“Everybody should be in a parade…” notes from DC Shorts

DC Shorts Film Festival: Documentary Showcase

I was pretty jazzed to go to the DC Shorts Film Festival. Becky and I attended the seminars, read the publicity and were totally sold on the concept. I went to the DC Shorts Documentary Showcase on Thursday with high expectations. It’s an independent film festival – which usually means low budget filmmaking. On camera mics, DV camera, no money for professional color correct, stock music if any – I was ready for all of that. I’m a sophisticated indie viewer if I say so myself. But you gotta have a story worth telling and a point of view as a filmmaker – and I was a little disappointed in a certain lack of that in these docs.

My favorite film of the group was “Doggie Drill Team.” Low budget filmmaking, sure. But a fun story about an obedience training class that marches with their dogs in parades. They do “maneuvers.” And it’s everybody – old, young, all classes – hanging out dutifully marching with their dogs in complete earnestness. It’s hilarious in that way that “Best in Show” people are crazy about their dogs – but also pretty appealing. Everybody’s gotta be into something. As the trainer says, “Everybody ought to be in a parade once in their life.” Thumbs up. That was really fun. And doggone it I DO want to be in a parade!
(pun intended)

“Hillel’s Angels” gets my number two vote. Better production value too. It’s the story of Jews on Bikes. Jews in motorcycle clubs, and in organized yearly rides in remembrance of the Holocaust. As one childhood Holocaust survivor says, “What does the Holocaust and motorcycles have in common? Freedom. One is the complete lack of it, and one is the complete experience of it.” Nice. Second place for me because I think the “wow” factor was supposed to be “Jews on Bikes” but I didn’t find that particularly surprising. Who doesn’t want to be on a motorcycle?

What really irritated and bored me was the high-production value sentimental crap – some film about community farming with such reverence for “farming” as it was practically religious. And a father-son personal journey that used so many After Effects plug-ins and overly weighty “Deep Thoughts” narration I thought I was back in film class. At least it had funny home movies, but if I was just going to watch home videos, I’d go visit my parents.

Other than that there was a fun little ride through Adams Morgan’s fine late night eating establishments called Midnight Snack. Having taken that ride myself, it was certainly amusing, but I felt it was more appropriate as a youtube video than a “film” – sort of like if “Arlington Rap” had been presented in a film festival. Yeah, yeah, it’s funny as hell, but… it’s kind of missing a strong filmmaker’s point of view.

On the whole – looking forward to next year – and hopefully a stronger Doc showing at what was otherwise a pretty enjoyable festival.

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