After ten days of packing the biggest cultural venues of the capital, the London Short Film Festival drew to a close, ending its biggest edition yet with a takeover of the ICA to full capacity. Looking back on over a week of international shorts, commissioned projects and events curating the very beginnings of filmmakers we’ve all grown to know and love, it’s become clear how far the festival has come. From rarely seen shorts of haptic master Chick Strand, to the rustily promising beginnings of leading names in British cinema today and rare Q&As with legend of the carnal screen Barbara Hammer, we’ve compiled a short list of our favourite moments:
Barbara Hammer and Chick Strand: Radical Softness through a Haptic Lens
In this strand, softness was a weapon, the vulnerable, the fragile, the straightforward act of baring it all was transposed into strength through the cinematic medium. Paralleling Barbara Hammer’s legendary haptic lens with Chick Strand’s powerful though rarely seen Soft Fictions, Radical Softness explored the visceral quality of this loud and unapologetic feminine lens, culminating in a Skype Q&A with Barbara Hammer, lead by Club des Femmes in what proved to be a veritable lesson in feminist film history. Those that did not venture down to the ICA for this still have a chance to explore Hammer’s tactile screen, as screening-platform MUBI will continue to show Dyketactics and Superdyke meets Madame X for a further 30 days.
New Queer Visions: Don’t Look Back In Anger & Medium Rare
Quick London favourite New Queer Visions contributed to the festival with two carefully curated LGBTQ+ strands, separating their selections into Don’t Look Back In Anger, a collection of subtle interrogations into memory and the rollercoaster ride that comes to define everyday life for the queer characters in frame, and Medium Rare, lengthier shorts that dived even deeper into the human psyche in a dissection of character that, ultimately, sought to understand what makes you who you are. Pictured: The Cricket and The Ant, dir. Julia Ritschel
The Final Girls: Witching Hour
For those wondering what exactly happens when you mix horror and feminism, wondering if there even is a dimension that goes beyond casting female characters into narrow boxes at the expense of character development, the Final Girls’s curatorial efforts are providing answers. After a very successful 2017 of touring the UK with previews of The Love Witch and several London-wide events dedicated to a feminist reclaiming of the final girl beyond that usual well-behaved virgin that lives to tell the tale, the duo have used LSFF as an opportunity to dig their teeth into another of our cultural obsessions, the occult and the figure of the witch. Filtering our very gendered obsession with the witch craze through two documentaries, the Final Girls placed the culture of modern-day witch covens alongside trailers of similarly themed movies of the same period in a comic juxtaposition that played both into our occult obsessions, and into those kicks we expect to get out of it.
Lucile Hadzihalilovic: Shorts
As she fronted this year’s jury, Hadžihalilović screened some of her rarely seen shorts, including the notable and controversial La Bouche de Jean-Pierre aka Mimi (1996). This rare opportunity stood as a key to unravel the enigma of the filmmaker’s further philosophy, seen in her collaborations with the shockingly electrifying Gaspar Noé, in an abrupt introduction into her world of twisted fairytale. The photography of her shorts, especially Nectar and La Bouche de Jean-Pierre, is situated in a sense of stilted, bittersweet reality, a space that has nightmares leaking into dreams. Having the audience held in a state of constant tension, the shorts challenged the conventional through the uncomfortable unraveling of extreme directorial choices, the imprints of a distinctive style that forms the enigma of Lucile Hadžihalilović.
The London Short Film Festival ran from 12-21 January at various venues across the capital. To revisit the program, check out their website.