Vienna Independent Shorts celebrates stylish strokes of avant-garde cinema
In this age of shortened attention spans, when smartphones are streaming video-on-demand, cinema’s short form is making an unexpected comeback. Originally the movie format of carnival sideshows, short films today do what their feature-length cousins can’t: act as an experimental playground where creativity can run wild.
Locally, many of the best are on show at Vienna Independent Shorts (VIS), now in its 13th year, a week of artful and avant-garde movies up to 30 minutes long. Started as a student project in 2004, the festival went from screening a few curiosities to becoming a respected venue for emerging filmmakers. Earlier this year, it was chosen as Austria’s first academy-award qualifying festival. The 2016 theme #fearisnotanoption proves again how relevant it has become. The refugee crisis and recent terrorist attacks have led to widespread distrust, suspicion and panic. Many are afraid of potential losses to their well-being, culture and national unity. But fear is the wrong choice – or even no choice at all. Panic in the face of political and social change offers no solutions, this year’s festival declares, but rather empowers dangerous radical ideas – a central theme of the some 300 shorts presented this year.
Joining VIS on this mission are two other short film festivals – Go Short, from the Netherlands, and Canada’s Festival du Nouveau Cinema. The programs – Keep your head up (Go Short), Stop worrying and… (VIS) and Utopia and how to get there (or not) (FNC) were curated as a triangular collaboration and can all be seen at VIS on May 29. With both older and more modern classics on the program, visitors can look forward to work from Werner Herzog, Guy Maddin, Peter Millard, Matthew Rankin and Kurt Razelli.
VIS will also spotlight multimedia works by Belgian artist Anouk de Clercq in a Personale (solo show) at the METRO Kinokulturhaus, followed by a round of Q&A with the artist. De Clercq is particularly interested in the audiovisual potential of computers which will undoubtedly be featured: Building, her 12-minute digitally generated video, for example, studies the interplay of bright white light moving across dark shapes within a 3D architectural space – this stark imagery was chosen for the VIS’s 2016 graphic theme.
The four recurring categories – Animation Avantgarde, National Competition, Fiction & Documentary and Music videos – will present an eclectic mixture of established names and newcomers. A favorite of this reviewer in the National Competition is Die Badewanne (The Bathtub), a short from the German filmmaker Tim Ellrich about three brothers attempting to reconstruct a childhood photograph as adults twenty years later.
After introducing big names like David O’Reilly and Don Herzfeld in previous years, the Filmmuseum will now offer audiences the chance to see selected works of the legendary American animator Bill Plympton, known for his couch gags in The Simpsons and Oscar-nominated for his short film Guard Dog (2004). He will give a special master class.
Today, shorts are part of our daily lives. We search them out on YouTube and they pop into our social-media feeds. They may feature cats or cooking instructions, documentaries or fail clips. In our busy everyday lives, a lack of time or attention span give short films a new kind of relevance. Vienna Independent Shorts offers an artistic take on what has become commonplace, and invites you along for the ride.
VIENNA INDEPENDENT SHORTS
13th Festival for Short Film, Animation & Music Video
May 25-31, various locations