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The Doorpost Film Project (2010)

"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. For 2010, it’s in three rounds. Based on their first round submissions, 21 filmmakers were selected to compete in the second round. Each of the 21 submits a script, five of which are chosen to receive a $40,000 budget to use in filming their script for the final round. The final round films will play and be judged in November 2010.

Most of the first round winners are worth watching — some of them very much so. For the most part, the best films from the first round were the winners, though there are non-winning films from the first round that are very worth seeing — and some of which I thought were just as deserving as the winners. Below, I’ve provided links for the films I find most time-worthy, together with brief indications of the direction the film goes.

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Broadly speaking, the films are oriented toward thoughtful engagement with questions and issues, yet without onscreen depictions of the typical types of objectionable content. A few have violence, blood, or strong language, which will be noted by each link below.

Notable films from The Doorpost Film Project 2010

As with short stories versus novels, short films shine when they bound and compact and slice of life into a pointed and concise yet somehow complete (so far as it goes) moment of experience. Combined with excellent filmcraft, a short film can do quite a lot in three to seven minutes. Here are brief pointers to what I find as the best in this year's Doorpost.

The final round films   back to list

There are four films in the final round, ranging from about 20 to 30 minutes in length. Two deal directly with social issues, two are purely dramatic. All four are worth watching. They are presented below in the order of my ranking best-to-not-as-best. Note that, for now, the links all go to The Doorpost home page, which is the only place the films are available as of this posting (if they are no longer there, you may have to search for them until I update the links here).

  • The Candy Shop is a fairy tale about child trafficking, in which Doug Jones chillingly plays the candy shop owner. Particularly well-played is his morning make-up and transformation into sweetness before opening his shop. This one's filmcraft is the best of the lot, I believe.
  • The Man Who Never Cried has a quite inventive premise. It is a touching and well-executed film of connection and growth.
  • The Good Pretender explores the destructiveness of relational hiding, especially to children. The story had a bit of jumpiness and cliched peer pressure, but it works.
  • Eyes to See questions whether we can remain as idle observers in the face of a disaster-ridden society. The plot was compelling, but the execution a bit plastic.

The best of the first round winners   back to list

Of the 21 first round winners, four stood out as being particularly well-written and well-crafted. The strong hearts of these films vary widely — from true life documentary to whimsically counterintuitive insight — and they each mix excellent screenwriting, direction, and acting with very good storytelling. Each film is listed with its submission topic in parentheses.

  • Table 7 (commitment) asks whether we actually listen when we are prompted toward relational reconciliation and commitment — and whether the little coincidences really are as they appear.
  • The Lost and Found Shop (identity) whimsically but seriously explores the depth of the human heart's ability to hold on to precious things and how petty some attitudes can seem by comparison.
  • The Drop (authenticity) shows the desire, the determination, the pain, and the severe beauty of overcoming.
  • The Waiting Room (identity) looks at isolation, companionship, and our identity in the face of rejection by others.

Other notable first round winners   back to list

While the four above were the best, ten others among the 21 first round winners are particularly worth watching. Most of this group are dramatic films, some intensely so, though there is a light documentary and a fanciful comic film at the end of the list. Across this selection of films, explored themes include justice, honor, guilt, prejudice, beauty found in the midst of brokenness, and more. Each film is listed with its submission topic in parentheses (although the connection is not always clear).

  • In Light (commitment), an accident puts a young man on life support. His father must navigate through difficult issues of blame, compassion, and life.
  • Lest We Forget (sacrifice) takes us back to the US War Between the States to portray a moment of realizing greater justice and acting upon it.
  • A Senseless Act (truth) delivers a compact story to call out specific character flaws, despite a bit of contrivance to build uncertainty and risk into the film.
  • Isabel (sacrifice), with filmcraft that is among the best in the final round, asks about the line between self-protection and honor. Its themes center on power and death, and it is at times intense in its portrayal of these themes.
  • In Retrograde (hope), we see how the future — and hope for it — can hang on the thread of a moment's occurrence.
  • Last Stop (hope), for a serious and painful social issue, zeroes in on the moment of difficult decision that the issue creates — and how camaraderie strengthens one for the decision. The visuals are compelling (some violent though not gory), though I felt the words themselves, though true, were too abstract.
  • The Boy Who Stole'd Christmas (sacrifice) portrays a sincere love, gone sincerely wrong, and how it collides with and misdirects other sincere and innocent loves. It has some intense relational interactions.
  • The Luger Story (identity) is the toughest of the lot to watch. A World War II sniper remembers (in some detail) a couple of kills he made during the war, trying to come to terms with it. The film depicts wartime shootings with blood and some graphic detail.
  • Getting Dad (identity) is a woman's quirky and cute documentary-style tribute to her father.
  • Thirst (hope) wryly and with style explores a bit of cosmological cause and effect.

Notable first round films on Authenticity   back to list

Most of the seven submissions on authenticity are worth watching; two were first round winners. Among the others, I found Play to be the strongest at simply capturing something of great value and beauty.

  • Play captures, without words, a beautiful moment of growing and loving in the life of a small child.
  • Sole Food is a plausible tale exploring our biases, assumptions, and reactions to homelessness. It has a small bit of violent content.
  • Through a creative bit of science fiction, The Proxy asks about the location of the center point of where we are who we are.
  • Jericho explores healing in the context of how, when dealing with a great loss, we may add more pain on top of the pain we already have.

Notable first round films on Community   back to list

Only three films were submitted in the category of community, none of which one in the first round. One of them was very well done.

  • Home asks what all it takes to make a new home a home. It is certainly near the worthiness of the first round winners.

Notable first round films on Sacrifice   back to list

The topic of sacrifice drew the second highest number of submissions, and it had the largest number as first round winners (five). Nevertheless, among the 14 films, it seemed common for them to come off as heavy-handed or else to try ideas that didn't really work. One, however, was excellent, and two others are well worth watching.

  • Down, Right, Hearted. touches with insight on multiple issues of relationships and love in its compact seven minutes. It could easily have been one of the top finalists in its filmcraft and impact. It has some violence, mildly portrayed though what is happening is quite clear.
  • For a piece that is fully narrated, How the Faerie Got Her Wings works very well. Its fantasy tale setting, music, and the tone of its narration help it to work as a reflection on human passions in their goodness and their danger. It has a mild, no-nudity love-making scene.
  • I suppose that The Trainee is mostly a bit of kitschy science fiction, yet still if we go with it, I think there's something for us about deeply felt honor and gratitude. So what if you have to work a bit and offer some grace to the film — it's got a good heart.

Notable first round films on Commitment   back to list

Of the seven films on commitment, three were first round winners. Of the others, two were good enough to call out. Curiously, though we may tend to think of commitment as being a heavy topic, four of the seven films in this category explored commitment from the lighter side.

  • Next Day Delivery explores, in a whimsically exaggerated way, the interaction between fear, self-protection, and deepening relationship.
  • In Iron Shield, paying a company for protection doesn't necessarily result in a commitment to protection. The film is a humorous piece quickly touching multiple angles on commitment.

Notable first round films on Truth   back to list

Besides the one first round winner, three of the nine films in the truth category worked well. Others had good material, but seemed challenged to develop and present it well.

  • Waking brings us into the moment of the hard truth of a terrible pain hitting home, and how we may yet suppress it and have to have it hit home again.
  • In the context of a highway wreck, Collide explores whether we know what we are capable of. The film shows the bloody aftermath of the wreck in some graphic detail.
  • Between the elements of story and image in film, A Day After Cosmos tips the balance toward image, both visual and verbal. Its meditative pace and its strong and varied images engage me and pull me into further reflection about what the film is doing.

Notable first round films on Identity   back to list

The topic of identity drew nearly twice as many submissions as any other category, four of which were first round winners. It also had a high proportion of notable films among the non-winners.

  • Three Breaths, by intermixing time sequences, gives us a look from two perspectives at the same defining choice. It could easily have been a first round winner. It has a small amount of blood.
  • Nota di Amore, wonderfully and with great fun, embodies hope, love, and their connection to our ability to come fully alive — kudos to the filmmakers for pulling it off with a fully narrated piece.
  • Lifestyle for Men, is offered as a play-it-(almost)-straight appeal to not miss out on the wonderful life to be had if we buy into the allure of what someone else tells us they have. Where the film steps (intentionally, I believe) out of character, it portrays a bit of strong language and direct sexual talk as a hint to what the film is actually doing. If after watching you're curious, the director has a blog specifically for the film.
  • Although When the Magic's Gone touches shallowly on the logic of a break-up, it's emotional exploration of breakups is delightful and impactful. The shallowness is a matter of the focus of the film — it makes good use of the time available in a short film.
  • You may have to watch Behold His Mighty Hand twice to put all of the story together — it feels like it was cut down from a longer film to meet The Doorpost's seven minute limit — but it's an emotionally strong portrayal of relational restoration.
  • The Art of Karaoke is a beautiful documentary about an older man discovering he could sing and how he finds a place at a certain karaoke club.
  • War Paint is one to think about. In its visuals and its soundtrack, it juxtaposes two very different domains. There are some tentative ties between the two, most particularly questions of physical attractiveness, and the film's achievement is to draw us into more reflection to find deeper connections.
  • Swing might put into the mouths of kids a way of saying things that is a bit beyond their ages, but it nonetheless plays out the goodness of compassionate grace from an authority figure, as well as a beautiful start on healing and reconciliation.
  • If you take it with a large grain of salt, Understanding Who You Are is a fun, tongue-firmly-in-cheek look at growing up in the teen years. If you want to get serious about it, consider the film in light of post-modernity's move toward the type of self-definition that excludes (or misconstrues) consideration of norms.

Notable first round films on Hope   back to list

Besides the four first round winners, only one of the 11 films on hope was particularly notable. Others tended to have good ideas that were not quite fully developed.

  • Beauty is a wonderfully conceived and executed piece portraying the loveliness of noticing another human and creating beauty out of brokenness. The title is too abstract, and the film might slightly overdo a thing or two, but no matter: The core image can stick with you.


NOTE: Although Before viewing talks don't have spoilers, comments below MAY have spoilers
(spoilers are allowed in comments when a Before viewing talk does not have a corresponding After viewing talk for discussing the film)

5 Responses to “The Doorpost Film Project”

  1. Randy Heffner says:

    I updated the Doorpost Film Project (2010) post to add “other notable first round winners” — nine additional short films that I think are particularly worth watching.

  2. Randy Heffner says:

    It took longer than I thought it would to make another update, but I added notable films for Authenticity and Commitment.

  3. Randy Heffner says:

    Ah. I was able to quickly add notable films from two more of The Doorpost’s categories: Sacrifice and Truth.

  4. Randy Heffner says:

    A long plane ride gave me space to finish out my look at The Doorpost’s 2010 short films, adding the categories of Commitment, Identity, and Hope. I also tweaked a number other places in the write-up, including adding Last Stop to the list of notable first round winners. Next update will be with the final round films in November.

  5. Randy Heffner says:

    Updated with the four final round films. As of this moment, there is still time to vote if you go to The Doorpost Film Project website.

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