From a dystopian wedding to giant floating jellyfish, to Scottish ballet in an abandoned pool and a town run completely on clockwork, the Dreamscapes-themed night of the Edinburgh Short Film Festival toed the line between reality and fantasy. The ten short films presented that night shuttled the viewers from everyday scenes to surreal worlds lurking just beneath the surface, forcing us to question our conceptions of what is real.
Part of the Edinburgh Short Film Festival, Dreamscapes was one of eight themed nights in the programme, which ranged from the Halloween-inspired 1 Minute to Midnight to romance-packed Roses are Red. The festival, now in its sixth year, brings together the best of contemporary Scottish, UK and international short films to cinemas in Edinburgh. This year’s programme features 39 UK premieres and 34 award-winning short films – altogether some 77 short films from 23 different countries. A friendly, informal affair, screenings are often followed by Q&A sessions with filmmakers in attendance, with the occasional workshop thrown in.
In Dreamscapes, one realizes that there are many ways to approach dreams and shake the foundations of reality. The films used a wide range of different mediums, from animation to clay-motion to live action shorts. The Song of Wandering Aengus (Matthew Lawes, UK) used stop motion to tell a simple fantasy tale, taking advantage of the medium to create visual transformations such as a flower bursting into delicate little butterflies. There is a calm otherworldliness associated with clay-based stop-motion, as if we are peeking into another reality.
Besides their use of medium, the films also explore may different aspects of dreams – Aurelia (Christos Bourantas and Kreon Krionas, Greece), possibly my favourite film of the night, is an animated story of a girl who was stung by beached jellyfish as a girl, and recalls the incident as a dream as she travels in the metro and the bus in the present. In her dream, the jellyfish grow huge and float above the city, penetrating every aspect of the people’s lives. Despite its surreal landscape and undercurrent of melancholy, the film has a clear environmental message. The Clockmaker’s Dream (Cashell Horgan, Ireland), on the other hand, is an award-winning short about a clockwork world run entirely by a clockmaker who is himself clockwork. In his effort to find true love before his world stops, he creates his successor as well as a partner for him. There were ideas about the soul and the body, and of free will – can we create a life?
What was interesting this year was that the festival began with Tokyo Nights, a collaboration with Tokyo’s Short Shorts Film Festival. The programme that night featured some of the best Japanese shorts from Tokyo’s festival at the Filmhouse, including the 2016 winner of the Best Japanese Short Film award. Future collaborations are in the works. Indeed, the diversity of talent, nationalities, mediums and themes make the festival definitely one worth going to.
Image: Edinburgh Short Film Festival, The Clockmaker’s Dream