I Would Have Filmed Shorter If I'd Had More Time

AFS Doc Tour: Doxita: Life Is a Progress

Peter Jordan's The First Kid to Learn English From Mexico
Peter Jordan's "The First Kid to Learn English From Mexico"

I'm a huge fan of shorts – as is Doxita founder and curator Karen Cirillo – but they don't always get the attention they deserve. Observing this unfortunate fact-of-film-festival-and-theatrical-distribution life as a programmer at festivals such as the Full Frame doc fest in Durham, N.C., and the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Mo., Cirillo decided to do something about it. In 2008, she launched the first Doxita, a program of superior documentary shorts organized around a theme that she screened at special venues around the country – art spaces, universities, museums, independent theatres. On July 21, Cirillo will bring this warmly received program to Austin as part of the Austin Film Society's long-running Documentary Tour series.

Cirillo scouts potential nonfiction shorts of varying lengths (but less than 40 minutes) at film festivals. "I'm one of the few people that's actually going to every shorts program," she says. "I think a lot of filmmakers start off making shorts. But there are many that stay with that genre – Jay Rosenblatt makes a lot of quality short films, and he's a very established filmmaker. I also find that European filmmakers tend to make short films throughout their career. I think American filmmakers think they have to make features – partly because there's no outlet for shorts and partly because it's a cache thing to make features. But there are so many films that really should be shorts, and I wish that people would make the film that fits the content instead of always trying to make the content fit the film. I also think that filmmakers can take more risks with short films, therefore they tend to be more creative, more unusual, more unique." I'll drink to that.

The Doxita program she's screening next week certainly makes her point. Doxita: Life Is a Progress is an extraordinary showcase of the quality that nonfiction films of any length should aspire to. They are well-made and thoughtful tales of life's many and varied hurdles, from an animated short about the improbable survival of two Sudanese boys taken into slavery and a 9-year-old Mexican boy's uphill struggle to succeed academically in his new American school to the psychological travails of a talented Danish middle-schooler who must reluctantly leave the choir he loves so dearly because his voice is changing.

All in all, it's a program that's sure to inspire feature-length docmakers to take a second look at the undeniable power of a well-crafted short.


AFS Documentary Tour presents Doxita season three: Life Is a Progress Wednesday, July 21, 7pm at the Alamo Drafthouse at the Ritz (320 E. Sixth), with Doxita founder and curator Karen Cirillo in attendance. Tickets are $4 for AFS members and $6 for the general public. For more info, see www.austinfilm.org.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Doxita, Doxita 3: Life Is a Progress, Karen Cirillo, AFS Documentary Tour, Jay Rosenblatt

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