The 2019 shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival runs from 17 to 28 October in eight cities including Cape Town. The shorts are more like poems writes OLEANDER CAIRNS.

Is there anywhere better to be on a chilly Friday the 13th than the top cinema of the Labia Theatre? I was there for the media launch of the 2019 shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival and sat enthralled by the richness of images and ideas that flickered before me.

The launch showcased nine short films ranging from three to 14 minutes in length. I was deeply impressed by the filmmakers’ abilities to make the most of this compressed form. I had expected to see the visual equivalents of short stories: smaller versions of long films. But afterwards I thought the shorts were more like poems, in Robert Frost’s sense of poetry as “language under pressure”: they were intense in their brevity.

Afrika is a Country
Afrika is a Country

shnit 2019 – Interesting, meaningful

The subject matter of the films is wildly divergent. Akuol de Mabior and Christen Torres’s Fall into the Sky provides serious meditations on belonging, laying bare monologues over everyday in-between times: the closing of a blind, a moment beneath a streetlight.

Léo Brunel, Camille Jalabert, and Oscar Malet’s animation Hors Piste recounts the slapstick misadventures of a glacial mountain rescue party, accompanied by wildly cheerful 80s-style music. Nzonke Maloney’s Skaap (Sheep) uses a series of considered shots to unpack the intimacy and estrangement of domestic and care work in South Africa.

Frances Kroon’s Afrika is a Country, the briefest of the lot, is a sort of fairytale dreamscape accompanied by spacious Felix Laband. Rikke Alma Krogshave Planeta’s Bacchus, the only other animation, is whimsical and bizarre, like a Tame Impala music video with more breasts.

In a similarly nude vein, but with less psychedelia, Sam Baron’s The Orgy is a surprisingly romantic and Britishly-awkward comedy.

These six offerings were all interesting and meaningful in their own ways. But I found the following three films particularly enjoyable: Tan Wei Ting’s CA$H, Francois Verster and Simon Wood’s Scenes from a Dry City, and Rob Smith’s Camcopy.

CA$H, set in a Singaporean supermarket, displays some really sensitive storytelling, following a labour dispute between cashiers and bosses as well as some tender relationships between characters. The central sequence, a chase through the aisles, was really thrilling, much more so than the car chases in many feature films. CA$H does what my favourite kind of art does: makes me pay more attention to ordinary life.

Scenes from a Dry City is really beautifully shot, and captures the daily life of water-short Cape Town. It’s powerful because of its skilful juxtaposition of the polarities that make up the South African justice system, and our society at large. Camcopy is a mockumentary (reminiscent of Chris Lilley’s Summer Heights High) that should be both comic and relatable to everyone who recalls that lost world of Ster Kinekor movies in the early 2000s.

This smattering of films is just the beginning. The full shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival runs from 17 to 28 October in eight cities including Cape Town, with tens of films showing at a host of venues.

I don’t envy the judges: the films have obviously been very carefully chosen and curated, and each showing is set to be a visual feast. Go and see some of them if you want to chuckle, gasp, recoil, or rest your chin on your hand in thought.

What: 2019 shnit Worldwide Shortfilmfestival
When: 17 – 28 October, 2019
Where: The Labia, Cape Town