The good thing about a Short Film programme is that it’s a mixed bag. If you don’t like one film, you might like the next. If your concentration wanes at one point, you might soon re-engage. This said, if a programme is well-curated, the ebb of flow of moods and styles ought to keep anyone who loves ’films worth talking about’ rapt throughout.
So it was with the opening night of the Edinburgh Short Film Festival. Director, Paul Bruce, and his team have a knack of finding and programming excellent selections of short films, and this evening was no exception.
It would take a much longer review for me to discuss every film; suffice it to say that the mix was rich and varied, represented local, national and International work, and every film seemed the ideal length – in relation to its place in the programmed order.
It puzzled me, then, how so many in the audience were restless and disengaged. People talking out loud, coming and going, laughing in the wrong places (so it seemed) or not laughing out loud when I expected people would.
I guess my expectations of an audience are high. Is that weird? But at the point when two people sat next to me made their clumsy exit through the fire doors next to the screen (leaving an empty wine bottle and – oh, schadenfreude! – a coat by their seat) I figured this event was not everyone’s cup of films.
Added to my frustration was this screening was sold out (no bad thing) and my friend who wanted to attend waited for returns but was turned away. Meanwhile I sat among empty seats. That said, being at the Filmhouse there was one major advantage: no popcorn!
As I’ve said elsewhere in recent film festival reviews, it’s good to attend these events for the intro and Q&A sections. On this occasion we got to hear from the director and actor from the first film, Moths to Flame, Marco Pellegrino and David Menkin respectively. They spoke for a short while about making a very American film (based on the moon-landing conspiracy theory) in Italy.
It was an informal and short interview, which was a good thing, given we’d had such a rich sample of film fare. And yet, again, I felt that I wanted to hear more from Paul Bruce and others involved in the curation of this festival, given that it was the launch night.
To return to the films, the intention of this programme was to think ‘Out of Frame’ – leaving the audience with questions.
A 4-minute animation from the perspective of a mobile phone, and another 2-minute surreal delve into the Wild West with a piano-playing cat were perfect palate-cleansers, among more thought-provoking tales of Grindr affairs and washed-up German fighter pilots.
At the centre of the selection was a dance film, which posed the question about ‘motivation’ with a quote from Pina Bausch, who said she was not interested in how people dance, but what makes them dance. This film, then, seemed to be the metaphor of the whole programme.
If only the whole audience were dancing along to this selection of films. My conclusion, therefore, is that this is a great film festival, and looking at the brochure there will be many more events worth going to over the next few weeks. I suspect, once the first-night attenders have gone home, there will be an audience who are genuinely fanatical about (short) film.
MOTHS TO FLAME Luca Jankovic/Marco Pellegrino
ON Jelena Sinik
MY LONELINESS IS KILLING ME Tim Courtney
WITHOUT Enni Red
TURNING TIDE Andrew Muir
THE TAIL OF CAT BALLOU Stuart Hubbard
STAY AWAKE, BE READY Pham Thien An
STARTING OVER Russell Davidson
CIRCUIT Delia Hess
For more on the ESFF programme, click here.