Top Five Shorts of 2019

Top Five Shorts of 2019

Compiled by Laurence Boyce

Kinoscope’s “Top Five Shorts of 2019” attempts to examine the shorts that have had an impact upon those who work within the short film industry over the year. While the short film world is often reluctant to engage in what could be seen as reductive thinking — the attempt to boil down a year’s worth of artistic endeavor and vital creativity into a series of lists — there is also value in not only giving recognition but also in examining what kind of films that have inspired those who have a huge say in how short film culture moves forward.

As the compiler, I will stress (as I do year after year in the introduction to this list) that this is not meant to be seen as a way of quantifying a list of “the best.” The list is a snapshot and a reflection of those films that have — and continue to have — significant resonances across the short film circuit as felt by those who program and write about shorts. 

As always, there is a diverse selection of films, ranging from heavily experimental works to more audience-friendly fare, which have captured the imagination. There are a few that appear several times on the list — “In Between” (whose director also provides a list as a programmer for Dokufest), “Watermelon Juice,” and “Slug Life” are among those titles and represent a generation of filmmakers doing bold and exciting work.

Like the previous year, I’m still unhappy that it’s weighted towards Western Europe, and I’ll keep working to ensure the diversity of respondents is improved over the coming years.

Finally, I urge you to enjoy this list and try and track down all the shorts that it has to offer. Then go and discover even more.

A few rules and notes:

Each respondent was given a choice of five films. No ranking was required, so each list is not necessarily in order.

Release dates are especially fluid in the short film world. Respondents were asked to choose films that “came to prominence in 2019.” Exactly what that meant remained under each individual’s purview.

Each list remains the choice of the individuals who responded, and does not necessarily reflect that of the organizations they work for.

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James McNally (Festival Director, Shorts That Are Not Pants, www.shortsnotpants.com)

“Patision Avenue” (Thanasis Neofotistos)

 “Brotherhood” (Meryam Joobeur, 2018, Canada/Tunisia/Qatar/Sweden)

 This film explores the issue of Islamic radicalization in a nuanced and powerful way. The father’s performance, in particular, is devastating as he realizes what his decisions mean for his family.

 “Nefta Football Club” (Yves Piat, 2018, France)

 The non-professional child actors bring charm to their roles as unwitting disruptors of a criminal scheme. The final drone shot is wonderful.

“Patision Avenue” (Thanasis Neofotistos, 2018, Greece)

 A one-take wonder that builds tension expertly, making us care about a character whose face we never see. 

 “Watermelon Juice” [Suc de síndria] (Irene Moray, 2019, Spain)

 Sensuous and emotionally powerful, this story of sexual healing is both intimate and universal.

 “The Colour of Your Lips” (Annick Blanc, 2018, Canada)

 A wordless tale of apocalypse, beautifully portraying our basic needs for connection and survival, even when they conflict with each other.

 

Emilia Mazik (Festival Director, Short Waves Festival, www.shortwaves.pl/en)

“My Country, So Beautiful” (Grzegorz Paprzycki)

“If Then Else” [Después también] (Carla Simón, 2019, Portugal)

“My Country, So Beautiful” [Mój kraj taki piękny] (Grzegorz Paprzycki, 2019, Poland)

“All Movements Should Kill the Wind” [所有动作都应杀死风] (Wang Yuyan, 2019, France)

“Eyes on the Road” (Stefanie Kolk, 2019, The Netherlands)

“Slug Life” (Sophie Koko Gate, 2018, UK)

 

 Julie Rousson (Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival) 

“The Physics of Sorrow” (Theodore Ushev)

“The Physics of Sorrow” [Physique de la tristesse] (Theodore Ushev, 2019, Canada) 

One of the strongest cinematographic experiences I’ve had in years. This film has soul, and tells about a personal subject in a very universal way.

“Sorry Not Sorry” (Julia Thelin, 2019, Sweden) 

Without making meaningless statements, the film is a celebration of revenge, between witchcraft and lunacy. Also, one of the best boy bands of the year.

“A Man Doing Man Things” (Kim Fino, 2019, Canada/US)

After #MeToo, not a lot of films decided to talk about toxic masculinity. This documentary does — and in in a sensible way.

“Souvenir” (Miriam Gossing and Lina Sieckmann, 2019, Germany/The Netherlands) 

Between tales and memories, intimate voices and soulless ships, the camera inhabits empty spaces while going on a contemplative journey.

“And Then the Bear” [L’heure de l’ours] (Agnès Patron, 2019, France) 

After her previous film, 2016’s “Chulyen, histoire de corbeau” (co-directed with Cerise Lopez), Patron continues with her organic animation style, bringing to life images, sounds, and sensations.

 

Miguel Dias (Curtas Vila do Conde – International Film Festival, www.curtas.pt)

“Electric Swan” (Konstantina Kotzamani)

 “Electric Swan” (Konstantina Kotzamani, 2019, France/Greece/Argentina)

 “Shakti” (Martín Rejtman, 2019, Argentina/Chile)

 “The Marvelous Misadventures of the Stone Lady” [Les extraordinaires mésaventures de la jeune fille de pierre] (Gabriel Abrantes, 2019, France/Portugal)

 “Uncle Thomas, Accounting for the Days” [Tio Tomás, a Contabilidade dos Dias] (Regina Pessoa, 2019, Portugal/Canada/France)

 “Watermelon Juice” [Suc de síndria] (Irene Moray, 2019, Spain)

 

Sébastien Simon (Programmer, Busan International Short Film Festival, www.bisff.org)

“Yuwol: The Boy Who Made the World Dance”

“Yuwol: The Boy Who Made the World Dance” [유월] (BEFF, 2018, South Korea)

All the youthful energy, feel-good vibes, and truly entertaining qualities that you can expect from a child-led, irresistible, and exciting musical!

“Being of Neglected” (Jakkrapan Sriwichai, 2018, Thailand)

Very impressive and to the point, this spine-chilling film leaves everything to the audience’s imagination while expressing the immersive power of words and storytelling.

“Last Lights” [Les derniers feux] (Benjamin Busnel, 2019, France)

This black-and-white film is made exclusively from photographs, and takes place during the Cannes Film Festival. A hypnotic voiceover delivers a poignant and haunting tale of lost love and failed dreams, and eventually goes in an unpredictable direction.

“Deady Freddy” (Alicia Eisen, 2019, Canada)

Hilarious “karmic” concept for a story of multiple deaths and rebirths, yet at the same time, very touching and engaging. Bugs are people, too!

“__ /__ /__” [Places] (Claudia Barral Magaz, 2018, Spain)

This beautiful short film, with its quasi split screens that open mini-windows onto other times, conveys the idea that places have their own lifespans.

 

Anna Henckel-Donnersmarck (Berlinale Shorts Head and Curator, Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin, www.berlinale.de/berlinaleshorts)

“Catching Fire” (Mickaël Soyez)

“Omarska” (Varun Sasindran, 2019, France)

“Catching Fire” [Prendre feu] (Mickaël Soyez, 2019, France)

“Mr. Mare” [Lidérc úr] (Luca Tóth, 2019, Hungary/France)

“Blue Boy” (Manuel Abramovich, 2019, Argentina/Germany)

“In Between” [Në Mes] (Samir Karahoda, 2019, Kosovo)

 

Lydia Beilby (Experimental Programmer, Edinburgh International Film Festival, www.edfilmfest.org) 

“Red Film” (Sara Cwynar)

“beside the water, 1999–2004” (Finn Paul, 2018, US)

An intensely powerful celebration of queer bodies and lives, and a rousing process of communal archiving that reclaims the stories and narratives of trans people that have been erased historically.

“Red Film” (Sara Cwynar, 2018, US)

Cwynar explores the female body as a repository for the reproduction of cultural knowledge and asks how we might begin to unshackle ourselves from the insidious capitalist forces that encourage us to blindly consume and conform.

“Pirate Boys” (Pol Merchan, 2018, Germany)

The queer traces within the writing of Kathy Acker provide a framework through which to revel in the subversive and empowering act of gender experimentation.

“Enceindre” (Luke Fowler, 2018, UK/Spain)

Landscape explored as a body that both absorbs and reflects its lived experience. Audio field recordings merge with fluid camera movements that document and interrogate, peering under the surface of the space, accessing dense layers of history and presence bound into the landscape.

“Edge of Red” (Callie Mae Nichole Lyons, 2018, US)

The powerful energies of traditional African-American culture, folk music, and dance are set into motion in this evocative 16mm exploration of the interplay between place and personal identity.

 

Sophia Georgiadou (General Coordinator of Program, Short Film Festival in Drama www.dramafilmfestival.gr)

“Maras” (Salvador Calvo)

“Maras” (Salvador Calvo, 2019, Spain)

A great thriller presenting a global topic: the fight to escape from gang violence.

“The Distance Between Us and the Sky” (Vasilis Kekatos, 2019, Greece) 

A perceptive director, two talented actors, a gas station, a motorbike, and a camera can perform miracles, creating strong and tender feelings.

“Pinky Promise” (Sophie Linnenbaum, 2019, Germany)

A society under the microscope by means of a three-member family. Moral and human values in a dark and brilliant comedy.

“Lake of Happiness” (Aliaksei Paluyan, 2019, Belarus/Germany/Spain) 

Outstanding atmosphere, great selection of the cast. Poetic, powerful images present a realistic, tough story.

“Postcards from the End of the World” (Konstantinos Antonopoulos, 2019, Greece) 

One of the best comedies dealing with family and crisis issues in a tempting Mediterranean setting.

 

Simon Young (VP EMEA Acquisitions, Shorts International, www.shorts.tv)

“Constellations” (Anna Maguire)

“Constellations” (Anna Maguire, 2018, Canada/UK)

 Made in the UK, the British director is also the lead actress in this exploration of the blurred line between fantasy and reality.

 “Boiling Point” (Philip Barantini, 2019, UK)

 An acting master class of claustrophobic intensity by the incredible Stephen Graham. Again.

 “Nefta Football Club” (Yves Piat, 2018, France)

 Inspired storytelling. A donkey with headphones!

 “Short Calf Muscle” (Victoria Warmerdam, 2019, Netherlands)

Still unsure if “Gnome” is really the best English translation but, whatever, a fantastic comedic parody.

 “Watermelon Juice” [Suc de síndria] (Irene Moray, 2019, Spain)

Sensual, shocking, and moving — a beautiful film by a director to watch.

 

Molly Cowderoy (Programmer, Leeds International Film Festival, https://www.leedsfilm.com/)

“Lake of Happiness” (Aliaksei Paluyan)

“Watermelon Juice” [Suc de síndria] (Irene Moray, 2019, Spain)

“Olla” (Ariane Labed, 2019, France)

“Exam” [Emtehan] (Sonia K. Hadad, 2019 Iran)

“Lake of Happiness” (Aliaksei Paluyan, 2019, Germany, Belarus)

“Patision Avenue” (Thanasis Neofotistos, 2018, Greece) 

 

Wouter Jansen (Festival Distribution at Some Shorts, www.someshorts.com)

“Acid Rain” (Tomek Popakul)

While looking through some selections from the past year in search of my favorite shorts, I have to admit that there aren’t that many that came out in 2019 that blew me away. Most of the films on my list this year are actually from 2018, but I only got to see them on the big screen or while programming in 2019. All of them I would have loved to work with at Some Shorts. 🙂 

So, here we go:

“Acid Rain” (Tomek Popakul, 2019, Poland)

For sure, my favorite of the year. I have seen it on the big screen a few times now, and I keep discovering new, small details. I’m in love with that rain scene.

“Watermelon Juice” [Suc de síndria] (Irene Moray, 2019, Spain)

I really like how the film develops and the message of its story! 

“Slug Life” (Sophie Koko Gate, 2018, UK)

Craziness! 

“Snowman” [Schneeman] (Leni Gruber, 2018, Austria)

This was one of my Go Short favorites this year. Gruber does a great job of minimal storytelling and big atmosphere.

“The Kiss of the Catfish” [Le baiser du silure] (June Balthazard, 2018, France) / “The Migrating Image” (Stefan Kruse Jørgensen, 2018, Denmark)

OK, small cheat, but these are two documentaries that I really enjoyed, and when I heard the directors talk about them, I appreciated them even more. The two can’t be more different in aesthetics, but both are by directors whom I can’t wait to see their next projects! 

 

Mathieu Janssen (Head of Competitions at Go Short International Short Film Festival Nijmegen, https://www.goshort.nl/)

“Slug Life” (Sophie Koko Gate)

“To the Living” [À l’usage des vivants] (Pauline Fonsny, 2019, Belgium)

Great piece of activist filmmaking; not made for film festivals, but as part of a collective trying to change an unjust situation. The film builds a story slow, but it left me with chills. ​

“Slug Life” (Sophie Koko Gate, 2018, UK)

This animation is just perfect, everything (voices, images, sentences) fits together like two slugs making love. A great comedy, and at the same time, I never knew slugs were so hot!​

“Sapphire Crystal” (Virgil Vernier, 2019, France)​

Whit Stillman meets The Hills; drowning you so deep into the emptiness of rich kids that you start to see it all in perspective. ​

“Black Bus Stop” (Kevin Jerome Everson and Claudrena Harold, 2019, US) ​

Very powerful and smart film in which small snapshots are used to build a film that represents important issues of (re)claiming space for African-Americans. ​

“If Then Else” [Después también] (Carla Simón, 2019, Portugal)

One of those rare fictions in which the acting and camera are so compelling that I mirror every emotion — which in this case was mostly panic.

 

Lars Henrik Gass (Director, International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, www.kurzfilmtage.de)

“I Got My Things and Left” (Philbert Aimé Mbabazi Sharangabo)

“Elvis: Strung Out” (Mark Oliver, 2018, Canada)

“I Got My Things and Left” (Philbert Aimé Mbabazi Sharangabo, 2018, Rwanda/Switzerland)

“Syndrome IO” (Egor Sevastyanov, Anatasia Braiko, and Anatasia Veber, 2018, Russia)

“Imbued Life” (Ivana Bošnjak and Thomas Johnson, 2019, Croatia)

“Which Way to the West” (Kristina Kilian, 2019, Germany)

 

Marija Milovanovic (VIS Vienna Shorts, https://www.viennashorts.com / Lemonade Films, http://www.refreshingfilms.com/en)

“All Cats Are Grey in the Dark” (Lasse Linder)

“All Cats Are Grey in the Dark” [Nachts sind alle Katzen grau] (Lasse Linder, 2019, Switzerland)

This perfect film is not only for cat lovers! A wonderful observation and portrait of an interesting character. In the end, you’re left with so many questions, but you’re also touched by so much unconditional love. 

“Swatted” (Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis, 2018, France)

Opened up a completely new world for me. I never heard of this phenomenon before, and even after watching the film multiple times, I’m still overwhelmed and moved. The way Joffroy Chandoutis switches between real footage and animation makes the documentary outstanding. 

“Toomas Beneath the Valley of the Wild Wolves” (Chintis Lundgren, 2019, Estonia/Croatia/France)

The story develops wonderfully, free of clichés and rich in imagination. Political incorrectness is consciously used as a tool for inclusion — male, female, cats, and dogs. Empowerment belongs to everyone. 

“Symbiosis” (Nádja Andrasev, 2019, France/Hungary)

Beautiful animation featuring a strong woman in a very difficult period in her life. Love how playful and charming she’s portrayed, and how her curiosity leads her to new interests and adventures that she discovers along the way.

“Hitting My Head on the World” (Anna Vasof, 2019, Austria)

Such a creative and wonderful idea and concept! Never saw a journey like this before. The rhythm of the editing and the sound are perfectly coordinated.

 

Christoffer Olofsson (Program Director, Uppsala Short Film Festival, www.shortfilmfestival.com)

“Austral Fever” (Thomas Woodroffe)

“Austral Fever” [Fiebre Austral] (Thomas Woodroffe, 2019, Chile)

“Rise” (Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, 2019, Brazil/Canada)

“Terril” (Bronte Stahl, 2018, Belgium/Portugal/Hungary)

“Past Perfect” (Jorge Jácome, 2019, Portugal)

“The Giverny Document (Single Channel)” (Ja’Tovia Gary, 2019, US)

 

Neil Young (Freelance Film Critic, Film Festival Curator,  www.jigsawlounge.co.uk/film)

“Mitski: A Pearl” (Art Camp, Danaé Gosset, and Saad Moosajee)

“Mitski: A Pearl” (Art Camp, Danaé Gosset, and Saad Moosajee, 2019, US)

My favorite 2019 film, of any length, is this 150-second animated music video made for an album track by Japanese-American singer-songwriter-guitarist Mitski. Ms. Miyawaki has quite a following, but I must confess I’d never actually heard of her before I saw this piece for the first time, in a music-video program at December’s Żubroffka shorts festival in Białystok, Poland. Commissioned by Spotify (maybe the first and only good thing this dodgy Luxembourg-based organization has ever done) and made under the auspices of the Brooklyn studio Art Camp, it comprises 1480 frames animated by traditional and digital techniques. These are mostly executed in soft pastel shades, exuding a distinct late ‘70s/early ‘80s aesthetic: shades of David Hockney. The video itself shows a female figure whose face is never shown: half vid-game avatar, half-Caspar David Friedrichesque Rückenfigur. She navigates, firstly on foot and then airborne, a series of bizarre imaginary spaces. As the song takes off, so does our faceless heroine: the film unfolds in a cumulatively breathtaking manner that organically complements and thrillingly expands Mitski’s keening-ethereal-but-actually-pretty-hard-edged lament. Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space.

“Wild Berries” (Romulus Balazs, Hedda Bednarszky, and Marianna Vas, 2018, Hungary/Portugal/Romania)

A 20-minute, near-wordless rural documentary about childhood and freedom and the meaning of the gaze, which premiered at DocLisboa in October 2018. I caught it at Dokufest in Prizren, Kosovo this summer: I was on the jury that awarded it the top prize in the shorts section. The film was made under the auspices of the “Aristoteles Workshop,” a month-long training event that takes place in Romania each August and brings together young/emerging filmmakers to work on collective projects. This one has three directors and is also very much a collaboration with its protagonist, Cristi Simeon, a kid of maybe 11, whom we observe in his native countryside setting. Quietly striking as an immersive aesthetic experience of sound and vision, what lifts this far above the general run of coyly artificial fly-on-the-wall fare is the way it acknowledges and so confidently plays with the relationship between the filmed, the filmers, and the audience. 

“dogs, moon river and Baudelaire” (Marija Kovačina, 2019, Serbia)

Currently best known in her native Serbia as a member of retro-hip band VIS Limunada, Marija Kovačina made this four-minute experimental piece during a workshop at New Belgrade’s Academic Cultural Centre, Student City. It then premiered at the 66th edition of the Martovski shorts/documentary festival in March, an event born alongside the emergence of Yugoslavia’s legendary “cine-clubs” — a network of which ACC became a significant element. Kovačina’s simple-seeming — but virtuoso — manipulation of home-movie footage (which she renders rich and strange by means of rapid, repetitive crosscutting) accompanied by haunting musical audio (based on the track of the same title by Sofie From Seattle) is a worthy addition to this fine tradition.   

“horizon” (Sid Iandovka and Anya Tsyrlina, 2019, Russia)

Another thrillingly imaginative re-configuring of existing footage: a seven-minute sci-fi micro-epic by a Swiss-based Russian duo. They take 16mm material shot in the 1970s Soviet Union (reportedly in co-director Iandovka’s Siberian hometown) and, with a few tweaks, turn it into a quasi-narrative, Tarkovsky-inflected evocation of extraterrestrial (?) incursion, considerably elevated by Iandovka’s retro-futuristic soundscape. As J. G. Ballard supposedly once remarked, “Earth is the alien planet.”

“Community Gardens” [Kolektyviniai sodai] (Vytautas Katkus, 2019, Lithuania)

The only “straight” narrative work on this list is a 15-minute domestic dystopia by a fast-rising Lithuanian writer-director, which premiered at Semaine de la Critique in Cannes and has gone on to win several awards around the circuit (including no fewer than two from juries upon which I served!). A bickering family’s weekend at their countryside holiday home is disturbed by a conflagration in the nearby village; small character touches and adventurous 16mm camerawork build into a 360-degree portrait of familial and social dysfunction.

Special Mention:

The YouTube “Patuz” videos of “STR8•CHOP KING,” which pop up for spells online before disappearing into the void. From what I can gather, Mr. King is an African-American teenager, who amuses himself by combining Machinima-style footage of violent video games with doom-laden rap tracks, often of the “UK Drill” genre. He might now be posting as “Cyrxss ツ.” Or perhaps it’s a collective. Who knows! These “films” have never, as far as I know, been shown in any festival or other public forum, and Mr. King may not even regard himself as a filmmaker or artist of any kind. But whenever I discover one of his works, I’m convinced I’m in the presence of a major talent. The future has arrived, not a moment too soon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zDhx0Lcjeo  

 

Per Fikse (Festival Director, Minimalen Short Film Festival, Trondheim, www.minimalen.com)

“Past Perfect” (Jorge Jácome)

“The Physics of Sorrow” [Physique de la tristesse] (Theodore Ushev, 2019, Canada) 

“Psychic” (Tova Mozard, 2019, Sweden)

“Past Perfect” (Jorge Jácome, 2019, Portugal)

“In Between” [Në Mes] (Samir Karahoda, 2019, Kosovo)

“Blessed Land” [Một Khu Đất Tốt] (Phạm Ngọc Lân, 2019, Vietnam)

 

 

Philip Ilson (Artistic Director, London Short Film Festival, shortfilms.org.uk / Short Film Programmer, BFI London Film Festival, https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp)

“Hard, Cracked the Wind” (Mark Jenkin)

I wanted to highlight five British-made films that are pushing artistic boundaries to experiment with form and narrative; I know this is what we all want short film to do and to be, and UK work can be quite conventional in terms of structure and narrative, but I’d like to draw attention to these five as films that are thinking ahead in terms of what short film can be.

“Pompeii” (Harry Lighton, Marco Alessi, and Matthew Morgan, 2019, UK)

Initially begun as an improvised experiment shot on an iPhone before some top-up funding was found to finish it. All three directors have had a mix of successful shorts, with BAFTA nominations and Berlinale premieres between them, but here they are having fun with the short film form. A story of queer nightclubbing and late-night rejection using London as a backdrop, from outside crowded clubs to comedowns on lonely tubes.

“If You Knew” (Stroma Cairns, 2019, UK)

This D/deaf short documentary is a window onto a world, beautifully shot on 16mm on Canvey Island, showing us a unique connection between twin brothers as they go about their day-to-day life.

“Memoirs of a Geeza” (Theo Jmes Krekis, 2019, UK)

Originally made for the Straight 8 competition (one role of super-8, no editing, no sync sound), this monologue about growing up working-class and queer is funny and powerful in equal measure.

“Hard, Cracked the Wind” (Mark Jenkin, 2019, UK)

Jenkin has been experimenting with self-developed 16mm and super-8 film for a number of years, culminating in the success of his first feature Bait (premiered at Berlinale 2019). He goes a step further into experimental narrative here while remaining in his native Cornwall, to give us an ethereal ghost story and perhaps a hint as to what his next feature project will be.

“GUO4” (Peter Strickland, 2019, UK)

Initially created as a music video for the experimental Warp act GUO, director Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio, In Fabric) takes us into a male locker room evocative of 1970s gay porn, and gives us a visually stunning short using still images as two naked men tussle and play.

 

Wim Vanacker (Selection Committee, Official Short Film Competition, Festival de Cannes, https://www.festival-cannes.com/fr/)

“She Runs” (Qiu Yang)

“Monster God” [Monstruo Dios] (Agustina San Martín, 2019, Argentina)

“All the Fires the Fire” (Efthimis Kosemund Sanidis, 2019, Greece)

“She Runs” (Qiu Yang, 2019, China/France)

“Sun Dog” (Dorian Jespers, 2019, Belgium)

“And Then the Bear” [L’heure de l’ours] (Agnès Patron, 2019, France)

 

John Canciani (Artistic Director Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, www.kurzfilmtage.ch /Film Curator Kino Cameo, www.kinocameo.ch)

“Bab Sebta: Ceuta’s Gate” (Randa Maroufi)

“The Bite” [A Mordida] (Pedro Neves Marques, 2019, Portugal/Brazil)

This hybrid film has several levels that can be read in so many ways, dealing with  contemporary and relevant topics. Beautifully shot and very atmospheric.

“Bab Sebta: Ceuta’s Gate” (Randa Maroufi, 2019, France/Morocco)

A minimalistic film that distills North Africa’s relationship with migration. The choice of camera and the little stories within the narrative structure sucks us in, making it impossible not to stare at the screen.

“No History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 5” (Korakrit Arunanondchai, 2018, US/Thailand)

Once again, we are invited into the world of Korakrit. This dynamic film takes us to some kind of ritual that feels like a rave, leading to a media-hyped event and raising issues about glorification, leadership, nationalism, and religion in Thailand.

“Red Ants Bite” (Elene Naveriani, 2019, Switzerland)

“Red Ants Bite” is a moving short that brings us closer to two people and their fate. Slowly we become part of the story with its precise observation. Naveriani stages the narrative sensitively and has a good feeling for the protagonists.

“Past Perfect” (Jorge Jácome, 2019, Portugal)

A film that touches me very much. It messes with our notion of nostalgia and emotions in a playful way, by taking us on a journey from present to past, back to Earth’s creation. 

 

Carmen Gray (Film Journalist)

“A Tree Is Like a Man” (Thorbjorg Jonsdottir)

“We Are All Here” [Estamos todos aqui] (Chico Santos and Rafael Mellim, 2018, Brazil)

“A Tree Is Like a Man” (Thorbjorg Jonsdottir, 2019, Iceland/Colombia)

“Past Perfect” (Jorge Jácome, 2019, Portugal)

“In Between” [Në Mes] (Samir Karahoda, 2019, Kosovo)

“Acid Rain” (Tomek Popakul, 2019, Poland)

 

Jason Anderson (Short Cuts Programmer, Toronto International Film Festival, www.tiff.net / Director of Programming, Aspen Shortsfest, www.aspenfilm.org)

“La Siesta” (Federico Luis Tachella)

“Darling” (Saim Sadiq, 2019, Pakistan/US)

A surprising, exuberant, and tenderhearted showbiz story like none I’d ever seen.

“Daughter” (Daria Kashcheeva, 2019, Czech Republic)

A stop-motion marvel that ingeniously combines Dogme tactics and great big emotions.

“Delphine” (Chloé Robichaud, 2019, Canada)

So many great movies started with “D” this year, including this remarkably deft and nuanced tale of power, class, and girlhood.

“The Physics of Sorrow” [Physique de la tristesse] (Theodore Ushev, 2019, Canada)

Ushev paints his masterpiece.

“La Siesta” (Federico Luis Tachella, 2019, Argentina)

Languid, gorgeous, and sexy as hell.

 

Samir Karahoda (Short Film Programmer, Documentary and Short Film Festival DOKUFEST, Kosovo, https://dokufest.com/2019/)

“Swapped” (Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis)

“Brotherhood” (Meryam Joobeur, 2018, Canada/Tunisia/Qatar/Sweden)

“She Runs” (Qiu Yang, 2019, China/France)

“Acid Rain” (Tomek Popakul, 2019, Poland)

“Bab Sebta: Ceuta’s Gate” (Randa Maroufi, 2019, France/Morocco)

“Swatted” (Ismaël Joffroy Chandoutis, 2018, France)

 

Nicolas Khabbaz (Program and Artistic Director, NDU International Film Festival, Lebanon, www.nduiff.com)

“Postcards from the End of the World” (Konstantinos Antonopoulos)

 “Postcards from the End of the World” (Konstantinos Antonopoulos, 2019, Greece)

 “In Between” [Në Mes] (Samir Karahoda, 2019, Kosovo)

“All Cats Are Grey in the Dark” [Nachts sind alle Katzen grau] (Lasse Linder, 2019, Switzerland)

 Tattoo (Farhad Delaram, 2019, Iran)

 “Brotherhood” (Meryam Joobeur, 2018, Canada/Tunisia/Qatar/Sweden)

 

 

Niels Putman (Editor-in-Chief, Kortfilm.be / Managing Director Short Film Conference)

“hier.” (Joy Maurits)

“Rise” (Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, 2019, Brazil/Canada)

“A Sister” [Une soeur] (Delphine Girard, 2018, Belgium) 

“The Christmas Gift” [Cadoul de Cråciun] (Bogdan Muresanu, 2018, Romania)

“Watermelon Juice” [Suc de síndria] (Irene Moray, 2019, Spain)

“hier.” [here.]  (Joy Maurits, 2019, Belgium) 

 

Sarah Schlüssel (Selection Committee Member Berlinale Shorts, Coordinator Short Form Station Berlinale Talents, www.berlinale.de)

“In Between” (Samir Karahoda)

 “Elvis: Strung Out” (Mark Oliver, 2018, Canada)

 “Héctor” (Victoria Giesen Carvajal, 2019, Chile)

 “In Between” [Në Mes] (Samir Karahoda, 2019, Kosovo)

 “Part One: Where There Is a Joyous Mood, There a Comrade Will appear to Share a Glass of Wine” and “Part Two: The Moon Nearly at Full. The Team Horse Goes Astray” (Rosalind Nashashibi, 2018–19, UK/Lithuania)

 “Swinguerra” (Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, 2019, Brazil)

 

 

Enrico Vannucci (Short Film Advisor, Venice Film Festival, labiennale.org / Short Film Programmer, Torino Short Film Market, tsfm.centrodelcorto.it / Managing Director, Varicoloured, varicoloured.eu)

“Winter in the Rainforest” (Anu-Laura Tuttelberg)

“Cavalcade” (Johann Lurf, 2019, Austria)

“Community Gardens” [Kolektyviniai sodai] (Vytautas Katkus, 2019, Lithuania)

“Electric Swan” (Konstantina Kotzamani, 2019, France/Greece/Argentina)

“Past Perfect” (Jorge Jácome, 2019, Portugal)

“Winter in the Rainforest” [Talv Vihmametsas] (Anu-Laura Tuttelberg, 2019, Estonia/Mexico)

 

Julie Marnay (Program Manager, European Short Pitch: An Initiative of Nisi Masa, http://esp.nisimasa.com/)

“Salt, Pepper to Taste” (Teymur Hajiyev)

“Acid Rain” (Tomek Popakul, 2019, Poland)

 “Journey Through a Body” (Camille Degeye, 2019, France)

 “Displacement” (Maxime Corbeil-Perron, 2019, Canada)

 “Salt, Pepper to Taste” [Duz, istiot zövqə görə] (Teymur Hajiyev, 2019, Azerbaijan)

 “Invisible Hero” [Invisível Herói] (Cristèle Alves Meira, 2019, Portugal/France)

 

Thomas Grimshaw (London Short Film Festival, shortfilms.org.uk /)

“Volcano: What Does a Lake Dream?” (Diana Vidrascu)

“The Bite” [A Mordida] (Pedro Neves Marques, 2018, Portugal)

“Volcano: What Does a Lake Dream?” [Vulcão: O Que Sonha um Lago?] (Diana Vidrascu, 2019, France/Portugal/Romania)

“Dear, Can I Give You a Hand?” (Wong Ping, 2019, Hong Kong)

“The Giverny Document (Single Channel)” (Ja’Tovia Gary, 2019, US)

“Zombies” (Baloji, 2019, The Democratic Republic of the Congo) 

 

Marina Richter (Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Ubiquarian, Film Critic, Programmer and Script-Adviser, http://ubiquarian.net/)

“Monster God” (Agustina San Martín)

“Austral Fever” [Fiebre Austral] (Thomas Woodroffe, 2019, Chile)

“Monster God” [Monstruo Dios] (Agustina San Martín, 2019, Argentina)

“12 K Marx Street” (Irina Jordania, 2019, Georgia)

“Villancicos” (Isaac Ezban, 2019, Mexico, as part of the Deathcember film project)

“Electric Swan” (Konstantina Kotzamani, 2019, France/Greece/Argentina)

 

Léo Soesanto (Short Film Selection Coordinator, Cannes Critics Week, https://www.semainedelacritique.com / Programmer at International Film Festival Rotterdam, https://iffr.com)

“Dogs Barking at Birds” (Leonor Teles)

Disclaimer: this list — with no particular order — excludes all the wonderful short films we selected this year at Cannes Critics Week (list here: https://www.semainedelacritique.com/fr/selection), which are already by definition among the best in 2019. 

“All Cats Are Grey in the Dark” [Nachts sind alle Katzen grau] (Lasse Linder, 2019, Switzerland)

“Dogs Barking at Birds” [Cães que Ladram aos Pássaros] (Leonor Teles, 2019, Portugal)

“And Then the Bear” [L’heure de l’ours] (Agnès Patron, 2019, France)

“America” (Garrett Bradley, 2019, US)

“The Physics of Sorrow” [Physique de la tristesse] (Theodore Ushev, 2019, Canada)

 

Jason Sondhi (Co-Founder Short of the Week, www.shortoftheweek.com)

“Albatross Soup” (Winnie Cheung)

“Albatross Soup” (Winnie Cheung, 2018, US)

A stunning feat of translation that invents a new genre. Adapting a famous lateral-thinking puzzle, meticulous audio production pairs with sublime psychedelic-influenced animation to recreate a “live” experience in a way I haven’t seen before. 

https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2019/05/01/albatross-soup/

“Sometimes, I Think About Dying” (Stefanie Abel Horowitz, 2019, US)

I try to be contrarian, but I couldn’t help but fall for this much-lauded film. The dark humor is so droll, the performances so endearing, and Abel Horowitz and her writing team nail a degree of authenticity to depression and social isolation that is unbelievably poignant. https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2019/10/23/sometimes-think-dying/

“Lost World” (Kalyanee Mam, 2018, Cambodia)

Criminally underseen, Kalyanee Mam’s short documentary for Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee’s Emergence Magazine begins as a conventional, if still excellent, issue-doc. But the fierceness of the portrait is so intense that it’s like watching an origin story for a superhero activist, and the third act juxtaposition is so darkly ironic that you want to laugh except you’re already crying. https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2019/01/23/lost-world/

“Adman” (Ben Callner, 2019, US)

The sheer abundance of creativity necessary to pull off the premise astounds. “Adman” tells a conventional boy-girl rom-com through the format of the 30-second ad spot. While the storyline itself is not groundbreaking and the meta-critique of the form is a touch underdeveloped, the audacity of the attempt and how high the hit rate is, makes it one of my favorites of 2019. https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2019/04/12/adman/

“[UNUM]” (David Gesselbauer and Michael Lange, 2017, Germany)

Vertical video distributed through mobile-first platforms is the future of the short form, but while some “serious” attempts to create films suited to this orientation have been quite good, they have also slavishly aped the Snapchat/Instagram digital vérité aesthetic that has provided the context for this trend. [UNUM] isn’t that; it is stylish filmmaking, full of gorgeous compositions designed for vertical but drawing upon fantasy, myth, and romantic art. NSFW. https://www.shortoftheweek.com/2019/01/01/unum/

 

Camille Hébert-Bénazet (Head of Cannes Court Métrage Short Film Corner, http://www.cannescourtmetrage.com/en/)

“Blessed Land” (Phạm Ngọc Lân)

“Monster God” [Monstruo Dios] (Agustina San Martín, 2019, Argentina)

“Bab Sebta: Ceuta’s Gate” (Randa Maroufi, 2019, France/Morocco)

“The Distance Between Us and the Sky” (Vasilis Kekatos, 2019, Greece)

“Two Sisters Who Are Not Sisters” [Deux sœurs qui ne sont pas sœurs] (Beatrice Gibson, 2019, UK/France/Portugal)

“Blessed Land” [Một Khu Đất Tốt] (Phạm Ngọc Lân, 2019, Vietnam)

 

Matt Lloyd and Sanne Jehoul (Director and Co-Director, Glasgow Short Film Festival, www.glasgowshort.org)

“New Land Broken Road” (Kavich Neang)

“New Land Broken Road” [ដីថ្មីផ្លូវខូច] (Kavich Neang, 2018, Cambodia)

Just gorgeous. The dancing, the colors, the social commentary, the mobile neon-lit snack bar, the mix of contemporary hip-hop and classic pop. 

“Little Lower Than the Angels” (Neozoon, 2019, Germany)

Terrifying.

“Rise” (Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, 2019, Brazil/Canada)

“Black Bus Stop” (Kevin Jerome Everson and Claudrena Harold, 2019, US) ​

Two experimental documentary musicals, one lyrical and seductive, the other stark.  Both collaborations that record specific marginal communities and celebrate their cultures.

“Past Perfect” (Jorge Jácome, 2019, Portugal)

A dense mélange of half-obscured images and thoughts, riffing on memory, melancholy, and history. At its heart is one of the most quietly shocking reversals we’ve ever experienced in a cinema, the floor ripped from beneath our feet.  

 

Andreea Pătru (Freelance Film Critic, Co-Programmer, Tenerife Shorts, www.tenerifeshorts.com)

“Zombies” (Baloji)

“Demonic” (Pia Borg, 2018, Australia)

“Blessed Land” [Một Khu Đất Tốt] (Phạm Ngọc Lân, 2019, Vietnam)

“America” (Garrett Bradley, 2019, US)

“All Cats Are Grey in the Dark” [Nachts sind alle Katzen grau] (Lasse Linder, 2019, Switzerland)

“Zombies” (Baloji, 2019, The Democratic Republic of the Congo)

 

Gina Dellabarca (Festival Director, Show Me Shorts, New Zealand, 

www.showmeshorts.co.nz)

“To Plant a Flag” (Bobbie Peers)

“Acadiana” (Guillaume Fournier, Samuel Matteau, and Yannick Nolin, 2019, Canada)

A film I can’t stop revisiting and recommending. It’s an observational documentary of the very best kind. Gently, it allows us a peek inside the strange world of crawfish. The camera slides over feasters and frolickers in a way that both exposes their weirdness, and endears them to us. The filmmakers have injected much heart and warmth into this film, and I hope to see more from them.

“All on a Mardi Gras Day” (Michal Pietrzyk, 2019, US)

The film has captivated audiences across New Zealand. The lead character in the documentary is preparing a sensational costume for Mardi Gras. Sensual cinematography captures the gaudy glamor, as well as the heart behind its creation. The film is further elevated by its sound recording of the haunting and heady calls made between rivals. A memorable and remarkable film.

“The Colour of Your Lips” (Annick Blanc, 2018, Canada)

A dystopian short that is deeply relevant in the 21st century. As the effects of climate change are felt so strongly here in the Southern Hemisphere, we can’t help wondering about the quality of the air we breathe. How long will it be before we are all wearing masks on a daily basis? This film explores a world where we can imagine what that might be like. Visceral and fraught, it delivers a tense and compelling story.

“Short Wave” [موج کوتاه] (Mohammad Esmaeili, 2019, Iran)

The film offers us a world in which a character cannot escape from an authoritarian voice being broadcast from loudspeakers. It’s a heightened extrapolation of the way we are all being bombarded with messages in the modern world. It can be hard to escape them, as the increasingly distraught man in this story discovers. The film is an uncomfortable watch by design. Impressive production design and world building.

“To Plant a Flag” (Bobbie Peers, 2018, Norway/Iceland) 

A film that provides the joy we all need. High production values and well-known stars immediately set us at ease watching this smart comedy that delivers assured laughs. The beauty of Iceland and the salt-of-the-earth farming character provide the perfect foil for a couple of hapless wannabe American astronauts. The film is pure fun, and  has been a sure crowd pleaser everywhere.

 

Heinz Hermanns (Director Interfilm Berlin, www.interfilm.de)

“Inanimate” (Lucia Bulgheroni)

“Foreigner” (Carlos Violadé, 2018, Spain)

“Inanimate” (Lucia Bulgheroni, 2018, UK)

“Facelift” (Dennis Stein-Schomburg and Jan Riesenbeck, 2019, Germany)

“Bodas de Oro” [The Anniversary] (Lorenzo Tocco, 2018, Uruguay/ Chile)

“From Matti with Love” [Rakkaudella, Matt] (Jarno Lindemark, 2019, Finland)

 

Laurence Boyce (Head of Live Action Program PÖFF Shorts, https://shorts.poff.ee/en/ / Film Journalist / Chairman of the Board: Short Film Conference, http://shortfilmconference.com/)

“Jail Lullaby” (Jorma Kaulanen)

“The Devil’s Harmony” (Dylan Holmes Williams, 2019, U.K.)

Williams’ film is a brilliant and irreverent high school supernatural musical that not only has a sense of genuine playfulness and joy, but also an undercurrent of real emotion that takes in identity and the pressures of teenage years. It’s a truly wonderful piece of work that marks Williams as a major talent thanks to a unique aesthetic and empathetic eye. The songs are pretty good as well.

“Electric Swan” (Konstantina Kotzamani, 2019, France/Greece/Argentina)

Kotzamani never ceases to enthrall or to rest upon her laurels. While containing the hallmarks of her previous films — such as playful surrealism and a vein of satire — “Electric Swan” is still a staggeringly fresh and exciting piece of work. The Buenos Aires-set tale of a building that is shaking for no apparent reason — and the meek concierge who is trying to sort it all out — plays like a mad soap opera that is utterly compelling, as emotional as it is darkly humorous. Despite a 40-plus-minute runtime — often anathema to the short-film world — it holds the attention and Kotzamani continues to astound with every step she takes. 

“Vinegar Baths” (Amanda Nell Eu, 2019, Malaysia)

This powerful story of a woman roaming the corridors of a hospital at night while looking for a moment to eat is a powerful and visceral work that explores female identity in a bold and uncompromising way. There’s a strangeness and dreamlike quality to the film (though knowing a little about the Malay myth of the Penanggalan does help contextualize the story slightly) while Nell Eu creates a tangible atmosphere with precise use of silence and a palette of ominous purple. 

“12 K Marx Street” (Irina Jordania, 2019, Georgia)

An astonishing work from first-time filmmaker Jordania, the film ruminates on notions of war and absence. It’s a delicate and haunting affair that examines the ghosts of memory and how they create a liminal space that is difficult to traverse.

“Jail Lullaby” (Jorma Kaulanen, 2019, Finland)

Just pure fun for eight minutes, this self-confessed tribute to love, life, and MacGyver has certain similarities to Kung Fury, with its ‘80s aesthetic and electronic score. It’s cute, funny, and well realized and deserves to have a long festival run in 2020.

 

Sven Schwarz (Administrative Director Kurzfilm Festival Hamburg (https://festival.shortfilm.com/en/) / Member of A Wall is a Screen (www.awallisascreen.com)

“Black Bus Stop” (Kevin Jerome Everson and Claudrena Harold)

“Black Bus Stop” (Kevin Jerome Everson and Claudrena Harold, 2019, US)

One of two films that presented a really impressive insight into the musical dance routines of black sororities and fraternities in the US. I highly recommend watching this film back to back with Beyoncé’s concert film Homecoming (2019). Quite amazing to see the same themes from two very different perspectives and in non-comparable styles.

“Rise” (Bárbara Wagner and Benjamin de Burca, 2019, Brazil/Canada)

Somehow the slicker version of “Black Bus Stop.” Since we presented it as an installation piece in Hamburg, I must have seen the film (and parts of it) countless times, but quite often some of the scenes made me stop at the installation to re-watch them over and over again and dragged me into the film’s songs.

“In Between” [Në Mes] (Samir Karahoda, 2019, Kosovo)

Hauntingly beautiful images tell us a very personal story and give us a glimpse into Europe’s current state. Also, another step that helps us to understand Kosovo a bit better.

“Train Robbers” (Martin A. Walther, 2019, Norway)

I guess we all must have seen tons of coming-of-age films since the dawn of time, and most of them inspire this response: “seen that a hundred times.” “Train Robbers” is a refreshing variation of the genre, exciting to watch, and with a great proximity to the protagonists. Really loved watching it!

“Cat Lake City” (Antje Heyn, 2019, Germany)

You now those films that are not necessarily the ones that win tons of jury awards or such, but which are always an entertaining pleasure to watch? Try showing “Cat Lake City” to different audiences, from kids to adults, short film snobs to people who have never watched a short film before. It always works and leaves a smile on everybody’s face.

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Top image: Miriam Gossing and Lina Sieckmann’s Souvenir

 

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