Leiden Shorts is back! The 13th edition of the festival will take place from 2-5 September in het Kijkhuis. A total of 118 short films will be screened in thematically curated programmes, exploring a wide variety of topics, from different aspects of city life in Anthropolis to the way the past and our memories shape the present in Ghosts of the Past. Each year, Leiden Shorts gives out four awards, for the best international, national and student production and of course the Audience Award. This year, the festival pays special attention to contemporary issues in relation to multicultural identities in the Netherlands, with their themed programme “Rooted: Dutch Multicultural Society”, consisting of panel discussions, film screenings and an online exhibition. Three of the Leiden Shorts programmers share their favourites with LeidsCement.

The Act of Sound – Barbara

Films make for a great sensory overload, efficient in attracting my hyperactive brain. Short films make for great concise experiences, great for my short attention span. These two aspects are what drew me to Leiden Shorts, where I started as a reviewer, soon becoming obsessed with the format and its possibilities, and before joining the programming team. Watching shorts, finding what linked them, how they could fit together to become a succession of sensations telling a bigger story is a good challenge. It also makes you pickier. Yes, a short film can be too long, and no, conciseness does not always make for great storytelling. But if it looks good and if it sounds good, there is a great chance I’ll like it.

The Act of Sound is a great session in that aspect. Images and sounds mixed in one bundle where they dialogue, become a bit of each other, a perfect and, at times, confusing sensory experience. The Act of Sound is a sensual, even sexy, session, where sounds and vibrations become brilliant narrators. In The Women’s Revenge, no words are spoken, but the baseline will direct your emotions, and becomes the conductor of a highly stylized and choreographed massacre. One Thousand and One Attempts To Make An Ocean is more visceral. Images waving left and right, ASMR like voice-over, playing with a flow that leads to borderline sea sickness. Passage focuses on the art of making sounds, to construct and reproduce sounds, to lose oneself to sound, leaving actions meaningless without it. Red Aninsri; or, Tiptoeing on the Still Trembling Berlin Wall is about voices. The words these voices speak portray far less than the tone and inflection they use, the timber and intentions they adopt. Finding one’s voice, making sure the words have the right vibrations, becomes a quest for the protagonist. Together, these experimental shorts are immersive, sounds carefully planned or acting as if with a brain of their own.

Barbara Guet-Frapard (they/them)

man /’man| n: – Mike

I’m Mike, one of the programmers at Leiden Shorts. I started out working for the festival as an intern during my master’s program in Film Studies at Leiden University. What struck me about our selection was how seamlessly it ran parallel to many concepts, ideas and issues discussed in academic contexts. Leiden Shorts has presented me with a unique opportunity to explore, evaluate and appreciate these familiar ideas within the inspiring context of wide-ranging artistic productions.

Moreover, the medium of short film offers an opportunity to experiment in a concise and suggestive manner. Because of that open-ended, suggestive quality, combinations of short films might be “edited” together, so to speak, to create uniquely suggestive montages of complementary or even opposing perspectives. The best of our sessions capitalize on this unique quality of short film programming, weaving together singular films that explore shared themes and concerns into little tapestries of affective and intellectual experience.

One of my favorite sessions in the 2021 program, confusingly yet memorably titled man /’man| n:, for example, is concerned with the endlessly contemplated and oft-discussed, altogether finicky concept of masculinity. The session impressively avoids stepping onto any worn out or unhelpful cliches within a conversation that has been through the wringer many times over. Nuance, complexity and multivocality are values we hold dear to heart at Leiden Shorts, and our masculinity session is emblematic of the way our festival provides a space for concepts to grow and proliferate, strengthening rather than diffusing complexity. I hope our festival provides a space in which unique films can thrive, promote contemplation and contribute to discussions.

The Geography Within Me – Michel

My name is Michel, and I’m the Head Programmer of Leiden Shorts. At Leiden Shorts, we aim to highlight urgent voices from all over the world, giving these filmmakers a platform to showcase their films. By carefully putting our sessions together, we create a dialogue between different films that add to each other’s arguments. Viewing a session will not only give you multiple stories, but the build-up of these stories on top of each other creates something more than simply watching the individual film. Different perspectives, opposite viewpoints and different angles to similar issues are put together, to give a broader insight into the issues at stake, creating a more complex understanding of our world, and the fictional worlds created within the films.

One session that perfectly exemplifies this, is The Geography Within Me. This session starts with the beautiful experimental film Words Words Words are Decorative Sounds, exploring how spaces, language, culture and our sense of belonging are complexly intertwined. These intertwining themes are explored by very different films throughout the rest of the programme. Heaven Reaches Down to Earth uses poetic, filmic language to reimagine queer spaces, while I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face a feeling of alienation causes the protagonist to lose the ability to speak out as a representation of the inability to escape his suffocating environment. In Las fauces, the woods are a space separating our protagonist from others, while in Les attendants the woods are a meeting space for strangers to find each other. The alienating feeling of not feeling quite at home in The End of Suffering (A Proposal), a proposal to rethink the way we think about the concept of “home”. The concepts presented in one film are reflected upon differently in the next, creating a more complex understanding of each film that’s only made possible by watching them together.

Leiden Shorts takes place from 2-5 September at het Kijkhuis. The entire programme can be found here.

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