A. O. Scott has an account of the animated and live action shorts that have been nominated for the Oscars this year. These shorts are now running in theaters in the U. S. While we ponder what is short film, here are his thoughts: Their wider availability makes sense in an era that might well turn out to be a golden age of short-form moviemaking. The newer platforms favor brevity, and there is plenty of room for real cinema amid the comedy sketches and cute-baby shenanigans that go viral in office cubicles across the land. Short films are often the work of younger filmmakers and sometimes contain the seeds of larger projects. But however modest its means or small its scale, a 10- or 15-minute movie requires as much craft and discipline as a feature. Maybe more. A short story can display infelicities of prose less forgivingly than a novel, and there is less room for error in a handful of shots and scenes.
Berlinale 2011 has a special program for short films, now in its fourth year. Here is a very interesting (and useful) interview with the curator, Maike Mia Höhne on the merits of the short film form. Here is an insightful quote from her on how she approaches short film. Q: “You talk about the self-sufficiency of the narration in short films. In your opinion, what are the special narrative qualities in short film?” “One of the big freedoms is that artists can take a very different approach to the narrative framework. Not everything has to be over-told and spelled out. Short films are closer to sketches than to paintings. Something I feel is closer to me, too. Short film is always interesting if the filmmakers try things out and discover new means of visual narration. I love this gentle, unfinished quality, as in La Ducha (The Shower), for example, by Maria José San Martin. Here, the narrative thread is often barely touched, while narrative associations form an organic narrative structure. The film plays in a single room. We see only two female bodies, who are talking to one another. But at the same time so much happens in a few, very powerful images. The film reveals a relationship drama that we all know well ourselves without spelling out a clear meaning – finally, everything remains open. The story unfolds through the gestures, the body language, less through the dialogue, since the characters hardly express their true motives. Through this minimal input one understands the perspectives of time, before and after the current situation, which the image implicitly talks about in every frame. And so La Ducha develops an impression of how a farewell feels out of this almost claustrophobic spatial limitation and through the narrative omissions. The viewer fills[…..]
Film critic David Thomson is already saying that awards for short films, documentary and all, should be removed from the main night to make the event crisper. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gives the most publicized and recognized awards for short films does not seem to distinguish between short films made in the U. S. and those made in “foreign” countries. There seems to be more recognition for short films in Europe and Asia than in the U.S. BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts opens its short films awards contest only to shorts made in the U. K. We assume there are enough shorts made there and plenty to interest to sustain such a competition. There isn’t yet a single extensive treatment of what a short film is; how the form of short film persists and how it is set to flourish in the age of digital film making and distribution. We want to pursue over the next few months these and related questions on short films. Students at Arcadia University will join us in their semester-long study of the topic.
The Guardian’s film site continues to be one of the best places to visit. For this week, see the Cyber Cinema column: Virtual Valentines “Kate Stable’s compendium of the best romantic short films on the web.”
Oscar shorts are making rounds of theaters in the U. S. Live action and animated shorts are screened separately, and judging from the trailers and publicity, they will run at least until the Awards event on Sunday. Shorts International, which has released these shorts in theaters will make them available for download in iTunes. The show is a treat, no doubt, as there is a variety in these shorts as much as narrative flexibility, ingenuity of form and a refreshing perspective on film making, especially after Slumdog, Ben Button, etc. Program for live action shorts includes: Reto Caffi’s (Auf Dee Strecke), On the Line (Switzerland); Steph Green’s New Boy (Ireland); Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh’ The Pig (Denmark); Jochen Alexander and Freydank’s (Spielzeugland) Toyland (Germany); and Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont’s Manon on the Asphalt (France). When it comes to short films, Academy does not distinguish between American and “foreign” or “foreign language” films. And, there are no American productions this year. Does that affirm our assumption that the film industry in the U. S. does not value short films or that they do not produce quality short films that stand out in competition to their world/European counterparts? This is what A. O. Scott says in The New York Times; The nominees reflect the astonishing fact, barely acknowledged during the Academy’s annual ceremony of self-worship, that film is an international art form. The absurd rules and restrictions that govern the best-foreign-language film selections seem not to influence the selection of shorts, which hail from all over the globe, sometimes more than one to a country. All five films are unique and quite brilliant. Each explores a different narrative form; each has a varied visual theme and all end up achieving much. There is energy in imagination, brevity and leaps in[…..]