Teaching about Short Film, Writing about Short Film
In the spring semester of 2022, with my Ph.D. in film studies on the subject of brevity in film recently completed, I taught a seminar for Bachelor students at the Department of Film Studies of the University of Zurich. Twenty-five students signed up for this course that promised to introduce the world of short films from the perspective of its institutional linkages. Starting from the limited length of the short film, its marginalisation in film theoretical discourse, and its circulation in different institutional contexts, the seminar was dedicated to the specific formats and forms of presentation that the short film can take. It is also about the epistemic potential and implications of “brevity” as the undercutting of a norm on a cultural, social, and political level. The seminar aimed for students to become familiar with a broad corpus of historical and contemporary short films and to gain an overview of the still very limited academic research on short films.
The students were required to write seminar papers, and I contacted Talking Shorts early on to propose a collaboration for publishing those essays from the ones who were willing to write them in English and make an extra effort in preparing, writing, and revising their texts. The idea behind this collaboration is that there is hardly any opportunity to publish—and thus also read—in-depth analyses of short films in an academic context. This format—fifteen pages of text peppered with quotes from film theory and footnotes—is an unusual format for Talking Shorts, but we are excited to make some first steps in testing how longer, complex studies that go beyond a review of an individual film can be presented on a platform like this.
Free in their choice of topic, it is not surprising and indeed no coincidence to me that all three students chose to write on queer themes: 1) “The Portrayal of Queer Mental Health in Short Films”, 2) “The Powerful Queer Space in Naïla Guiguet’s ‘Dustin’” and 3) “Contrasting Double Features. On How the Combination of Contrast Programming and Double Features Can Elevate the Modern Queer Short Film Experience”. One of the significant points of discussion during the whole seminar was the political potential of short films to be disruptive, to question established codes and paradigms within the art of the films themselves, but also based on the fact that as short films, their place is in the offside of commercial and popular cinema culture.
The publication of these three essays coincides with a panel discussion on the topic of researching and writing about short films in academia at Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur on November 10, 2023: The Future of Short Film: Leave the Bubble, Unleash the Shorts. This discussion between Savina Petkova (freelance critic, programmer, scholar, and editor at Talking Shorts), Anne Gaschütz (festival director Filmfest Dresden, programmer Locarno Film Festival and representative of the European Network for Film Discourse) and Cynthia Felando (University of Santa Barbara and editor of Short Film Studies journal) will be recorded and published on this website after the festival.
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