For 17 years, the DC Shorts Film Festival has been a gathering place for a plethora of world views and experiences in the capital through the media of short films. This nearly month-long event, typically held at theaters all over the city, is adapting to the parameters set by the age of Covid-19 – just like many other festivals taking place all over the world this year.
But Peter Morgan, the executive director of DC Shorts, isn’t disheartened by this required transformation. Instead, he’s looking on the bright side.
“As optimists against the backdrop of the pandemic, we’re excited to be sharing this incredible lineup of 163 films from around the globe with everyone throughout the U.S., in addition to our core film-loving audiences in the DC area,” Morgan says. “Plus, with the free workshops and panel discussions also online, the filmmakers will be able to share their knowledge with a much broader audience this year.”
These 163 films were produced in 34 countries and will be featured in 20 different showcases from September 10-23. Even though the festival is completely virtual this year, Morgan says DC Shorts still received the number of submissions they were used to pre-Covid.
“‘The Other Side’ is the exact type of film I’m talking about when I say that short films can have the same emotional impact in 10 minutes as a feature length film,” Morgan continues. “Whoever sees this film will be thinking about it long after and probably remembering the line, ‘Sometimes it’s not about the other side. It’s about who you become before you get there.’”
Leong traveled to Ethiopia in 2018 on a mission trip with his church. There, he met Abel, a 17-year-old orphan who would be kicked out of the orphanage and onto the streets once he turned 18. Leong says he wanted to spread awareness about the dire situation of orphans in Ethiopia, as 5 percent of the country’s population are orphans who will eventually grow up to find themselves homeless.
“I want viewers to know this isn’t just a story or entertainment,” Leong says. “What you’re seeing on-screen is the real life of someone from all the way around the world. Once someone understands that, they’ll see the scope of the crisis and they’ll want to do something.”
Leong and his team completed most of pre-production for the film 4,000 miles away, which the director says was a challenge. Once they arrived for their week-long stay in Ethiopia, Leong and company focused on getting to know the people involved with this story in order to tell it properly.
“We wanted to be listeners, not experts, when it came to the abandoned children crisis and the film we were creating,” Leong continues. “If you weren’t willing to put down the camera and interact with these kids on-set, then you didn’t deserve to be there.”
As a DMV native, Leong says he is especially thrilled to be featured in this year’s DC Shorts.
“I thought it would be very full circle to show our film in D.C. because it is the second largest Ethiopian city in the world behind the capital city of Ethiopia,” he says.
Notable events during DC Shorts include the Filmmaker Welcome Reception on September 10, which will be a greeting from the DC Shorts board and staff to filmmakers; a community discussion about “Diversity & Universality in Storytelling,” hosted by the DC Shorts Film Salon in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut, also on September 10; and the Filmmakers Awards Brunch on September 13, where the new name of the festival’s annual awards will be announced.
Tickets for viewing 2020 DC Shorts films can be found here. Individual online showcase tickets are $12 each, while the all-access online pass is $75. All events will be free and live through Zoom.