With you shortly

We look ahead to the 14th Glasgow Short Film Festival

by Andrew Robertson

Zijing Ye's A Tiny Tale
Zijing Ye's A Tiny Tale

Glasgow's Short Film Festival kicks off shortly. This is the 14th GSFF, the 10th year of the Bill Douglas Award, and the second online festival. It's once again 'pay what you can'. There are a few suggested tiers, and those who plump for the £25 option will get a festival catalogue posted to them. It's no substitute for the heft of yet another tote bag nor the sticky-floored (and fingered) lure of free beer or cocktails or beer-based cocktails, but it will fill a gap in your bookshelf.

Enraged Pigs
Enraged Pigs

GSFF is more than willing to experiment with presentation and genre. They've screened Kevin Jerome Everson's Park Lanes, which stretches 'short' to 480 minutes. They're currently producing a slew of podcasts which (depending on length) could be argued to be short films with a very low frame-rate. They've got more conventional offerings too, like the 10th Anniversary Bill Douglas Award programme. It has the nine previous winners of the festival's prize for Best International Short Film. Rewarding "honesty, formal innovation and the supremacy of image and sound in cinematic storytelling", the worthy winners are assembled here. Available through the festival, and accompanied by a podcast series between the filmmakers and their awarding juries, it is an undoubted highlight. I would say it was hard to pick a favourite among them but that's not true: Enraged Pigs is a film I still intermittently think about almost a decade on, and I can only hope that it, or one of its accompanying octet, seizes you as solidly.

There are this year's awards to look forward to, of course, but other programmes will doubtless fetch fans. There's "big dog energy" promising to be neither grim nor grisly, a celebration for those who (incorrectly) believe man can have a best friend. Sorry, there's been a cat on this keyboard.

The Little Hedgehog, screening in Family Shorts
The Little Hedgehog, screening in Family Shorts

I cannot recommend the Family Shorts programme enough, even sight unseen - free during the festival, with school access options, constructed to fidget-friendly lengths of 30 and 50 minutes* and with a variety of techniques and subjects. Pixar rightly treat short film(s) as a gateway to features, and those of us animated on the subject would do well to shout about this.

More seriously, the programme Black Spatial Imaginaries returns from 2020, exploring "space as it relates to the Black experience". Questioning and likely to be compelling, it is part of the festival's programming that is likely to provoke discussion. A series of screenings devoted to the notion of 'No New Normal' and the five-film set 'Locked Down' explore circumstances around and subsequent to the coronavirus restrictions that have so changed the film festival experience. The discussion Do No Harm on Wednesday 24th is a must watch - beyond applauding efforts towards accessibility through live-captioning and more** the discussion led by Hannah Currie (who won the 2019 Audience Award for We Are All Here) on the process of writing and representing mental health issues on screen. It's a topic I know I'm not alone in feeling strongly about, and I am looking forward to it.

The Uninhabitable Ones, screening in Black Spatial Imaginaries
The Uninhabitable Ones, screening in Black Spatial Imaginaries

There are 'visits' from other festivals - the EFA programmes feature award winning films from across Europe, and the 'meet the festivals' session will discuss what they're looking for*. If what you're looking for is something a bit more frightful then 'scared shortless' should scratch that itch.

Finally, if there's only one programme you can catch I'd recommend the Award Winners. GSFF attracts and programmes films of high quality, and its juries have historically picked worthy winners, as have its audiences. You may not have time or opportunity to consume multiple programmes for the Bill Douglas or Scottish awards, but can be reassured that those that are awarded have done so from strong fields. These awards are not without catch - last year's winner James Price was, as those before him, set to create the festival's trailer. Price's keen perception of Glasgow and dialogue is evident in a comic turn featuring Jonathon Watson. That it's set in front of the mural created for the 2020 festival is just part of its looping, (self-)referential charm. They may be "diddy film" about your "drunk da" but they're also great. Short film is the best film, Glasgow Short Film Festival is one of its best exponents, and the 2021 outing looks to be one of the best yet.

* Proving once and for all that there's an additional skill for short film film festival programmers beyond "thinking of puns" and "tenuous thematic connections" and "counting to ninety".

** Matchbox Cineclub have done sterling work in this regard, and among their various contributions to GSFF2021 'The Three Worlds of Nick' looks well worth exploring.

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