With only 135 films from 25 countries selected out of 1400, the D.C. Shorts Film Festival, one of the largest film festivals on the East Coast, expects sold-out shows during its eleventh annual event, according to a press release. The festival will run from Sept. 11 to Sept. 21 at various locations across the metropolitan area, including the United States Navy Memorial and E Street Cinema in Northwest and Angelika Film Center in Fairfax, Va.
“It’s important that our audience likes the films,” said Jon Gann, director of programming at D.C. Shorts. “If [the audience] likes a film and then their friends will like the film and you will bring them to see it.”
This year, four African-American films will be presented during the festival – My American Fund, He’s a Fighter, This is Me, and Midday Crisis. Gann said he is thrilled to have these films as part of the festival this year. “If you can tell a great story in seven minutes, then you probably have a gift,” said Gann. “If you can tell a great African-American story in seven minutes, then fantastic, we want you!”
These chosen films do, in fact, tell a great story, according to Gann. Each of these films range in subject but are between 6-14 minutes long.
My American Fund, a 14-minute film by Los Angeles-based filmmaker Ayana Saunders, tells the story of a young African-American boy who moves from the United States to a small Nigerian village when his mother can no longer care for him.
He’s a Fighter, a film by local filmmaker Elliot Blumberg, is about a young Washingtonian who was born prematurely to a drug-addicted mother; he rises above his troubled childhood to become an honor student and undefeated boxer.
Midday Crisis is a 12-minute story about a deeply depressed young man named Daniel who shares his feelings with a crisis hotline operator. The movie’s filmmaker Jeff Man was born and raised in Rockville, Md. but lives in Los Angeles. He said he is excited to be a part of this film festival so close to his hometown. “I haven’t made it yet, but this is pretty good reassurance to my parents and everyone else that I’m actually working on stuff and not here in L.A. goofing off and going to the beach each day,” said Man.
Although Man’s film is about a young African-American man struggling with depression, he said he never set out with a message in mind; in fact, he said he never creates a film with a message in mind. “I just try to create something that’s honest and real,” said Man. “I’m interested in the internal battles we/I have as people and to write with the intent of spreading a message, to me, kind of suggests that I know the answers to these questions I am trying to pose. But I don’t . . . I hope [people] somehow connect with Daniel, the things he’s saying and take away something personal.”
Jasper Colt, though, did plan a message for his film, This is Me. It is the story of a grandmother named Balinda who has access to medical marijuana due to complications with HIV and cancer in D.C. “My hope is that audiences will see Balinda for whom she is – a strong grandmother fighting to make her and her granddaughters’ lives the best that they can be,” he said. “I think many D.C. residents will be surprised that the medical marijuana program is fraught with so many difficulties.”
Colt, who recently earned a master’s degree from Corcoran College of Art + Design, said that Balinda’s story is special because it is representative of many people. It is a story that deserves to be told, he said.
“I didn’t choose Balinda; rather she chose me,” he said. “I began this project wanting to tell the story of medical marijuana in D.C., and Balinda is the one patient who reached out to me. The first time we spoke I realized that her story is rich and important, and I’ve been incredibly lucky to get to know her and share her story.”
Although Colt, a filmmaker originally from Olympia, Wash., who lives in Philadelphia, is excited to share her story to a wider audience, he is worried about it being overshadowed. “I worry that the recent decriminalization of marijuana in the District, and the controversy surrounding it, will overshadow the plights of people like Balinda who still struggle to get access to medical marijuana despite its legalization,” Colt said.