European Union Short Film Festival
With the first European Union Short Film Festival hitting town this fortnight, festival organiser Pierre Lochon and director Pauline Gay tell Ben Sin about the shorts which are debuting in the city
In the beginning, all films were short films – only nobody knew it yet. Roundhay Garden Scene, shot by French inventor Louis Le Prince in 1888, is considered by some to be the first film ever. It has a runtime of 2.11 seconds. Audiences at the time were mesmerised by the amazing visual imagery of ‘the moving pictures’.
A decade later, improvements in recording and editing technology allowed filmmakers to produce longer pieces, containing multiple shots and cuts. This began the move from ‘short films’ to longer-length flicks, later dubbed ‘feature-length’. Ever since, though, short films have been getting the short end of the stick. They are often considered to be of inferior quality, their makers amateurs. But, from Hollywood legends like Martin Scorsese to local director Pang Ho-cheung, the short film has been a valuable tool to express artistic freedom. In fact, almost all of the world’s top directors started out by making a short or two.
And so, the first ever European Union Short Film Festival in our city could perhaps offer Hongkongers a first glimpse at filmmakers who could one day go on to change the movie industry. Organised by the European Union Office and media company Sinapses Asia, this festival brings 10 award-winning short films to Hong Kong – for free.
Sinapses CEO Pierre Lochon first realised there was an audience for European short films two years ago when he partnered with the European Film Academy to help distribute some of its short films to China. The success of that event led him to look into doing something similar in Hong Kong and Macau. “Since Hong Kong has such a multinational population, there’s definitely an audience here for a different kind of cinema content,” says Lochon.
That these short films – with runtimes between 11 and 30 minutes – have all won awards and have made their way through the festival circuit should make this event much more alluring to film buffs.
Lochon cites Romanian short Superman, Spiderman or Batman, a heart-wrenching drama about a boy who fantasises about having superpowers so he can save his mother from a heart condition, as his favourite of the festival. Directed by Romanian veteran Tudor Giurgiu, the short won the top prize at last year’s European Short Film Awards.
Another highlight of the festival is Tomorrow Will Be Good, a French short about two young Parisian women in their twenties who have become lost in their lives. The film, which succinctly captures the lack of direction among this generation – the so-called millenials – won the top short film award at the 38th Ghent Film Festival. Director Pauline Gay says the film is less fiction than documentary: the women in the piece are, for the most part, portraying themselves. “I knew I wanted to make a short film about two women but I didn’t want to write the script until I found people,” she says. “Eventually I met two women in La Courneuve, a suburb in Paris. They were completely lost in life – no job, no plans. I asked them to be in my film and they agreed.”
The two women in Tomorrow Will Be Good are just a small taste of the inspiring characters featured across all the films in this festival, which, according to Lochon, carries a theme of ‘showing off the diversity of human nature’. With movies coming from countries like Portugal, Greece, England and Finland, and with genres ranging from psychological thrillers and animation to romance, that shouldn’t be hard.
Gay is here in Hong Kong for the first time to present her film at the festival. She paid for the trip on her own dollar and is looking into couch-surfing for accommodation. This kills two birds with one stone: it saves money and whoever ends up hosting her could end up inspiring the characters in her next film. Yes, the film she plans on shooting soon will be about sofa-surfing.
European Union Short Film Festival Oct 7-12. Screenings take place in various venues and are free. For full schedule visit eushortfilmfestival.asia.