Festival Focus: Encounters Programme Preview

Posted August 21st, 2017 by Matt Turner

One of, if not the, premiere event(s) in the UK short film calendar, Encounters Festival commences its 23rd edition in late September. We’ve swept the breadth of their ever extensive programme to find the treats hiding in the corners. Here’s five event picks from us that give a sense of something of what the festival has to offer.

Encounters always focuses on a region, usually one that doesn’t receive a lot of attention. This year it’s Poland, with three programmes of short films with women directors or featuring a female focus, a documentary special and a focus on animation – all presented in partnership with Krakow Film Festival under the title ‘Polish Voices‘. Short film offers the chance to see extraordinary talents at a stage before they reach the popular consciousness, and here, this is particularly true. In the animation showcase, find work from new prospects Karolina Specht, Natalia Krawczuk and Tomasz Pilarski, amongst others, and in the documentary event, new discoveries from well known names through early short films from established directors like Pawel Losinski. Krzysztof Kieślowski and Marcin Koszałka. In the three regular shorts programmes, themed loosely around love, the home and on connections, the quantity is even more unknown, and therefore more exciting. A broad canvasing of the spectrum of new Polish female filmmaking, curated by those who know it best.

Featuring short film commissioned by the Tate alongside the exhibition of the same name, Soul of the Nation is sure to be a stellar programme considering the pedigree of the artists involved. Amongst them, new work from Cecile Emeke, one of the best filmmakers currently working in a short format, something from actress, writer, director and Random Acts host Zawe Ashton, and a film from Kahlil Joseph, music video maestro and regular Kendrick Lamar collaborator.

If short film is a calling card, then proving you can say something in less than 90 seconds shows true initiative, or at least economy. One of the most entertaining, varied and exciting screenings at Encounters is always the DepicT! showcase, a bumper programme of the best entries to their one-minute-and-a-half only short film competition, something we’ve supported enthusiastically for years. Entries fly in from around the world, juxtaposing every kind of style, formal approach and thematic content imaginable. Turn up for creativity in its most compact form.

Encounter’s retrospective this year is for Chris Shepherd, an idiosyncratic, singular and slightly depraved animator whose works often hybridise live action and animation scenarios, to beguiling effect. Read this interview with him in Sight & Sound, and see 10 of his works in Bristol, including new film Johnno is Dead, and have your brain melted and your mind’s eye opened.

Still unsure, then look to the Cartoon d’Or for a certain standard of animation quality. Launched in 1991, the first Cartoon d’Or award was won by none other than Aardman’s own Nick Park for his film Creature Comforts, and since then by such greats as Sylvain Chomet, Michael Dudok De Wit and Joanna Quinn. See a future great in this short programme, a safe bet for animation heads. Then, outside of this, there are still the 9 regular live action short film programmes, 6 animation ones and the 3 that contain virtual reality films that we haven’t even touched on, a clear demonstration of what makes Encounters a great and daunting festival to navigate. So, alongside our above highlights, stumble into any of these and you’ll come out with a revelation of your own. See you there.


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