Embracing the Short

SXSW Edition

by Dorothy Burk

14 March 2013

Short films are often put aside or overlooked as the appetizers of the film world. The shorts program at SXSW, however, is full of tasty gems that deserve to be seen.
Ellen Is Leaving 

SXSW Shorts Program

Short films and documentaries are often treated like the wicked stepchildren of their full-length counterparts by cinema buffs. Animated shorts perhaps get a little more leeway because they are more familiar to most viewers—but they are still regarded as just a way to entertain the audience before a movie, not as a legitimate, central event in and of themselves. Maybe it’s because bad shorts can be really bad; there aren’t brilliant moments to excuse the lackluster ones. Or maybe people believe that they can’t get lost in a short in the same way that they can get lost in a feature film.

Whatever the problem is, I’m hell-bent on telling the world that shorts are worthwhile. It’s something that the folks behind your favorite films know. A great deal of them started out in short films. If you’re still skeptical about the medium or have had disappointing experiences with shorts, try my top picks from this year’s SXSW shorts program.
Narrative Shorts

The top film in the narrative shorts category this year was Michelle Savill’s witty portrait of a young woman getting ready to go on a long journey, Ellen Is Leaving. The short won a Jury Selection award and will likely show at other festivals this year.

Documentary Shorts

Doc shorts are some of the most powerful in the shorts program because they use engaging visuals and traditional narrative structures to tell non-fiction stories. Three shorts in particular stood out to me this year: After, Magnetic Reconnection and Slomo. If you’re at SXSW, take time to see both documentary shorts sessions. Only two or three of the films were lackluster.


Magnetic Reconnection Trailer

Slomo Trailer

Animated Shorts

All of this year’s animated shorts were strong. However, The Event, The Cicada Princess and Oh Willy… stood out in particular. These animated shorts told engaging, important stories in a variety of animation styles.

The Event

Oh Willy… Trailer

Topics: sxsw | sxsw 2013
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