For 15 years and counting, the Vienna Shorts Festival shows cinematic innovation in 30 minutes or less.

It’s no surprise that short films today are a proving ground for innovative formats, novel story-telling and edgy topics: It’s easier to get smaller scale projects off the ground, allowing young, fresh talents in particular to let their imaginations run wild. For the last 15 years and running, the Vienna Shorts Festival (VIS) has been a playground for such experimental, thought-provoking or just plain weird little masterpieces, bringing a plethora of international talent, viewable in 30 minutes or less.

This year’s edition will be held under the motto We Need To Disagree – a reminder that 50 years after the societal upheavals of 1968, personal liberties and freedom of expression are now dictated by filters, social media and populism. As the VIS is one of Austria’s few Academy-Award-qualifying competitions, three of the lucky winners will get one of the highly coveted spots on the Oscar long list. A grand total of 109 films from 27 countries were chosen from over 4,000 submissions for this preliminary race for the red carpet.

Vienna Shorts Festival
© “Ugly” – Nikita Diakur

The main competition is split into five categories: Fiction & Documentary; Animation Avantgarde, Music Videos and Austrian films. In addition, for the first time in VIS history, a category for virtual reality has been added – so get ready to experience a whole new digital world! The latest addition will show “compelling films that explore the possibilities of virtual reality in ways which challenge our most basic perceptions and ideas about visual language, storytelling, participation and voyeurism,” says VR head programmer Diana Mereoiu.

SHORT CIRCUIT

Apart from the contest, 200 additional films will be screened, including many Austrian premieres – the perfect opportunity to indulge in cinematic ADHD. Established filmmakers such as Don Hertzfeld (US), famous for pitch black humor expressed with stick figures, and local hero Siegfried A. Fruhauf (AT) will be shown alongside promising newcomers like Goya-prize winner Laura Ferrés (ES), whose Los Desheredados chronicles the failure of her family’s business, or animator Réka Bucsi (HU), whose Solar Walk won this year’s Audi award at the Berlinale.

In the spirit of We Need To Disagree, this year’s “Spotlights,” a special program created alongside the Filmarchiv Austria and the Austrian film museum, will be dedicated to uncompromising visionaries like the late experimental pioneer Ernst Schmidt Jr. (AT) and Martha Colburn (US/NL), who creates subversive, political commentary with puppetry and collages.

As a special treat, Colburn will be present at her screenings and will give a masterclass/performance at the METRO Kinokulturhaus. The Austrian film museum has also teamed up with the Academy of Motion Picture Art & Sciences to showcase newly restored films selected from the Academy’s extensive ar-chive of animated, live-action and experimental shorts, presented under the title “The Academy & the Avantgarde.”

To round out the program, an interactive exhibition called Shaping Democracy can be seen at the MQ, featuring 24 European filmmakers giving their take on democratic values and Austrian history. Further attractions include a live audiovisual concert, midnight movies and panel discussions. As shorts continue to push the limits of cinema in interesting directions, they some-times go to interesting places. Sometimes brilliant and sometimes falling flat, Vienna Shorts continues to present them to a discerning public.

May 29 – Jun 4, various locations. viennashorts.com

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is an Austrian-American born in Tyrol, currently living in Vienna. After dabbling in Austrian Law she is currently studying Journalism and Media Management at the University of Applied Sciences FH WKW.