Short films keep on getting bigger

Online festivals and new technologies are helping boost the format

El orden de las cosas won first prize at Medina del Campo in 2011.
El orden de las cosas won first prize at Medina del Campo in 2011.

“In the last five years the short film has been more alive than ever in Spain,” argues film scholar and expert Juan Antonio Moreno Rodríguez in his recent book Miradas en Corto (or, Short looks). True? Exaggerated? Utterly false? It is difficult to support one theory or another with figures: no register of all the short films made each year exists.

But the view of Emiliano Allende, festival director at Medina del Campo, one of the most important dates on the short film calendar, might provide some indication. “In inverse proportion to the crisis, the amount of shorts we receive has gone on growing,” he says. “Over 1,000 prospective entries arrived for the last edition.”

The same trend has also been seen at the Alcalá de Henares festival, another key event for shorts. “The number has increased, now around 600 are presented,” says its director, Luis Mariano González.

Obviously, quantity does not mean quality. Both festival directors agree that it is difficult to make any statements about average levels in this respect. But the increase does reveal something else: producing and launching a short film has become easier. On one hand, the rise in the number of online festivals and distribution platforms such as Filmin and Márgenes facilitates distribution; on the other, “the digital revolution has lowered costs,” says Moreno Rodríguez. “Today a filmmaker can take a camera or cellphone and make a gem.”

Whether nor not they will make any of their money back is another matter, however. “The perception that [making shorts] is a hobby has meant it isn’t sufficiently valued, that making money is rare,” says filmmaker Borja Cobeaga, whose 2006 short Éramos pocos won the 18,000-euro first prize at the Medina del Campo festival and was also nominated for an Oscar.

To counteract this, Moreno Rodríguez’s book proposes the idea of prizing those films that are selected for festivals, rather than giving all the money in the pot to the winners.

But Allende does not agree. “Art needs to have a valuation. One thing is the money is given to the prized works, another is we give all of them the same.”

All the interviewees also oppose another idea in the book — that of once again forcing movie theaters to show shorts before the main feature. The measure did more harm than anything else to the short when it was introduced to fill the space left following the demise of the Francoist Nodo newsreels, says González. “A huge number were produced because it was obligatory and that space had to be filled. It ended up associating short films with the idea of something which was poorly made.”

And, given that the short has been the breeding ground for many of the most respected names in Spanish cinema in recent years — from Alex de la Iglesia to Daniel Sánchez Arévalo, Alejandro Amenábar and Fernando León de Aranoa — that is something evidently not true.

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