Arts Desk

DC Shorts, Showcase 7: Mimes, Starving Dogs, and a Claw Machine


DC Shorts' Showcase 7 largely skews serious—except when it focuses on mimes, in which case it’s just irritating. Three of the eight tell of strained parent-child relationships; there’s a documentary about a group who tends to dogs in an impoverished area; and a nearly incomprehensible, sort of doc-like drama about a Malaysian man who...does something in Uzbekistan. Keep your guidebook handy for a couple of these.

Codger: An elderly man hoofs around his New York City neighborhood to pick up prescriptions from different pharmacies. You admire his vigor, then ache for him when he’s knocked down by a guy talking on his cell. The man is anguished: The glass bottle containing an $187 prescription broke, he’s out of money, and the pharmacies are closing anyway. But he needs the medication tonight. Mr. Mobile is apologetic though kind of a jerk, but after the old man’s continued pleas, he agrees to help him. After all, you gotta trust the guy, right? The film’s satisfying twist says maybe you shouldn’t.

Two Mimes: Really, mimes? Ugh. This Benny Hill-like bit starts with the pair on opposite street corners, trying to out-mime each other. Somehow, there are sound effects. And then a dopey young woman shows up, licking a lollipop, giggling, and swaying like she’s a 6-year-old. She’s super impressed when the mimes competitively show off for her, and—this is hard to admit—the film is slightly funny when a chase ensues. But ultimately it all feels dated, insulting, and pointless considering that 99 percent of the world hates mimes. OK, I made that up. But you know it’s gotta be close.

Floyd the Android in Dim Bulb; Floyd the Android in Teleporter: Floyd the Android is a bore. There is nothing charming about either of these two shorts, presented together and lasting a mere four minutes. In the first, Floyd has to change a light bulb that he can’t quite reach on a sign above a building. In the second, he’s sweeping up a teleportation machine that resembles an old scale, with items disappearing from one side and reappearing on the other. Then wackiness ensues! Not really. Let’s just say Disney won’t be calling.

Ina Litovsky: This 12-minute drama is so disjointed you’re unlikely to figure out exactly what’s going on. Young Sophie’s real name is Ina, and she’s a violinist. Her hands seem bloodied—or perhaps it’s dirt, or maybe even henna. Hard to tell. A parental figure is involved, but we don’t really see her and she never speaks. When the camera’s on Sophie/Ina, there are unintelligible whispers. She also has a concert. In that scene, you’ll understand what happens. But man, the rest of this is a mess.

Pearl Was Here (pictured above): Oh, the allure of the toy-stuffed claw machine! While her mother shops in a small store, young, pale Pearl becomes fixated on the game and manages to wriggle her skinny body inside with the prizes. She’s happy there; her mother, not so much. It becomes clear that there’s tension in the family, with mom referring to their rough day and Pearl eventually going bonkers. (Though when she repeatedly shouts/sings the chorus from “Party in the U.S.A.,” it’s more funny than disturbing.) The stomach-sinking final scenes suggest that, compared to her home environment, Pearl might be better off living with the stuffed animals.

People of Dogs: In Johannesburg, South Africa, there’s a volunteer animal-rescue organization named CLAW, and this documentary details the heartbreaking circumstances the workers encounter daily. The risk of them encountering violence isn't what unnerves them; rather it’s the citizens themselves, who are so poor that one woman asks a volunteer to adopt her two HIV-positive grandchildren and most go hungry. How do you care for starving dogs and ignore the humans? You can’t. As one CLAW volunteer says about his work, “It’s easier to do it than to talk about it.”

Strangers: Another entry that would benefit from a well-written synopsis. What you can discern is that a Malaysian man felt a need—or was recruited?—to temporarily relocate to Uzbekistan. Often seen in a classroom or surrounded by children, he seems like a teacher, but that’s not quite it. He talks with other men, who also appear to have relocated from various countries to help... do something. Near the end of the film, one of them cries, “We did it!” You’ll have no clue what they did, but the one detail that is clear is that the title’s strangers refer to the Malaysian man and a child, who bond despite cultural differences and language barriers.

Not reviewed in this showcase: Tozeret Bait (Homemade), for which an advance screener was not available

Showcase 7 showtimes (see a complete schedule)

Sept. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at U.S. Navy Memorial
Sept. 22 at 5 p.m. at U.S. Navy Memorial
Sept. 25 at 9 p.m. at E Street Cinema
Sept. 28 at 6 p.m. at Atlas Performing Arts Center

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