By Stephen Takashima | Drama
A young door-to-door salesman finds that getting his first sale is the least of his worries.

Deshawn, a black door-to-door salesman, is canvassing a neighborhood, trying to rack up his first sale. But he’s struggling to even keep doors open long enough to deliver his message.

But then, as his training supervisor shepherds him to another house, he gets his first nibble of interest from a man named Marshall… only to spot a Confederate flag on the wall of this potential client.

Writer-director Stephen Takashima’s short drama tackles a hot-button topic, unfurling a character-centered story that not only weaves a quiet sense of dread and tension in its storytelling but illuminates the different emotional responses evoked by a controversial symbol.

The craftsmanship is solid, and the writing is similarly well-structured, building its discomfort with care and precision. As Deshawn gets invited inside a man’s house to demonstrate his product, he becomes increasingly tense in the presence of a Confederate flag, leading to a small collision of ideas.

The writing gives the pro-flag POV an even-handed articulation, portraying Marshall in an understated performance by actor Walt Sloan, who balances notes of wariness and defensiveness with genuine attempts to relate in some way with Deshawn.

But it also takes considerate care to portraying “Shawn’s” inner experience, offering a window into the small yet sharp slights he receives from the assumptions that others make due to the color of his skin. Actor Bryson Thomas deftly evokes both Deshawn’s discomfort with the racism he faces with his desire to make a sale — and then, later, to not provoke a conflict. Watching him both suppress his clear discomfort — and swallow his real feelings — is difficult and even quietly unnerving as the story goes on.

Even when offered the opportunity to “discuss” his opinion, Deshawn recognizes that the “table” that he’s invited to isn’t genuinely balanced, equal or even open to his perspective. In fact, as his interaction with Marshall goes on, it feels potentially dangerous, and the able camerawork and screen direction does admirable work in slowly ratcheting up the tension in a quiet, organic way — not through the machinations of plot, but through the clash of ideas, emotions and character.

“Civil” is a short drama meant to provoke discussions about the historical legacies that America has around race, and it does so through film’s ability not just to put viewers in the footsteps of others, but by dramatizing how history and ideology bubble up in our everyday lives and interactions. With its skill in evoking unease and discomfort, it draws audience interest throughout, but the film’s main attraction and achievement in the end isn’t a thriller-like denouement, but a deeper, more intimate understanding of what it means to be black in an America still wrestling with its troubled legacies.

You Might Also Like:

More Than God

By Kev Cahill | Comedy
A devoted husband suspects his wife is cheating on him. Then he hides under the bed.

The Things You Think I’m Thinking

By Sherren Lee | Drama
A burn-survivor goes on his first date after his accident.


By Christophe M. Saber | Comedy
A father slaps a disobedient child. Then a bystander threatens to report him for abuse.

The Landing

By Josh Tanner | Sci-Fi
A man uncovers the horrifying truth of what landed on his childhood farm.

Sometimes, I Think About Dying (Sundance)

By Stefanie Abel Horowitz | Drama
A woman thinks about dying. But a co-worker asks her out.

The Goodnight Show

By Charlie Schwan | Sci-Fi
A virgin tries to get laid before an unstoppable asteroid ends the world.

Naysayer ft. Steven Yeun

By David M. Helman | Drama
A young father who is cut off from his son takes matters into his own hands.


By Kaveh Mazaheri | Drama
An Iranian woman's husband has an accident at home... and she just watches him die.

Joseph’s Reel

By Michael Lavers | Romance
An elderly man is given the opportunity to relive one day of his life.

Lost and Found (The Oscars)

By Andrew Goldsmith and Bradley Slabe | Animation
A crochet dinosaur must unravel itself to save the love of its life.


By Joe Gillette | Romance
2 strangers at a wedding reception make an unexpected connection.

Exit Strategy

By Travis Bible | Sci-Fi
A man in a time-loop must work with his brother to prevent a catastrophic fire.

Garfield (Sundance)

By Georgi Bank-Davies | Romance
A young woman wakes up in a strange place, with a strange guy.

Partners (Sundance)

By Joey Ally | Romance
A couple's sex life is in a slump, forcing them to reconsider the relationship.


By Noel Loozen | Comedy
A young man works in a food truck, across from a brothel with a girl who needs his help.

Your favorite short films you haven't seen yet.

Inspiring and insightful. Entertaining and enlightening.
That's what you can expect here: no fluff. Just a steady
stream of the best films delivered to your inbox.