Edgy, challenging and essential: the 2019 London Short Film Festival


No sooner will the new year have got underway than one of the most dynamic and diverse events in the London cultural calendar will be upon us, ready to serve up its annual offering of inclusive, ground-breaking short films and ambitious cross-arts programming. The 2019 London Short Film Festival then, running 11th-20th January at venues across the capital, looks set to be a showcase for the promising, bold and daring work of emerging filmmakers – alongside the more established – just as much as it’s been in any of its 15 previous editions.

Edgy and challenging

So, for true culture vultures and those who like to experience the edgier, more challenging end of the arts spectrum, this cornucopia of different shorts – and other multimedia experiences on top – could well prove an appealing diversion during a winter break spent in the UK capital (indeed, at the likes of the Grand hotel London Hyde Park, or anywhere else).

Independent and thought-provoking in both its philosophy and its bill of 500-plus short features, this year’s LSFF is set to grace some of the city’s most historic and revered cinema houses. In fact, everywhere from the Institute of Contemporary Arts – located in The Mall, so perfect for all Paddington accommodation London – to the BFI Southbank and the Curzon Soho to the beautiful Grade II-listed Rio cinema in Dalston. And given its venues and, of course, the festival’s ever eclectic line-up (with its opportunity to hear from creative voices from a wide variety of different homegrown and international backgrounds), its organisers are confidently expecting a total audience in excess of 10,000 people.


Unique and essential

Indeed, it’s no surprise that, as Metro (the UK daily newspaper) puts it, “film fans who prefer multimedia thrills to multiplex fodder have flocked to this festival since its inception”. Yet, the event’s reputation for taking creative risks and helping make the names of raw, new talent may have arguably been born out of necessity rather than choice, at least at first, given the thing’s rather humble, unassuming beginnings. ‘We show the films other festivals won’t’ is something of a mantra for the LSSF, but back in 2004 it didn’t have an awful lot of choice; starting out as a four-day, single-venue festival that grew out of a film-exhibiting society, itself an offshoot of a ‘DIY’ moviemaking company that utilised mere 16mm and Super-8 cameras. Ten years later, though, and things looked very different, as the festival had evolved into the 10-day, multi-borough affair it is today, screening more than 350 UK-made shorts across 22 London venues.

And yet, of course, that’s not to suggest that the event itself has lost its original likeable and admired, rough-and-ready and – for emerging filmmakers, at least – essential ethos. For, nowadays, you’re likely to come across just as much experimental as ‘polished’ fare on its bill, as the festival still operates as a showcase for aspiring directors, actors and filmmakers of all kinds to help them in their efforts to hone their art and craft.

Proof of which is the fact that, among the talented yet experimental, challenging and aesthetically diverse directors who’ve gone on to great things since being backed by the LSFF in their early days, are Andrea Arnold (American Honey) and Peter Strickland (The Duke of Burgundy). Both of whom saw their short film efforts screened alongside those of so many others drawn from across the country – having been gifted a cinema exhibition (and, therefore, an audience) for their work, which they simply wouldn’t have found anywhere else.