This year, the 41st annual International Film Festival of Rotterdam screened over 450 short films in addition to its 268 features. With films in every conceivable style, the shorts programme offered audiences the chance to witness exciting and experimental works from directors ranging from seasoned veterans to filmmakers whose careers are still in their infancy.
While my time over the past two weeks has been primarily concerned with features, I still managed to catch a few dozen short films, many of which screened in as part of fourteen hour marathon on the final Saturday of the festival. Sadly scheduling issues saw me ducking in and out (who can sit still for that long anyway?), which meant I only got to see a fraction of what was already a fraction of what this year’s shorts programme had to offer. Nevertheless, below is a list of – and in some cases, clips from – a few of my favourites in what was certainly an eclectic and vibrant selection of short films.
SHORT FILM HIGHLIGHTS
MOURIR AUPRÈS DE TOI (France, 6 min. Dir. Spike Jonze & Simon Cahn)
A charming felt animation set in a Parisian bookshop where the cover-art comes to life after dark. On this particular night, the skeleton of Macbeth finds himself yearning for the company of Dracula’s bride. But his journey across the shelf is more complicated than expected. Co-directed by Spike Jonze (Where the Wild Things Are), the handcrafted style is marvellous, while the story is sweet, funny and also a little raunchy.
CAFÉ REGULAR, CAIRO (Egypt, 11 min. Dir. Ritesh Batra)
A simple, candid discussion between a man and woman about sex in a Cairo café reveals the various foibles, hang-ups and taboos surrounding gender, marriage and sexuality in contemporary Islamic culture. Amusing, and makes its point without hitting you over the head.
DANCE OF GANESH (India, 15 min. Dir. Bikas Ranjan Mishra)
This dialogue-free short from India shows a man juggling his responsibilities as a worker, husband, father and traditional religious dancer. The cinematography, particularly the use of speed-ramping during the dance sequences, leads to some absolutely arresting images.
SOUND OF LIFE (Japan, 5 min. Dir. Hirayama Shiho)
One of the absolute highlights, Sound of Life blends two forms of animation – simple line drawing and vibrant, colourful clay-mation. Starts minimally before transforming into an expansive and beautiful portrait of everyday living, complete with wonderful music and sound-design that transports you right to a bustling city street.
[No video available]
DIMANCHES (Belgium, 15 min. Dir. Valery Rosier)
An amusing slice-of-life ensemble piece about various people going about their Sunday routines. Funny and recognisable scenes abound, and while it would be dead boring as a feature, at fifteen minutes it works out perfectly.
SHADOW LIFE (China, 10 min. Dir. Cao Fei)
This ingenious Chinese work takes the simplest form of animation we know – hand shadow play – and transforms it into something you have never seen before. Not only is the craft incredible (and the music great), but the director also loads the film with ambitious messages about politics and modernity, which resonate – and will move you – long after the screen flickers to black.
MOXIE (UK, 6 min. Dir. Stephen Irwin)
Possibly my favourite of the festival, Moxie is hilarious for all the wrong reasons. Stephen Irwin’s six minute murky, surreal, black & white animation tells the story – through deadpan narration – of a psychotic, sexually perverted young bear who misses his mother. At times the film is actually quite moving… the rest of the time, it’s just really messed up.
EVERYTHING WILL BE OK (Norway, 25 min. Dir. Jonas Matzow Gulbrandsen)
Impressively naturalistic drama from Norway about two Polish backpackers make some extra money working in a Norwegian lumber yard. Takes a sudden and unexpected turn halfway through that leaves audiences shaken.
[No video available]
You can read all of Tom Clift’s coverage of the festival here.