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What not to miss at the British Shorts Film Festival

The 13th edition of the British Shorts Film Festival opening Jan 16 through Jan 22 at various city kinos treats us to a spectacularly distinctive showcase of British and Irish cinema. Our critic eyes up the eclectic line-up and shares his must-sees!

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Film still of Devil’s Harmony courtesy of British Shorts Film Festival. Catch the British Shorts Film Festival from Jan 16 through Jan 22 at various venues. Full programme here.

For their thirteenth year running, British Shorts Film Festival are making sure they upend any unlucky vibes with a spectacularly distinctive bunch of short films from the UK and Ireland. Taking place in venues such as Sputnik Kino, ACUDkino and several more, including – for the first time – Silent Green, this year’s edition showcases an eclectic programme that runs from January 16 through January 22. 

Festivities open on Thursday at City Kino Wedding (20:00) with six shorts, including Alex Helfrehct and Jörg Tittel’s Brexit border farce NYET!, animation film Roughhouse, about divided loyalties between roommates, and music video for the Cate Le Bon song “Home To You”, shot with the residents of Slovakian town Košice. As a musical accompaniment, there are the easy listening sounds of Sound 8 Orchestra, who blend lounge music with retro-futuristic B-movie soundtracks, all over found footage Super 8 material. 

This year’s selection includes the HBO production and winner of last year’s Méliès d’Argent Rain Catcher, an atmospherically shot, goosebump-inducing stalker mystery that will entrance as well as unsettle as it gradually reveals its secrets, while Carla MacKinnon’s O Hunter Heart is a fantastic animation short that is hauntingly poetic and will stay with you long after it’s done. Elsewhere, The Mighty Boosh’s Julian Barrett narrates Sean McKenna’s Future Perfect, a beautifully written and memorably executed tale of how a child’s drawing becomes humanity’s next blueprint, and “How do you make a fresh start in a world this rotten?” is the weighty question at the heart of Barnaby Blackburn’s BAFTA nominee Wale. If that all sounds like a bit much, catch the touching sci-fi short reminiscent of 2012’s Robot & Frank, This Time Away, starring Timothy Spall. Whatever you do though, make sure you don’t miss out on Dylan Holmes Williams’ The Devil’s Harmony, a devilishly playful gem featuring the wonderful Patsy Ferran, previously seen in Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country and the TV show Jamestown. She plays the captain of an acappella club who initially seems like an easy target for school bullies but hides a secret. It won the Raindance Prize for Best UK Short Film and as tempting as it is to cheaply pin it down it as Pitch Perfect with a revenge twist, its shades of Carol Morley’s The Falling and dry wit make it so much more. It’s a real knockout, and singles out Holmes Williams as a talent to keep a close eye on.

Also of particular interest this year are two retrospectives. The first is dedicated to music video director and graphic designer Weirdcore, the self-proclaimed stylist of “extreme AV whatever-ness” and highly influential talent behind clips for M.I.A. and Aphex Twin’s psychedelic live shows. It’s a night you won’t want to miss (Jan 17 at 20:00) at Silent Green, where Weirdcore will introduce his often absurdist and genre-meshing audiovisual works including music videos, commercials and experimental clips. The second, on Saturday, January 19, at City Kino Wedding (16:00) is an homage to Scottish actress Kate Dickie (The Witch, and better known to some as Lysa Arryn in the HBO series Game of Thrones), who will be in attendance.

As if that weren’t enough, you can expect free film workshops, featuring a 48-hour film challenge, as well as several shindigs and concerts. Keep a particular ear out for Glassberg & The Disasters, who are playing on January 18 at 22:30 at Sputnik Kino. 

British Shorts Film Festival | At various venues. Jan 16-22.