No other form of cinematic art is as open, experimental, fast, courageous, abstract, hard, discursive or reactive as the short film. At the same time, it has to be incredibly disciplined. Its art lies in its focus – on single pictures, takes, tracking shots or dialogues. It never has enough time and it only has this one chance. It can expect no forgiveness. It is a medium of artistic self-exploration, of the search for a provisional absolute form, of impudence and the marginal.
In the early days of cinematic history, before there were experimental films because cinema itself was still pretty much an experiment in itself, everything was short and short films were the most popular attractions at fun fairs. Today, short films are the other side of cinema: its cinematographic laboratory, its subconscious and its sense of the things not yet shown, pictured or said. You can rarely find them on the big and small screens and a short film in the review section of a newspaper is a rare exception.
However, they are at home at the Hamburg International Short Film Festival. Since its foundation 28 years ago, the Hamburg International Short Film Festival has been celebrating short films as an independent art form, while offering an opportunity for film makers from all over the world to get in touch with an eager audience and with each other. The International Competition mirrors current global aesthetic tendencies and narrative structures. The German Competition offers an overview of the state of the nation’s short films and film academies. Our experimental section, the Deframed Competition (formerly known as NoBudget), presents more resistant, marginal, raw works – sometimes they may even be sort of roughcast. This competition invites us to examine formal aesthetics, to witness material studies and to engage into exciting challenges that might explode in our eyes and ears. The Three Minute Quickie is another one of our unique specialties. In it film makers from Germany and from abroad can submit films of no more than three minutes length to a predetermined subject. Furthermore, the Mo&Friese Hamburg Children’s Short Film Festival is one of a small number of short film festivals for children in the world. It offers programmes for several age groups in cooperation with the Hamburg International Short Film Festival.
The proliferation of short films as an art form, the support of the independent creation of films and the discovery and support of hitherto unknown film makers are not just among the main tasks the festival set for itself, they are also the foundation of its success. The Hamburg Short Film Agency (KFA) departments of sales, distribution and archive allow for direct promotion and placement of short films. As a part of KFA, the festival is able to distribute globally and make the names of film makers known throughout the world.
At the Hamburg International Short Film Festival, around 14.000 visitors get to watch ca. 400 films in international and national competitions as well as in carefully curated special programmes, which showcase contemporary film art alongside earlier influential avant-garde-pieces. Apart from the national focus, which takes a look at a different country every year, there are monographic shows or explorations of specific cinematic motives through time and genres.
Among all the festivals in the world, the Hamburg International Short Film Festival Festival has to position itself with a sense of itself and an overall value that is more than just the sum of its individual parts. The competitions, special programmes and its highly atmospheric festival centre are these parts. Together with its short films, film makers and audiences they add up to much more in both actuality and in meaning.
Given all these sensual challenges, there is still one more thing the festival has always been and will always be: One gigantic party!