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Locarno goes global with a streaming festival of short films

Woman sees herself on a mirror, with a city view sprawling beyond her window
A tale of adultery, transponding moral, religious and class barriers: "Sorkhe Tirah" (Dark Red), by Diana Saqeb (Afghanistan). Locarno Film Festival

Film festivals traditionally bring works from all over the world to a specific place, but Locarno Film Festival is experimenting the other way round, reaching out to the outer world. It launches today an online streaming short-film competition, where viewers can vote from anywhere in the planet.

It is the second edition of Locarno Shorts Weeks, that started on experimental mode last year, reaching a much larger audience than initially expected – more than 4000 viewers from 92 countries followed the daily postings in 2019.

The novelty now is that the viewers can voteLink externo, giving notes from 1 to 5 for each film, selected from different sections of Locarno Film Festival of 2018: ‘Pardo di domani’ (Tomorrow’s leopard), the short-films program, Open Doors (dedicated to South Asia in 2018) and Signs of Life (now called Moving Ahead), for experimental films.

Starting on February 1st, Locarno Shorts Weeks will present a new film every day, each one being available for a week in the streaming platform, for free – in total, there are 23 films from 19 countries. You can follow the festival hereLink externo – and by voting for the shorts, you have the chance to win four accreditations for Locarno73, in summer, and a two-night stay for two people at Hotel Villa Castagnola in Lugano.

Dreamscape in a railway
Dreamscape: Smert Menya (The Death of Father Men) uses the extensive data on the Russian rail system as a way to trace the circumstances of the murder of Russian Orthodox priest, theologian and writer Alexander Vladimirovich Men in 1990. Locarno Film Festival

On the search for new talent

Short films are usually the format young and aspiring directors make their first works, and they must not be considered an amateurish endeavor, on the contrary: in these first films the authors put years of experience and reflection in order to offer the best of themselves and get to be known for it.

If shorts, in terms of production, are an easier way of introducing yourself in the film world, it still struggles with distribution, even in the age of free digital platforms. That’s why initiatives, such as parallel programs dedicated to short films in the most prestigious festivals, are still such a coveted opportunity for budding film-makers.  

The format, though, is not just for beginners. Many of cinema’s greatest authors, such as Jean-Luc Godard (“Khan Khanne”Link externo, “Une Catastrophe”Link externo), Claire Dennis (“Contact”Link externo, “Voilà l’enchaînement”Link externo) and David Lynch (“What did Jack do?”Link externo; “Ant Head”Link externo), sometimes also tinker with shorter works, out of the industry standards, to develop more radical narratives, experimental ideas, or personal caprices. Two of the best films by American director Jim Jarmusch, for example, were made first as shorts before becoming acclaimed features – “Stranger than Paradise” and “Coffee and Cigarettes”.

Wounded soldier walking on a beach
The Glorious Acceptance Speech of Nicolas Chauvin: An inglorious flashback on the life of the apocryphal hero that gave his name to “chauvinism”. Locarno Film Festival

Locarno is certainly the most important Swiss film festival – it is also one of the oldest, and among the main European ones, on a par with Cannes, Berlin and Venice. And its investment in fostering young talent has reinforced its standing as a privileged space not only for aspiring authors but also critics, producers, designers and all other fields connected with the film industry.  

The Locarno AcademyLink externo, comprising the Critics Academy (of which is a media partner), Film-makers Academy, and Industry Academy, plus the newly established BasecampLink externo, enters now its 12th consecutive year, attracting young talents from Switzerland and abroad, some of whom have already had the chance to return to Locarno as full-fledged professionals.  

Locarno Shorts in short

Feb.01 LOS QUE DESEAN Switzerland/Spain, Spanish

Feb.02 A ROOM WITH A COCONUT VIEW Thailand, Thai


Feb.04 THE LAST POST OFFICE Bangladesh, Bengali

Feb.05 SASHLELI (Eraser) Georgia, Georgian

Feb.06 TOURNEUR Germany, no dialogue

Feb.07 LA CARTOGRAPHE Canada, English/French

Feb.08 HEART OF HUNGER Netherlands, English/German

Feb.09 RENEEPOPTOSIS United States, English

Feb.10 TRADITION Sri Lanka, Sinhalese

Feb.11 ICI LE CHEMIN DES ÂNES Switzerland, French

Feb.12 A COLD SUMMER NIGHT India, Konkani/Marathi

Feb.13 VESLEMØY’S SONG Canada, English


Feb.15 LA MÁXIMA LONGITUD DE UN PUENTE Colombia/Argentina, Spanish

Feb.16 SORKHE TIRAH (Dark Red) Afghanistan, Persian/Dari


Feb.18 SMERT MENYA (The Death of Father Men) Russia, no dialogue

Feb.19 KAUKAZAS Lithuania, Lithuanian

Feb.20 CIRCUIT Switzerland, No dialogue

Feb.21 DIA Pakistan/United Kingdom, Urdu/English

Feb.22 OUT Israel, Hebrew/Arabic

Feb.23 D’UN CHÂTEAU L’AUTRE Belgium, French


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