Here's a rundown of just a few of the excellent short films we have in our program this year. If you love short films, you will not be disappointed.
Down Under Berlin is extremely proud to be able to bring our audiences a collection of brilliant shorts each year. We chose carefully to be able to give you a variety of genres and lengths, styles and topics, that all show off the quality of filmmaking in Down Under today. These films cover the ups and downs of friendship, the trials, and tribulation of lovers and love, the heartbreak of past, present and future decisions and the idea that life must go on, no matter which way a story may end.
There is a beauty in being able to tell a story in a short amount of time, certainly a challenge that filmmakers seem to truly enjoy. Stripping out all the less important elements of a story and cramming in as many fundamental bits as you can to keep a story functional. – Film Shortage Blog
Short films are like a sonnet
By definition – it’s a film that is not long enough to be considered a feature film: so less than around 40 minutes. Put simply, a short film is an expression, a story, brought to life, often independently, by the filmmakers themselves.
Feature films are awesome, especially if you love movies. But they do require some commitment from an audience member. Short films are much rather like a sonnet, they can stand alone and before you know it they are over and leave you pondering what you’ve just seen for quite some time after. This lasting effect can take you away for a just a little while. If you watch a few in a row you find the time goes rather quick and you come away with a full smorgasbord of thoughts and feelings, reactions and opinions on the various stories you have seen.
Short film at DUB
In almost all of our feature film screenings, we like to add in a short to precede it. It’s a little old-fashioned, and we like it that way. Basically, you get a bonus film before your feature! Down Under Berlin supports talented young filmmakers of short film and we believe these films not only stand on their own but work wonderfully when paired with particular feature films in our program this year. It also gives you a taste of our short film program! We have made four wonderful screening sessions this year of short films alone, which you can get your teeth into.
The short films at Down Under Berlin, range from anywhere between 5 to over 20 minutes. Filmmaker Nikki Richardson brings us her film We’re here Now (2015) to our festival this year. She says the challenge in finding a beginning, middle and end in just 6.42 minutes for her film works because “the film doesn’t try to do too much – we shot it in one location and edited it to play out in real time. It’s really a ‘moment’ in a sister relationship which I think can be told in only a few minutes. I think that by focusing simply on the two main character’s relationship dynamic, we were able to say quite a lot in a short amount of time.”
As far as topical films go, none is more fitting at the moment than Viral (2014) by Sam Van Grinsven. Viral was based on three separate real racist incidents in Australia. Sam explains, “What fascinated me were the parallels between them. Each case had at its core a similar aged, Caucasian female from a predominantly suburban Australian background. I was deeply interested in the psychology behind the rapid fall from everyday anonymity to overnight notoriety. Whilst their actions are intolerable, the media actively hunts, condemns and derails their lives, squeezing every inch from the story for the week that it is deemed popular enough. Whether the audience thinks that this character deserves that or not is what I left up to them. “
But even in a short amount of time, to tell the story is key, whatever that story may be, in whatever time code it evolves. Nicola Reddy is the writer of A Boy Called Su (2015) and says about telling her story of standing up for yourself, “To me, the playground serves as a contained representation of the loneliness that people feel when they are socially isolated. In the story, we see the contrast between Su’s experience and the joy of the children around him. It shows that you can be surrounded by people, and laughter, and happiness, and still feel completely alone. It’s easier to stand up for yourself when your needs are being met; when you’re secure and have friends and support. It’s much harder to stand up for yourself and to find your voice when you don’t.”
In making the short film Foal (2015), filmmaker Vanessa Gazy says that the challenge of creating a period piece set in rural Australia in 1915 was largely successful due to the amazing team of people she was able to work with. “I realise now that shooting a period piece was plucky considering the fact that I had never directed anything remotely as big – pluckier than I think I permitted myself to admit at the time!” she says. “But looking back I’m so glad that my film school did not discourage me from writing a period piece despite the inherent challenges – and that I had the right team to make it come together. Of course, creating an authentic period setting is a big challenge for the art and costume departments – but one that the team on FOAL energetically tackled. While it was challenging to bring rural Australia in 1915 to life, it was also highly rewarding because I had such a strong team who along the way were dealing in their various ways with their various challenges. It would have been impossible without them!”
Actors also have a particularly good time on short films. It’s a short shooting commitment and they often will do it in their own time and for no pay, because they want to work, and do it well. But actors are also responsible for telling the story as much as the writer and director are. In The Disappearance of Willie Bingham (2015), Kevin Dee plays a criminal who is punished with progressive amputation for his crimes. We asked Kevin if there was any particular preparation he needed to do for this role, he says, “There was quite a bit of preparation required for this character. I have played murderers before but this particular role was a very complex one as the audience has to empathize with him, even given his horrific crimes. I also watched a lot of real amputation surgery footage to try to desensitize myself to it. This was fairly hard for me as I’m usually quite squeamish with that sort of thing, however, I enjoyed the challenge as I really felt this film was something special and an important comment on a subject that I feel quite passionately about.“
Actor Thomas Caine plays a teenage boy bullied in the workplace in Copycat from Ballarat (2016)and also feels the weight of short film representation on topical events and staying true to the story. “It was extremely important to me, but not just bullying in the workplace but across all areas of life, which is what the story in Copycat is about: someone who has been bullied everywhere in their life. While I’ve personally experienced minor bullying in life and the workplace, what really struck a cord and fired me up about the issue was the stories I read and watched of what other people have endured and the effects it had on their lives. All that being said, it is literally a SHORT film, tackling a very large issue. But I believe we used that short amount of time effectively to create a story grounded in truth, that shines a bit of light on this large issue, yet is still ‘a bit of fun’.”
Down Under Berlin loves this year’s collection of brilliant short films, and know that you will too. There are another 20 short films in our program you shouldn’t miss. Pick up a copy of the program booklet in cafes and bars all around Berlin, or check out the calendar on the DUB website.
You can catch all the above-mentioned films in these sessions
Viral is shown before the feature film Broke – 15 September 19:30h
The Disappearance of Willie Bingham in the Future is Now short film session – 16 September 18:30h
We’re here Now in Friends and Fools short film session – 17 September 13:30h
A Boy called Su is shown before the feature film Pop-Up – 17 September 20:15h
Copycat from Ballarat in Lucky Dip short film session – 17 September at 22:45h.
Foal in Hope and Betrayal short film session – 18 September 14:00h
See you at the movies!
Header image © markheybo
Charmaine Gorman is an Australian actress and writer living in Berlin with her family. As a content writer and editor, she works for many clients around the world, and along with her husband, is the founder and content manager of the online travel guide My Guide Berlin.