Film festival showcases the world in 15 minutes or less

Diana Carroll

How do you select the finalists for a short film competition when you have almost 2000 entries to choose from? That was the challenge facing Richard Moore, curator of the Short Cuts Film Festival.
Film festival showcases the world in 15 minutes or less

A still from Michael Cusack's animated short, After All. Image: supplied.

The Short Cuts Film Festival in Melbourne is back for 2018 with a diverse and edgy program of short films from local and international filmmakers. But how do you select just 18 films to be shown in one program from a field of almost two thousand entries?

‘It’s ultimately about putting together a program that showcases the best work and has something for everyone,’ said Richard Moore, whose background includes directing the Melbourne and Brisbane International Film Festivals and curating the film program at the Melbourne Festival. ‘The overarching sentiment is that it has to be an evening of entertainment for the audience.’

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The final line-up features drama, humour, documentary and animation in a smorgasbord of styles and genres, with films ranging in length from one minute to 14 minutes. (Short Cuts limits entries to films of 15 minutes or less.)

The shortest film on the program, Crooked, is a delightful story about an elderly couple in a remote Romanian village who care for a chicken with a crooked beak. The longest, Locker Room, by Melbourne director Greta Nash, highlights the adolescent challenges of dealing with bullying and social media, themes that Moore said were popular with many younger filmmakers.

Moore is thrilled that this year’s Festival attracted a total of 1,987 entries, a substantial increase on the 700 they received last year. He made the first cut, compiling a ‘long shortlist’, and then the final selections were made by a panel.

‘This is our third year, so people are getting to know that we’re on the international short film landscape,’ said Moore. With no entry fee and submissions made easy through the well-known Film Freeway portal, Short Cuts is attractive to both emerging and established filmmakers.

‘The fact that we had submissions from countries as far flung as Nepal, Iran, Romania, and Latvia is all testament to the increasing profile of Short Cuts as a film destination.’

And there is no denying that the short film format is enjoying an unprecedented popularity at the moment. The price of cameras has come down remarkably in recent years as the capability of the technology has increased. And with sophisticated smartphones you don’t even need a camera to be a filmmaker.  As Moore said, ‘everyone wants to be in the movies.’

Among the 18 shorts in this year’s Short Cuts program is After All, a touching 13-minute animation from director Michael Cusack of the acclaimed ANIFEX studio in Adelaide. Depicting a man remembering past conversations while clearing out his childhood home, After All explores the truism that when all is said and done, all we are left with are memories. The film was recently screened in Edinburgh as part of the annual Made in South Australia showcase.

Another animation, Lost Property Office, by Melbourne director Daniel Agdag, features his superbly detailed and intricate cardboard sculptures, exhibited in leading galleries here and overseas.

Many Melburnians know and love The Caravan Music Club, one of the finest live music venues in Australia in its heyday. Closing the Caravan is a documentary from Chris Franklin that reveals Peter Foley's inspiration for creating The Caravan Club and tells the behind-the-scenes story of why it faced closure at the height of its success.

The international entries include Exist, a beautiful film depicting the everyday life of an Iranian woman who does what she must to support her child. This is a gentle work, told with simplicity, about the struggle to survive.

Another international entrant, Who Plays Othello, is an engaging Italian film about staging one of the Bard’s great works with a cast of unlikely actors.

The Short Cuts Film Festival is presented by the City of Greater Dandenong, and is designed to celebrate the arts, community life and creative storytelling in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs. The program screens on Saturday 23 June in Dandenong’s Drum Theatre. The evening will be hosted by Richard Moore and will include the announcement of the winning films, with a top prize of $3000. The winner of the People’s Choice Award, judged by the audience, will take home $500.

There is also a new initiative this year, the Shorter Cuts Film Festival, for young filmmakers in the local area.

‘Part of my personal motivation for being involved is to encourage young people to get involved. We actively engaged with the local school and colleges to get behind the new Festival,’ said Moore.

Visit shortcutsfilmfestival.com.au for film and screening details. Tickets are $10 and available via drumtheatre.com.au.

About the author

Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Sydney. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the SMH, the Oz, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.

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