The eighth annual Destiny City Film Festival goes virtual this year and brings its attendees a diverse range of independent films.

Like most film festivals that are happening this year, the Destiny City Film Festival’s eighth annual event took place virtually from Feb. 26th to March 3rd. This year’s lineup brought attendees a unique range of independent films that celebrate diversity and independent filmmaking. 

Featured Documentary: “Falconer”

Winning first prize in DCFF’s storyteller award this year was “Falconer” directed by Annie Kaempfer. Filmed in Washington D.C., “Falconer” is an intimate portrait that features Rodney Stotts, a Washington, DC based falconer. Falconry is the practice of hunting animals in the natural habitat through the means of trained predatory birds.

On the surface, “Falconer” is a story about a man who becomes a falconer. However, the film is more than this. It depicts a man who, under almost impossible circumstances, grew up in order to turn his entire life around for the better in a racially discriminatory town. 

“Falconer” is an inspiring biopic depicting a man growing up in a system that set him up for failure and pushed onwards despite racial discrimination and people rooting for his failure.

For a lower budget documentary, it is actually very well shot. The narrative’s portrayal is well done and straight to the point. They show what he specifically does for a living to get into more of his background that allows you to really get attached to Stotts’ story.

Falconer is a great film to check out if you are looking for documentaries about inspiring and interesting people. 

Featured Narrative: “Beast Beast”

The conversation surrounding the second amendment is strong in America today. Winner of DCFF’s  storytelling award, “Beast Beast” directed by Danny Madden, tells an interwoven story featuring several high schoolers and a neighbor who make videos showing off and teaching people how to use guns. 

It’s a piece that questions the use of firearms and makes us think about how we view gun use, vigilantes and crime in our society. 

We are first introduced to our three main characters — Krista, Nito and Adam. Krista, played by Shirly Chen, is a high school student who becomes a victim of sexual assault at a house party. The only person who was able to come to her aid was Nito, played by Jose Angeles. Nito creates impressive skateboarding videos and proves to be an overall good guy. His friends, however, get him into situations that he would rather not be in. Lastly, there’s Adam — played by Will Madden — who is trying to launch a career out of filming himself shooting guns. 

As the story progresses and Krista becomes more attached to Nito, things start to escalate with Adam’s YouTube career which, as a result, leads him to become more on edge and violent. The way these character’s stories intertwine, unfortunately, leave some of them devastated.

This film is seriously well acted and has the best acting out of the three featured narratives that were available to watch. Actor Will Madden — who appeared in one of my previous film reviews for “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” — provided an outstanding performance and you can see his emotions come through the screen. Shirly Chen as Krista and Jose Angeles as Nito also give very convincing performances as high school students.

The movie’s message is strong and provides a nuanced look into the ways in which gun violence and crime are viewed today. The situation is reminiscent of recent events that have occurred in our society, specifically whenever a protestor is shot dead in the streets. Overall, they did a great job at depicting characters that felt very authentic. 

Shorts: DCFF After Dark

The film festival offerings for their shorts are split up into five different subcategories that range from international to specific sets with focused themes. The category that I will be covering is some of the shorts from the “DCFF After Dark” program which features “barrier-breaking, deliciously dark and charmingly comedic shorts.” 

WoodLand Cemetery

In this horror short by Niels Bourgonje, a young photographer played by Josefin Asplund goes to a cemetery to take images. She gets a little too nosy with her camera and ends up with a terrifying curse.

This short is very well shot and manges to create a ton of suspense throughout its short run time. 

BABYDYKE

BabyDyke is a Finnish short by Tone Ottilie. Frede, played by Anna Streitz, accompanies her big sister Natasja — played by Levi Roepstorff — to a queer party in hopes of winning back her ex-girlfriend. However, she has trouble getting along with her sister’s friends and has no choice but to keep her chin up and stay strong to take the plunge into the night. 

Babydyke provides an interesting look at the LGBTQ+ community and a very important critique on labels and what it means to be different from the status quo. The run time is 20 minutes, which is longer than the average short, but the way the film is able to build its atmosphere certainly makes it feel a lot shorter. 

Flex 

In this comedic short from Matt Porter about finding yourself, our main character Charles — played by Charles Gould — learns at an early age that he’s not too sure where he is sexually in life. Fast forward years later, he finds himself in a relationship with his girlfriend Michelle, played by Ellington Wells. However, they end up breaking up which opens up a realm of possibilities for Charles.  

It’s rare to see sexuality expressed in such a fun way in film. Taking a topic as sensitive as sex, Flex argues the idea that sex is something that should be freely explored and destigmatized. It works here as comedian Charles Gould brings his comedic value to his character and makes it a genuinely funny film to watch. 

Even though the pandemic continues to force theatres to close, it doesn’t stop local theatres from celebrating independent films. There are some seriously interesting and important films that have not been covered in this article and there is certainly something for everyone.

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