As it embarks on its 25th year, the Canberra Short Film Festival (CSFF) is forging ahead with cautious optimism.
“When I first inherited it, it was single a weekend,” says Festival Director John Frohlich. “Now it’s two weeks and six different venues. It’s a lot bigger; a lot more like a festival.”
With COVID-19 restrictions easing in the ACT, the festival is looking optimistically ahead to its 2020 iteration due to take place in September. According to Frohlich, this year’s 25th-anniversary celebrations are set to feature innovative new films and callbacks to past events, all while giving Canberra audiences a vital cultural experience to look forward to.
“One of thing things that’s different this year is that we’ll have a retrospective look back at past festivals,” says Frohlich. “We’re re-screening films that’ve won over those 25 years, bringing together some filmmakers who’ve come through.”
It’s an exciting prospect, given that cinema experiences so far this year have been largely contained to the living room or the laptop. The CSFF offers something different to your typical film festival as well, focussing on experimental, self-contained works, often from new filmmakers.
“Short film is a really important alternative format to long-form feature film cinema. It’s the difference between short story writing and novel writing. People can do things a little more creatively, a little more innovatively.
“Feature films these days are very formulaic. It’s a revenue-driven format. Short film allows a lot more experimentation and innovation. Emerging filmmakers can show their skills.”
The fact that the festival is going ahead means a great deal to the city’s filmmakers.
Last year’s Best Film winner in the Canberra category was the pop-up, steam punk animated film Della Mortika: Carousel of Shame. That such a non-traditional concept stole the judge’s attention speaks to just how much room the short film format offers for innovation.
“It’s really important for local filmmakers that there is this event that gets their work in front of bigger audiences. If you didn’t have the short film festival in Canberra there wouldn’t be an opportunity for Canberra writers, actors, cinematographers to have their work displayed.”
The festival is broken up into nine categories: International, National, Canberra, Music Video, Animation, Schools/Under-18, Documentary, First Nations Stories, and 2 Minute Films.
The 2 Minute Films section, in particular, gives creatives a chance to tell a story without all the resources and finances usually required to make a motion picture. It’s a natural follow-on from the rise of social media and internet culture.
“We love the format,” says Frohlich. “You only need to look at things like TikToks to see that it’s a bit of a phenomenon. Before that there was Vine and YouTube.
“Short film is a format that lends itself to peoples’ lives. You can watch a 20-minute, 10-minute film and get on with something else. It’s a format that is increasingly popular. The 2 Minute category allows people to make films who haven’t necessarily made films before. It’s a really good way in. It’s a very expressive and creative short form.”
It’s a difficult time to be planning for any kind of festival. As such, the CSFF has plans in place to postpone the festival if need be, with submission dates to be shifted if that does occur. As it stands, the call for entries has been extended until 7 July giving filmmakers just over a month to finalise their submissions. But be warned, the competition is heating up.
“Last year we had 400 submissions,” says Frohlich. “This year already we’ve got just over 250.”
For more information about the Canberra Short Film Festival including submission guidelines, head to csff.com.au.