The Glasgow Short Film Festival is proud to announce its 2020 programme, the festival’s first as an independent charitable organisation, which kicks off entirely online tonight. This special online even does not include the full programme as they intended to present back in March. Instead they have placed their competition selections – the six programmes of the Bill Douglas Award for International Short Film and one of our strongest ever Scottish Short Film Competition line-ups – under the spotlight. Each programme includes exclusive filmmaker interviews, bringing context to their cross-section of the most vibrant new cinema from Scotland and across the world. The online festival will also include a focus on Thai filmmaker Sorayos Prapapan, thematic programmes Black Spatial Imaginaries and Urban Palimpsests, the early shorts of Nobuhiko Obayashi, and so much more. Matt Lloyd, GSFF Director, spoke with The Fountain about the changes that GSFF have had to make this year, and the positive impact of these.

TF: The Glasgow Short Film Festival is happening this year but like everything else in a different format, what can we expect from GSFF this year? 

Although I wouldn’t want any festival director to experience the cancellation of their event five days before launch, it did give us some advantages over those festivals who had a month or six weeks’ notice to change direction. Clearly we couldn’t arrange anything in that time other than a modest gesture – two short films posted online each day of the original festival dates – but instead we had several months to rework the programme, and to watch how other similar international events tackled the challenge. 

As a result we’ve been able to crystallise some of their innovations and learn from what did or didn’t work for them, whilst slim-lining our programme. So whilst we’ve retained what I believe is strongest about GSFF – an adventurous and varied selection of films – we’ve been able to supplement them with fascinating conversations between the filmmakers and our amazing submissions team, as well as some revised thematic programming responding more directly to the world we’re currently living in.

TF: Obviously this makes it a very different festival, what are your highlights from this change?

I think our revised Black Spatial Imaginaries and Urban Palimpsests strands have taken on greater urgency in the context of COVID-19, lockdown and the resurgence of Black Lives Matter. Black Spatial Imaginaries as originally curated by Natasha Ruwona considered the spaces that Black people are included within or excluded from, and the relationship that has with identity. COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on people of colour, bringing the ideas explored in the programme into sharp focus, and Natasha has addressed this head-on by including two new films by Glasgow artist Alberta Whittle.

Meanwhile Urban Palimpsests has grown to two programmes – the additional selection includes brand new award-winning films from Max Hattler and Christoph Schwarz as well as a stunning work featuring all the abandoned pianos of Pripyat, the city neighbouring Chernobyl. This second programme takes the theme of cities drained of people, which seems particularly pertinent after experiencing six months of near-empty streets.

And I’m really thrilled that we’re collaborating with our friends at Short Waves in Poznan, Poland, who also had to pull the plug back in March, on a focus on Polish animator Tomasz Popakul. I’ve loved his works for many years – strange twisted worlds of fish boys, abandoned astronauts and runaway ravers. His tales of alienation and the attempt to find love also seem to chime with these times.

TF: What are you most looking forward to on the programme for 2020?

I’m just really curious to see how audiences will respond to the format, how many people will take up the challenge. Obviously it’s easy to watch short films anywhere on the web, so the question is, will people be excited by the prospect of watching curated programmes, with exclusive filmmaker interviews. I know I am, but I’m a short film wonk.

TF: After the reception you have had to this year’s festival, do you see this changing on a more permanent basis?

Too early to say! But obviously one massive positive of all this is that we’ve all become much more accepting of technology we’ve had for ages and so Zooming in a guest rather than flying them at massive expense to the festival and the planet will be much more common in future. Naturally a vital element of the festival is having people from all over the world in the same room, but it isn’t always possible and that shouldn’t impede us. Equally, not everyone can attend physical events, so an online element, with captions for deaf/hard of hearing viewers, should be a permanent fixture from now on.

Glasgow Short Film Festival kicks off with their opening film at 7pm tonight