By being brief, short films offer an opportunity for filmmakers to try new things and make mistakes. With a limited budget and production cycle a misfire isn’t the end of a career, but a chance to scratch a creative itch before moving on.
Music videos and advertisements fulfil a similar role in the development of emerging filmmakers, but they lack the purity of a short: even at their finest, they’re still trying to sell you something. For an audience, too, the concise length is a blessing, as even the worst short film in the world is only a few minutes away from its wretched and merciful end.
Photo: Edge of Arabia was hosting an exhibition, #COMETOGETHER, alongside the Future Shorts screenings, that showcased the work of over 25 Arab and Islamic artists.
Whilst it is rare for a short to screen in front of a non-animated feature anymore, the rise of short film programmers such as Future Shorts have ensured that they find an audience. A pop-up short film festival specialising in site-specific events across the world, Future Shorts has built an admirable platform for filmmakers to distribute their work. Its ever-changing nature mirrors the variety of the short films they screen, finding new venues and curating programmes inspired by those venues.
Future Shorts’ most recent event took place last week as a collaboration with Edge of Arabia, an Arab art collective currently occupying the Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch.
Alongside the art works and live performances by oud player Yazid Fentazi and others, the event screened nine short films that reflected on the Middle East. From the overtly political (Sigalit Liphshitz’s excellent border-drama Cockfight), to the humorous (Ritesh Batra’s relationship-negotiation comedy Cairo, Café Regular), the event reflected an impressive range of voices and experiences from the region.
The event’s only false note arrived towards the end, where MIA’s music video Bad Girls was interrupted by niqab-wearing dancers doing a dance routine in front of the screen. Clearly influenced by Future Shorts’ sister company Secret Cinema, the dance only managed to awkwardly reproduce what was happening on screen and distract the audience from watching one of the more provocative films of the night.
This minor lapse is forgivable, of course: if short films are allowed the freedom to experiment and get things wrong occasionally then so should the event’s organisers. For the most part the performances, regional food and art work all contributed to a reflective, engaging evening. Most importantly, the good films outweighed the poorer ones by a fair degree, which is about as much as you can want from a short film programme.
More on Future Shorts here.