After an absence of two years, the Nijmegen Go Short short film festival can once again be physically held in and around the LUX cinema hall. Director Kirsten Ruber highlights the importance of the short film for social debate and the versatility of the film program for this ten-day edition.
Fourteen years ago, Go Short was founded in Nijmegen as the first short film festival in the Netherlands. Filmmakers from all over the world take to the stage to show off their creations. In addition to showing movies, more is possible at the festival. For example, there are certain thematic blocks and contests in which visitors can vote for their favorite movie. This year, for example, there is a virtual reality block where you can watch movies with virtual reality glasses. There is also an inspiring exhibition by the Viennese artists’ collective. total rejectionme
The festival lasts longer than previous editions: ten days physically, twenty days online. Director Ruber speaks proudly from the festival pavilion about the possibilities for filmmakers at Go Short and the versatile programs that await visitors. She enthuses, “You don’t know what to expect beforehand, but each show takes you on a journey and shows you things you don’t normally see.”
The first Dutch short film festival
‘Together with two other Nijmegen residents, we founded the festival in 2008,’ says Ruber enthusiastically. He previously worked at other film festivals until the LUX film house and cultural stage was founded. “LUX was one of the first big art house cinemas and the idea came up that there should be a film festival,” explains Ruber. She explains that at that time there was no annual short film festival in the Netherlands where the full breadth of the film format was given a place, while it was very popular with novice filmmakers abroad. Ruber is convinced that this target group is a good fit for Nijmegen with a large number of young people and students. With the short film, filmmakers have the opportunity to really do what interests them. ‘There is little money involved in the short film sector, which means that the filmmakers are disinterested and free,’ says Ruber.
The first edition of the film festival took place in 2009. ‘This is already the fourteenth edition, so I’ve been coming for a while’, smiles Ruber. He explains that the founders had two common goals at the time that could be achieved with Go Short: ‘On the one hand, we can offer filmmakers a stage through the festival with films that are not normally shown in the cinema. On the other hand, through the festival we can outline the context around the films screened through conversations with makers, exhibitions and workshops’
Festival for cinephiles and filmmakers
The festival experience differs between the filmmaker and the interested visitor. ‘Film insiders and filmmakers from all over Europe come to Nijmegen. If you are a professional, Go Short is an important place for meeting, connecting and even promoting the experience’, enthuses the director: ‘Go Short organizes talent development projects where they actively work with filmmakers,’ he says Ruby.
There is also plenty for visitors to do during the festival. “As a visitor, you can jump from one movie program to another throughout the day,” says Ruber. The first day of the festival opened with outside the walls, a walking route through Nijmegen where films were projected on the walls of all kinds of places in the city. Throughout the festival there is an exhibition of the artists in residencea collective of Viennese artists called total rejection† ‘Together with local artists, they have created an exhibition that focuses on the interfaces of cinema, social art and gaming,’ says director Ruber.
Two thousand short films from all over Europe
Every year, filmmakers from all over Europe can present their short films. This edition there were more than two thousand. In the end, only one hundred films are shown. Therefore, an extensive selection procedure precedes the festival. ‘We distribute the films on the basis of various selection committees. These committees have to make very good decisions’, says the director. “In addition, Go Short also trains young curators who then help watch and select the movies,” Ruber enthuses, “If you like watching movies, you should definitely sign up.”
In each edition, three different themes are selected to excite the public. The short film lends itself well to that, according to Ruber. ‘The short film genre responds to urgent issues that play a role in society,’ says the director of the festival. ‘There are a lot of movies about the housing crisis and one of the themes this year is mental health. This issue is currently socially relevant, especially among young people.’ She finds themed shows interesting because they look at a topic from multiple perspectives and therefore there is no overarching story. Also, there is something for everyone. ‘We try to create a good balance for the audience so there’s a good show for everyone that suits them.’ For example, on Friday nights there are late at night programs that are aimed at the world of nightlife, while during the day a visitor can seek more depth in a socially engaged program.
In this edition, the program Filmmakers to watch on the position of women filmmakers. “We have chosen to put three strong women first,” says Ruber decisively. She points out that there is already a lot of equality in the world of short films: ‘Unlike feature films, there are fewer gender issues and there is great diversity in short films.’ However, they emphasize the representation of all women and diversity in this edition because it is an important point in society. “We pay attention to this not only when choosing the films, but also in the composition of our selection team, jury and committees,” explains Ruber.
Another theme of this edition focuses on the changing vision of work. Ruber sees that work pressure is high in the cultural sector, in which she works herself. ‘There is little money and if there is, there are a series of associated rules,’ she says worriedly. Although making short films is relatively cheap, this ensures that filmmakers cannot take any chances. “If you can’t take risks, you won’t progress,” she explains. That also means you can fail. If that’s not allowed because of the rules and formats, the filmmakers quickly come to the safest option, so it becomes uniform.’ This makes it difficult to progress in the world of cinema.
It also highlights that the boundaries between leisure and work have been blurred in our current society. Referring to his own situation, he says, “We watch movies for Go Short in our spare time and visit festivals to explore, but at the same time we also spend whole days at the office.” Ruber hopes that the thematic program will allow him to open a conversation with the public about changes in work pressure. According to her, this is also interesting for students, who experienced a lot of work pressure during the pandemic. “The message of the film program is a kind of confirmation that the feelings you’ve had for the last two years are universal,” says the director. “At the same time, it’s also a relief that you don’t have to worry as much because everyone is struggling with the same things.”
Ruber expects a bright future for the short film: ‘You can watch the short film anytime, anywhere, on your laptop or on your phone.’ According to her, the short film always finds a way, even if we no longer go to the cinema. “The image is a way of expressing oneself, of telling a story”, says Ruber. “As long as there is, we will continue to show films.”
Over the past two years, Go Short has experienced firsthand what it’s like to suddenly work in a completely different way when they had to cancel their 2020 edition head-on. As a result, an online platform was quickly established where visitors can attend the festival online. This year, this platform exists alongside the physical edition at LUX. ‘We have a much smaller team this year and we’re doing it with half as many volunteers,’ says Ruber. “That means we had to think about the risk of people dropping out, so we started pre-production.” Much has been digitized in the halls, such as the voting of the public vote, which circulates through a QR code. Visitors can give from one to five stars to the movies in the program that they have visited through their phone.
The director is happy that despite the setbacks, the physical edition of her festival can continue again. She is also hopeful with the new possibilities. “Of course, we expect a lot of people to come here, but if you don’t, that’s fine too. Then we serve you at home,’ says Ruber proudly.
The festival can be visited at LUX until April 10. Screened films are available online until April 20.