European Short Films after 1960

Posted on May 5, 2011


European short films have developed quite differently than American short films have over the past few decades. Since the 1960s, the medium of short film has become completely independent of full length films, unlike in America, where short film has become almost like a director’s “business card.” American filmmakers make short films in order to break into the business of full length films, while it seems that European short films are much more artistically oriented, and in fact are a whole industry in themselves.

The reason this topic is interesting to me is because I got a chance to the the D.C. Shorts film festival in Washington D.C. fall of 2009. I noticed throughout my experience that the European-made films seemed to be more professional and socially relevant overall. Some of the films from the Cinema 16: European Short film DVD are a perfect example. For example, The Man Without a Head is beautifully made without special effects. The plot was rich and the characters were interesting. I’m not saying that American films are not well made, but they seem to be centered around one-liners or fast paced action. American audiences are more interested in this, and we seem to have a shorter attention span. For example, the Coen Brother’s World Cinema is one of those “one-liners,” that revolves around the joke of the farmer character in an unlikely situation.

European short film began to emerge as an independent medium during the French New Wave. Although influenced by Hollywood cinema, many of the films featured strong and independent women, like in Antoine and Collette, unlike in the traditional Hollywood narrative.  These films were made in the 1950s and 60s, and really had an impact on the world of film. In Eastern Europe, propaganda films were produced throughout this time. Propaganda films aren’t often considered when looking at short film, but I think they’re really interesting because they give a different viewpoint on history. A collection and documentary, Animated Soviet Propaganda, was released and features many propaganda films made between 1924 and 1984. Many examples can be found online.

In more modern times, european short film has been used as a mechanism for social change. The DVD collection Visions of Europe is a great example. This collection of short films makes people outside of the continent aware of European struggles, and it inspires change in the citizens of Europe. These films are used to convey the emotions and concerns of many nations.

This site has a number of more modern European short films:

Under the “Best” tab on the left, check out European 1 and 2. One that I liked a lot (featured on the second list), was the Black Rider. I had seen that film before, but forgot about it until I came across this site. I think it’s a very socially relevant film, though it was made nearly 20 years ago, as it deals with the issues of prejudice and racism. I think it’s a good example how short film has developed in Europe, and what makes European short films different from many American short films. European short films seem to be very good at addressing social issues, and seem to be more artistic in general, with more focus on the visuals and plot. Just taking a look at the previous winners of the Academy Awards in short film over the past few years will give you an idea of how well-made these movies are, and how seriously Europeans take them. British, French and Danish films dominate among the winners.

Theaters that show short films are appearing in Europe, as the films become more popular. I think that Europeans really seem to be the leaders in this industry. I hope that America can take note and maybe help to make short film more popular and appreciated on this side of the Atlantic.

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