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The Doorpost Film Project (2009)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Is the film worth your time?

The Doorpost Film Project runs an annual short film competition. It runs in two rounds. The top ten entrants from the first round receive a small budget to produce a film for the final round. The Doorpost’s 2009 final films include some excellent and impactful work. The films explored the final round theme of “hope” from a variety of different attitudes and styles. They all have something to praise, although the best are indeed a cut above.

Here are the ten films, listed in order of my take on them, best one first. The top four are quite good, #5 to #7 are definitely worthwhile. Keep going after that if you’re interested in seeing what the full set is like. Running time: 20 min. for each finalist film. If you’re interested in more, there’s a list of notable films from the first round below.

  1. The Butterfly Circus explores our imperfections, how we view them in ourselves and others, and how we respond to them. The Doorpost named this one as its GRAND PRIZE WINNER.
  2. Smoke finds hope in doing hard things in the midst of hard, even hopeless, times.
  3. Portraits examines our perception of and understanding of Beauty in work and how we create Beauty in Life.
  4. La Premiere is a fun documentary of the Lumiere brothers invention of the cinematograph. The Doorpost named this one as its 2ND PRIZE WINNER.
  5. The Rift explores the Beauty of our caring for others, what we dwell on from our life experiences, and how far we’ll go to care for another. The Doorpost named this one as its 3RD PRIZE WINNER.
  6. Guest Room looks at life and joy and loss, asking whether others are a gift or an inconvenience. The Doorpost named this one as its FILMMAKER CHOICE.
  7. Play Land is light-hearted and a bit fantastical as it touches on dreams while exploring relationships and abandonment.
  8. The Glass, in the context of the endurance required for the long-run, explores the significance humans have been given in our ability to choose.
  9. S.H.M.I.L.U. unsteadily asks about the value of the natural versus the man-made.
  10. The Resurrection of Officer Rollins, in a bit of whimsical horror, examines prejudice, fear, and forgiveness.

The Resurrection of Officer Rollins is the only one of the lot with gore. The Butterfly Circus and The Rift have emotionally intense scenes. The Glass and S.H.M.I.L.U. have gunplay and bombs.

  • The credits vary with each film

The links

  • The Doorpost Film Project’s 2009 finalists
  • If you register, you can comment on the films and participate in the site’s discussion boards.

Notable films from the first round

In each of the lists below, I’ve included films from the various Doorpost 2009 themes that I found to be very much worth watching. The films vary in length, being as short as 3 min., but most are 7 min.

Notable first round films on Forgiveness:

  • Fora takes us to Rwanda, but not to the genocide, rather to a simple story of desire and forgiveness.
  • Requited is particularly notable and creative with its depiction of our internal conflictedness as we look to forgive.
  • In Nik Fischer, the title character might arguably take on himself more than he should, yet it shows well our drive to make up for a failure if we are truly repentant.
  • The Bigger Picture explores a parent’s over protection and struggle to decide when a child must grow up.
  • Time is notable for its very brief exploration of a moment of relational grief.
  • Mia is a tale about the pain of loss, but also how we can see another’s loss through our own self-centeredness.
  • M(), though dark and violent, depicts the violence that both betrayal and failure to forgive inflict on our relationships.
  • Missing highlights how our assumptions can lead to judgment and failure to forgive.
  • Human Relations explores our response to dehumanizing aspects of the corporate world.
  • Timing looks at a couple’s self-centered impatience with the other’s personality and shortcomings — by the director of the final round film Portraits.
  • A Change of Heart explores whether, after a major violation, we might soften our hearts.

Notable first round films on Freedom:

  • Turning the Corner, with mixed feelings, powerfully takes us back to USA 1964, to enrich us with things we should never forget.
  • DIVA captures the tension, from the artist’s point of view, between art as product versus art as relationship.
  • One Little Step takes a light-hearted look at the bounds we sometimes artificially keep ourselves within.
  • Hidden Truths takes us to China and to a simple morality tale with deep roots.
  • Spaceboy vs The House Warden, in a mix of everyday and out-of-the-ordinary, captures well what lack of listening and power-based relationships do to one’s spirit.
  • Personal Day takes a odd-angled look at one of the core facts of life.
  • Authenticity explores stereotyping in the film industry — and also in us.
  • The Black Cage examines freedom’s true nature as a two-edged sword.
  • Learning to Fly asks what makes us really alive and free. It does too much telling (even though what it tells is good stuff), but it has powerful moments of showing that make it worth watching.
  • La Pluma is another that does too much telling, yet the setting and the quality of the filmmaking are strong enough that the whole package can leave an impact — by the director of the final round film Guest Room, which won The Doorpost’s Filmmaker Choice award.

Notable first round films on Humility:

  • Our Time Together explores how we look for love and connection sometimes not realizing that we already have it.
  • Rhythm City celebrates a beautiful bit of inner city culture.
  • Mechanic paints a beautiful picture of life being reborn.
  • The Biggest Weakness lightly but seriously takes a look at humility from several perspectives — by the director of the final round film Play Land.
  • Reach asks whether we’re humble enough to love fallen heroes.
  • Obedience takes us on a magical journey of seeing the familiar and sometimes despised from the other side.
  • Santa Man explores giving in the context of poverty.
  • Although Pedazos de Ciudad (Pieces of the City) does not have the best acting and filmmaking quality, it captures well some of the humiliating pressures of the city.

Notable first round films on Joy:

  • The Summons, with palpable concreteness and carefully restrained emotion, examines loss, recovery, and remembrance.
  • Fait embodies well the infectious and magical joy of a childlike view of the world.
  • The Last Laugh, even if predictable in its turn, is still a beautiful moment that can stick with you.
  • Sigh!, in the wonderful tradition of the American musical, plays out a moment of pure joy — joy that can outlast the moment.
  • Takeout explores what happens if we really take seriously the fact that we are going to die. Even though it’s a bit underdeveloped, it’s still worthy of a watch.

Notable first round films on Redemption:

  • Unscripted displays the power of drama to grab us and show us where real goodness, truth, and beauty lie. This is one of my personal favorites among the first round films.
  • Morning, in two starkly different contexts, explores whether we appreciate life.
  • Two Weeks Notice plays out a tale of friends, relationships, serendipity, honesty, and confrontation.
  • Last Dance embodies the critical place in one’s memory of the last contact with a loved one.
  • The Gift of Time documents a true story of a parent’s radical turn to restore what she had broken through long years of poorly tending her relationships with her children.
  • The Undeserving, though tough to watch, portrays well a severe example of one of the most difficult kinds of ways that we might come to accept responsibility for what we’ve done.
  • Liv captures a period of intense anguish and the help that is there — by the director of the Grand Prize winning final round film The Butterfly Circus.
  • Viewfinder explores how easily we get wrapped up in our own self-centered world.
  • Blur could do more showing and less telling, but the imagery in its exploration of mystery is worth a watch.
  • With Eating Alone, the narrated style gives it a distant and somewhat contrived feel, but its main juxtaposition is impactful in its perspective on the beauty of relationship.
  • Gimme 5 sometimes our best understanding of redemption comes when, instead of redemptive grace, we get what we deserve — content awareness: language, some blood.
  • Blood Equity asks whether our love goes far enough to enter into relationship with an offender — content awareness: gunplay, some blood.


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