min, Sonya Goody), has a mom driving around Queens asking her son for the house her female enemy lives in, with a reward of an ice cream sundae,

Mine” (about 12 min), filmed in Kensington Gardens, England, by Simon Berry, seems to be a last minute replacement.  A woman leads her husband to a spot in the woods where he steps on a mine (reminding one of a recent incident in Central Park that cost a teenager a leg).  But the dead hand is active.

Last Door South” (“Derniere Porte au Sud”) by Sacha Feiner, from France, wasn’t shown, but the “Making of” video (22 minutes) for this black-and-white animation story about a two-headed mom raising her two-headed son is fascinating,  The realistic animation is shot from models and puppets that took enormous painstaking work by many artisans to create.  I couldn’t easily recreate this with my own trainset downstairs.

(Posted: Friday, Sept. 16, 2016 at 11:15 AM)

DC Shorts: LGBTQ, including “Spoilers”, “Pink Boy”, “Seeking Jack Tripper”, and a documentary about Pat Haggerty

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DC Shorts, in its series “Tackling the Issue”, aired a sequence of six LGBT short films on Tuesday, Sept. 15.

The largest film was “Spoilers” (20 min), by Brendon McDonall   The film starts out when two slightly pudgy gay men meet on a plane when they both have identical carryon luggage.  They go back to Wales together, and the film moves into a kind of fantasy world, bordering on sci-fi (or maybe Tim Burton), perhaps reminding one of Judas Kiss or Dark Place, but not as convincing, because the characters, who have their tats, aren’t as charismatic.  I wondered, what happens to Wales if the UK splits up because of Brexit.

The documentary “These C*cksucking Tears” (16 minutes), by Dan Taherski, gives the life of the creator of the world’s only gay country-western album, Tennessee born Patrick Haggerty.  He describes his father as finally reluctantly accepting him and not wanting him to “sneak” through life.  We watch some vinyl records play on real turntables.  Country-western is a reasonably popular style in gay bars, like the Round Up in Dallas.

Pink Boy”, by Eric Rocky (15 minutes) shows a lesbian adoptive mom BJ bringing up Jeffrey, who wants to wear women’s clothes but isn’t clearly transgender, in redneck north Florida.  BJ says we all need to learn to take care of other people’s children.

Vessels”, by Arkasha Stevenson (15 min), shows a young transgender woman (after change) getting black market breast augmentation injections, on camera.

Seeking Jack Tripper”, by Quinlan O’Rear (14 minutes), present a married male couple, Tucker and Lance, visiting the Toolbox, and Upper East Side gay bar, deciding to try to seduce a third partner.  They finally pick someone with the right amount of chest hair and beard thickness and say so.  There’s a kissing scene in the John which I haven’t seen really happen in years in the bathroom – yet the scene had more potential.

Spunkle”, by Lisa Donato (11 min), shows two lesbians asking a friend to become “uncle” and supply sperm so they can procreate.  The friend is quite impressive visually; too bad it’s obvious that his chest is shaved.  The film takes the viewpoint that procreation is a moral imperative.

(Published: Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016 at 10:45 PM)

DC Shorts: Immigration: “Boat People” and “Doris” pose some dilemmas

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Tuesday night, September 13, 2106, DC Short held another “Tackling the Issues” session, this one being “Immigration”.

The biggest film was the last, “Boat People”, 28 minutes, directed by Paul Meschuh.  An attractive, fit couple from Germany (each about 40) sail in the Mediterranean in a luxury catamaran.  Moussa (Eugene Boateng), a Somali fighter, has fled through Africa and tried to cross the Sea from Libya in a raft.  When shipwrecked, he swims to the couple’s boat and collapses.

When he awakens, a moral dilemma develops.  The wife wants to call the Coast Guard, but Moussa insists on being taken to Italy and allowed to sneak in the country illegally.  He claims he will never see his daughters again if he has to go to a refugee camp and “follow the law”.  The wife (Jule Ronstedt) fears the couple could go to jail, and shows the wisdom of an introvert;  the husband (Thomas Clemens) wants to do the “right” thing and help Moussa escape and actually find work in Europe of possible.  Or is this the right thing?

When do we need to “break the rules” to help others?  The film indeed confronts the audience with a moral paradox, although some of us would see that as a canard. The audience clapped for this one.

The next most important film was “Doris” (17 min), by Oscar Rodriquez Gorriz, part of his Master’s program in film at UCLA.  A spoiled family in the San Fernando Valley employs Doris, who is trying to get a green card.  The middle aged husband is secretly helping her, but the wife is hostile.  When they go to work, Doris has to take care of his misbehaving, racist, senile, diabetic father.  I don’t think that, as a matter of law, she could get a green card if undocumented (typical link https://www.quora.com/Can-an-illegal-immigrant-in-the-US-become-legal ).  I do remember that back in 1997, I cosigned for a caregiver for my mother after a hip fracture, through an agency, and she got her green card that summer.

The film “Frankie (Italian Roulette)”, by Francesco Malta, also 17 minutes, is a rather sicko comedy about young adult male Italian immigrant, saying he wants to find the American dream in Trump City – New York – and blowing off his girl friend and then his menial waiting job in a lower Manhattan restaurant. Then he falls into a Russian roulette game with the Mafia, which could leave him rich, or dead.  I was reminded of the second part of “The Deer Hunter”.  The actor had shaved his forearms (this was obvious), rather like the Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth.

Jungle” (13 min), by Asantewaa Premph, presents two street vendors from Senegal bargain with “capitalists” for space in the City – again, homage to Trump., who used to call New York City (or “The City”) a jungle.

El Coyote” (7 min.), by Javier Barboza, is an animated documentary blatantly showing how illegals are smuggled from Mexico into southern California.

(Published: Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016 at 11 AM EDT)

DC Shorts tackles “Technology Addiction”: Top films are “Rated”, “Video”, and “Get the F__K out of Paris”

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Monday night, September 12, 2016, DC Shorts held one of its “Tackling the Issues” film sets, “Technology Addiction”.  It was shown at Landmark E Street cinema in one of the larger auditoriums, about half full.   In the QA the comment was offered that some films are not online yet because other festivals will not accept them if they can be found online (although DC Shorts will, and has an online festival).

The longest film was “Modern Love”, set in Montreal (bur in English) by director Nicolas Beachemin (20 min), with QA.   A blond, already furrowed 28-year-old connects with a young woman with a blind dating app.   Over time, various circumstances hinder their meeting (like her dropping her not life-proofed phone in soapy water).  But sometimes your love is closer to you geographically than you think.

The best film of the night is one of the next two.

Rated”, by John Forston (QA), 19 minutes,a delicious satire,  presents a typical San Fernando Valley family (played by Forston’s own wife and kids) where one morning every adult has a “YRLP” rating floating in the ether above their head, visible to all.  John’s wife got only 2-1/2 stars and finds herself discriminated against as a parent at a school meeting and the by a local restaurant, which will admit only those with 4-star ratings or more.   In the QA, Forston says he was inspired to make the film by the fact that Uber lets drivers rate consumers (as does Airbnb,  I think), which means that some consumers could find themselves cut out of the markets even as customers.  It’s obvious to draw a parallel in this film to past racial segregation.  But the idea could extend to excluding people from “life” for “cosmetic” reasons, like overweight, or having too much or too little body hair, or even something like “B.O.”.  The film could also be viewed as an extension of the idea of “online reputation”, which affects small businesses even more than people because of user reviews.

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Video”, by Randy Yang, appears to be shot in Washington DC, perhaps near Logan Circle.  A white woman, and young lawyer, berates a homeless black man selling stuff on the street.  (Actually, he really wasn’t panhandling.) Two young black women videotape her and threaten to post it on YouTube immediately (using the “Capture” app).  The threat that the video could go viral would threaten the white woman’s chance to make partner in the firm.  The two women try to blackmail her to get the video deleted.  There ensues some conversations about how white people perceive black people, especially women, visually.

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So Good the See You” annoys me as a greeting in social happy hours, and here it is a comedy (10 min) by Duke Merriman on not so radical hospitality.  A couple from Manhattan visits old friend Zoe at a party in Westchester, perhaps Scarsdale.  An overheard cell phone call ruins everything, leading to a confrontation reminding me of Roman Polanski’s “Carnage”, although the vomiting was kept off camera.

Get the F__k out of Paris”, by Greg Emetaz, presents a “Survival Mom’s” idea of impending apocalypse.  Doing laundry in a ritzy area near the Seine, a young woman gets a text message from a friend in the CIA that at midnight, every cell phone in Paris is going to explode.  What really happens at midnight?  The film has some structural concepts like the short story “The Ocelot the Way He Is” in my “Do Ask, Do Tell III” book. (treatment ).  The film also fortuitously (if accidentally) capitalizes on Samsung’s flammable Galaxy battery recall (WSJ story).

Syrah”, by Mike Holt (4 minutes) is a comic version of Siri, with a slightly middle Eastern flavor, albeit in the Bronx.  One of the characters looks like “Jaws” from the Hames Bond movies.

Life Smartphone” by Chenglin Xie, 3 min, China, animated, speculated what happens if everyone simply lives inside their own smartphones.  The animation resembles Danganronpa somewhat.

Still pictures: Volunteer activity at AATP “Meal Pack” Monday on Mall, and “Donald Trump”.

(Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2016 at 10:30 AM EDT)