Film - EIFF: The Shorts

Susan Omand goes digging in the Edinburgh Film Festival’s shorts and finds the under-fives...

Ah the wonderful under-fives – noisy, demanding, confusing, imaginative, colourful... What? Children? Me?! Good grief no! Although their makers may indeed class them as offspring, such is the love and care that have been devoted to their creation and nurturing. Yes I’m talking about the fantastic array of short films that are being shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival this year, several of which I discovered were actually under five minutes in length. So what can a film-maker do with five minutes? Use it to try out an idea that they may scale up. Look at different ways of being creative with film both in capturing the shot itself and in processing or adding sound. Even just to express or invoke a particular feeling of emotion, I found that these short shorts, more than others were pieces of art more than anything else. However, I can see a problem with them being so short too. How do film festivals deal with short films? How best to show them to the public? I was lucky to have a press pass and access to pick and choose the short films I wanted to see but the public screenings have gathered the short films (some of which are up to 40 minutes long) into thematic groups of 5 or 6 films at a time. Which is probably the only way to do it, other than running them before a “feature” length film like they did back in the day with cartoons but that diminishes the importance of the short by making it the “warm up act” almost. So they need to be given centre stage and equal importance while still give the paying viewer value for money but this means sitting through a few films that you may not be interested in in order to see the one/s you want. I don’t know what the solution is.

However, if you do get a chance to catch any of the short film compilations, make sure you don’t use the “under-fives” as a chance to go to the toilet or get a drink because there are several bijou masterpieces to be found. In no particular order, here’s the 12 under-fives that I spent an hour with recently.

Disporting with a Shadow

Apparently this was made as the music video to the song of the same name by Alex Cobb. The song is ambient and calming and the imagery of light on water, silhouettes, flashbacks and memories fits it very well to build a nostalgic piece.


Take that anxiety inducing ticking noise from the start of Pink Floyd’s Time and add to it a montage of antique bookplates and vintage illustrations of feet and foot related images in a very Gilliamesque format and you have Footage by Minjung Kim. Not entirely sure what the artist is trying to convey with this one, it is very definitely art rather than film, but the bookplates for a bibliophile like me were interesting. 

I Don’t Think I can See An Island

Another from Earthly Matters, this by Christopher Becks and Emmanuel Lefrant reminded me so much of the footage you see of the 1940’s nuclear tests. It just had that apocalyptic feel about it and the ominous soundtrack just added to it. I loved the use of colour and the different film processing methods that really changed the mood of what we were seeing from catastrophic to hopeful and warm to cool. Very very well done. 

In Marfa

Maybe it was because I watched this immediately after the last one but this short by Jeremy Moss freaked me out in a very good way. An eerie silence pervades the whitewashed shells of houses in a village with no doors, windows or roofs looking, for all the world, like skulls placed in a line. I really enjoyed the feeling of the camera jumping between some images and then panning between others, the contrast was confusing in a way that really worked.


Part of the Earthly Matters theme, I loved the sound in this short by Stephanie Young. The contrast of wind and rain sounds with bright sunny pictures which then flipped momentarily to insects and reptiles was quite disconcerting but not unpleasant.

Maschile – Roma

Faces always fascinate and this short from Friedl vom Groller focuses on the faces of Roman masculinity from those with a 1940’s/50’s look to faces that appeared much more modern. It felt a bit like an identity parade and worked very well until the fountain broke the mood. I can understand why the film maker wanted to include it as more examples of Roman faces but it really wasn’t necessary to my mind.

Orange Trill

More feet! This was a lovely little film by G Anthony Svatek that focused on bare feet dancing on dusty earth. I loved the shapes and thought turning the camera upside down for part of it (see the picture) was inspired. It was maybe a bit too heavy on the scratchy effects but I can understand if it was a film to experiment with the processing.

Prima Materia

Part of the Earthly Matters theme Charlotte Pryce’s film was surprisingly silent as abstract shapes, lightning and wires and springs faded in and out of a lava like screen which morphed between sepia and orange, bubbling and glittering. It felt alien rather than organic and the lack of noise was unsettling.

Round Trip

Given that this is part of the theme Reflections on a Journey this theme is evident in so many ways about this split screen film from Phiippe Leonard charting a train journey. The scenery was beautiful and I loved the way both sides of the split ran at different speeds and, sometimes, in different directions like looking in a rear view mirror. I was also fascinated by the lines themselves, almost hypnotically following them as they disappeared to the horizon and I got a lot of satisfaction from the way the film ended.


In the International Animation category this Nicholas Brault film was beautiful! Human body parts, like heads, legs and jawbones, that looked like they are made out of ice (although it’s actually sugar casting) melt and dissolve in timelapse to an unnerving soundtrack of icy squeaks and crackles. 

The Lamps

In the early 1900's, pioneering artist and public provocateur, Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, breached the threshold of a secret room teeming with ancient erotic objects from Pompeii. This story is retold in an almost poetic fashion by Shelly Silver highlighting single words and phrases over stills of statues and, bizarrely, film of a scientific bell jar full of toads. I must admit though the relevance passed me by a bit on this one and I found it physically uncomfortable to watch.


The only one of the shorts that I watched that had a linear storyline, this one from Katri A Vanhatalo in the Focus on Finland strand beautifully showcased the Finnish countryside while elevating the jazz classic of Joseph Kosma’s Autumn Leaves to a whole new level.

Find these shorts and many more at the Edinburgh Film Festival until 26th June.

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