Why We Need Short Films: An Ode to an Undersung Art Form

By Kareem Sheikh

For many moviegoers, appreciation of cinema begins and ends with feature films. It makes sense; feature films constitute a multi-billion-dollar and internationally traded industry, and, for many of us, broaden our worldviews, contextualize the major moments in our lives, and influence the cultural zeitgeist du jour. However, while features dominate both the public eye and capital investment, it’s the short film that works to maintain the medium.Still2

Obviously, this isn’t a matter of money. Despite the thousands or even millions of views that a widely shared short might earn online, it’s unlikely to turn a profit for its creators. Instead, a great short film demonstrates its value by introducing new, untested ideas to the industry, illuminating potential paths for film’s future.

Curtis Woloschuk, VIFF’s Associate Director of Programming, is keen to point out that short films are unburdened by studio demands, profitability, or other externalities that plague feature films. That translates into artistic freedom, allowing audiences to experience the uncompromised vision of the creator. “[Short films] are where you find out what’s coming next,” Woloschuk said. In addition, audiences and the industry alike can discover fresh talent. “Whether you’re working for a festival or attending one, you’re often driven by the desire to discover something. A short film program allows viewers the opportunity to discover a half-dozen or more original voices in the space of 90 minutes.”

The independence enjoyed by short films extends beyond production practices. Full-lengths are bound to a strict format, shaped over decades by the industry and now ingrained in our expectations—three acts, one main protagonist, a climaxing story arc. If they’re stretched too far, viewers become bored or lost and the film flops. By contrast, short films are free to focus their few minutes on whatever content they choose: a single sci-fi concept, a recited poem, a purely visual narrative, a short story.

“A great short film is driven only by the story the filmmaker is intent on imparting or the concept they’re determined to explore,” Woloschuk elaborated. “And, as with a great film of any length, it transports you someplace you never expected to find yourself.”Shorts1

This year at VIFF, an astounding 128 short films will transport viewers during 13 different programs. Woloschuk is especially anticipating The Tesla World Light, Lost Paradise Lost, and Rupture to make an impact on audiences, but be sure to explore our full list of shorts to find the programs you don’t want to miss.

Without short films, new talent would struggle to surface and our era’s most influential art form would be doomed to redundancy. By supporting the creativity and subversion that only shorts can provide, we’ll empower film to evolve for generations to come.

For information and tickets to all of the short programs at the festival this year click here.

Top 5 Short Films at VIFF 2017 With Totally Unique Directing

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