Canberra has had its own short-film festival since about 1996. Since then, founding festival director John Frohlich has nursed it into an international event with specialities such as Iranian film, science fiction / future worlds, and music video / animation — and it keeps on growing. This time around, despite a further year of restrictions, job losses, and other privations, CSFF is holding a record number of screenings: one matinee for schools, and 15 nighttime sessions.
The 2021 season’s opening night, though it fell during the final days of the A.C.T.’s most stringent restrictions to date, still offered a celebratory atmosphere with generous supplies of wine and nibbles, and, having given everybody time to settle in with their food and drink, John Frohlich offered a short introduction to what followed: a wide sampling of festival finalists from amongst more than 600 entries, ranging from two to 20 minutes in length.
Several of the most interesting opening-night entries are unfortunately not rescreening in further sessions; but those that are include two that are utterly engaging. The first is a short SF drama, Carmentis, written and directed by Antony Webb. Carmentis features a severely injured miner on the planet Carmentis; the artificial intelligence, Eve, attempting to help him reach safety; and the imminent total solar eclipse that threatens to freeze him to death before that is possible. Its production values were truly impressive.
The second is a music video by Jordan Hart, Freedom, which illustrates Hart’s song “Freedom” using heartwarming hand-drawn animation to help us understand those with Down syndrome by showing how a Down boy overcomes several major challenges in life.
Freedom will rescreen on MV and animation night, 7 p.m. Tuesday 16 November, at Smith’s Alternative); and Carmentis will rescreen on SF / Future Worlds night, 7 p.m. Tuesday 23 November, at Dendy.
Also highly worthy of mention are a touching Iranian film by Reza Fahimi, a student in Iran, titled White Clad; and two from Canberra: Andrew Robb’s manually animated Odd One Out, illustrating amusingly and warmly the value of diversity; and Nicholas Clifford’s The Handyman, aptly highlighting how important we find connection and mutual support.
The Canberra Short Film Festival is screening at Dendy (most sessions), Smith’s Alternative (three sessions), and PhotoAccess (“experimental” finalists), until 24 November 2021.
— JOHN P. HARVEY