Directors’ Fortnight: Top Three Shorts

Random Acts Commissioner Catherine Bray returns with three personal short film highlights from the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes 2018

It’s so easy to focus on the Main Competition when reviewing both features and short films, but as far as the shorts at Cannes this year were concerned, I found at least as much to fall in love with in the festival’s two sidebar programmes. Directors’ Fortnight in particular lived up to its name in programming strongly-authored and thoroughly eclectic short films that felt like far more than so-called “calling cards” for feature film work.

1. This Magnificent Cake!

44 mins
Dirs: Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels

With a grasp of storytelling and structure that puts many a longer narrative to shame, This Magnificent Cake! (Ce magnifique Gâteau!) is one of the finest films I saw at Cannes, in any strand, of any length. Tonally recalling Swedish absurdist Roy Andersson, Belgian filmmakers Emma De Swaef and Marc James Roels craft a tragi-comic stop-motion masterpiece in five inter-connected chapters, starring a clarinet player, a capricious king and a snail in a toupee, which somehow all functions as a kind of cinematic memento mori, despite the apparently goofy characters.

2. The Song

31 mins
Dir: Tiphaine Raffier 

You can’t fault The Song for lack of ambition, cramming into its 31 minutes, as it does, an environmental apocalypse, amateur ABBA tribute and spoken word ode to obsolete technology. Rising admirably to the greatest challenge of short film-making – pacing – it feels neither overstuffed nor overlong (it’s quite amazing how many short films feel longer than their runtime). Tiphaine Raffier manages to perfectly calibrate her oddball offering, which feels both fleet-footed and substantial. 

3. Skip Day

17 mins
Dirs: Ivete Lucas & Patrick Bresnan 

Imagine Spring Break, only it’s for real: a bunch of Florida teens ditch school and head to the beach to do what teens do. The thing is, Patrick Bresnan and Ivete Lucas are documenting real teenagers, not an imagined orgy of perfect bronzed skin and American Apparel models, so the result is more of a study of awkwardness and quite humour, keenly humanistic in its approach and delivering whole-heartedly on the promise of their brutal-but-brilliant festival favourite The Rabbit Hunt (2017).