It’s now only a few weeks until the third Oxford International Short Film Festival, a locally run festival entirely organised by volunteers that celebrates the diversity and creativity of short films. It’s our belief that short film is an art form in and of itself, and – after a blisteringly successful first-run in 2019 and a triumphant second round during 2020’s lockdown – that belief is as firm as ever.
This year, the festival has 100 new films lined up, from thriller flicks to incisive documentary shorts, and from dystopian dramas to suburban tales of heartbreak. The programme boasts a carefully curated riot of genres, styles, and themes, with a myriad of genres pieces, cultural wonders, and individual identities given representation onscreen. It’s a true feast for the cinephile’s eyes.
However, it’s not been an easy period for festivals since the pandemic began last spring. Feedback from the filmmakers, spectators, industry professionals, and guest speakers from previous years has been overwhelmingly positive – the question on everyone’s lips during our packed-out 2019 screenings was, ‘this will happen again next year, right?’ – and the answer turned out to be yes and no. For the 2020 festival, we were still committed to showcasing the best and brightest in short filmmaking, but this time we were forced to take our collection online.
To make up for this, the festival will be playing over 40 of the films from 2020’s programme on the big screen, a quarter of which are locally produced. It’s our thank you to the incredible filmmaking community OXISFF has fostered, and a token of appreciation for the fact that cinema is best experienced together.
As for this year’s entries, it’s no surprise that the dominant theme is isolation, given the fluctuating phases of lockdowns and social distancing the population was plunged into. Yet the sheer amount of humour, warmth, spirit, and creativity the pandemic produced has both delighted and surprised Festival Director Andy Carslaw.
Part of this delight comes from seeing films submitted with little to no budget, filmed over Zoom or with very small crews, still excel as pieces of filmmaking. OXISFF celebrates everything that is special about creating a film – scriptwriting, location scouting, costume designing, score composing, and smooth editing all play an indispensable role in bringing a film to life – and those made in these difficult circumstances are a testament to the way creativity on all fronts has survived. The filmmakers will be able to talk more about these extraordinary celluloid feats at live Q&As, which have proved to be a wonderful way of connecting filmmakers and audiences.
It’s also an exciting time for film at large in Oxfordshire. The film production wing of Rebellion Studios is under development in Didcot, and HBO’s Masters of the Air is being filmed just down the road from the Oxford city centre in Abingdon. Until the pandemic made it unfeasible to organise more events, we had hoped to also get more involved in the local Oxfordshire community by hosting a free Children’s Festival on Broad Street. But there’s always next year: for now, we are thrilled to just be able to run a hybrid in-person/online festival that can spark heated discussion, have the audience erupt in laughter, and challenge our viewers’ expectations of short film.
OXISFF2021 will be kicking off on 27th August, starting with its online portion, and run until 4th September, with the final 3 days comprised of in-person screenings in the luscious gardens of St. John’s College. A host of awards will be given out on the final night, with categories ranging from Best Animation/Experimental to Best Lockdown Short.