A preview of the Clermont-Ferrand International Competition of 2016

While Clermont-Ferrand is rightly acknowledged as one of the biggest short film festivals in the world, its International Competition eschews many of the tenets of so-called ‘big’ film festivals. Having no premiere policy, the festival presents an eclectic selection of global fare some of which is ripe for discovery and others which have already proved exceedingly popular on the festival circuit

For its 2016 edition Clermont will present a number of award winners and festival favourites across the 81 films it will screen in International Competition. Perhaps the most visible of these is the 2015 winner of the European Film Award for Best Short, Picnic [Piknik] (Dir. Jure Pavlovic, Croatia, 2015). This spare and tender account of a young teen visiting his father in an open prison has garnered much praise over 2015 and will look to find favour amongst the youngsters and enthusiastic cinemagoers that makes up a large portion of the French festival’s audience. Similarly spare and tender is Raisa (Dir. Pavel Cuzuioc, Moldavia/Austria, 2015) a film about a woman going into town to make a decision that will change her life. Like Picnic, Raisa is a movie about how seemingly small moments have momentous importance on people’s lives and it’s a tremendously well observed affair. Animation also plays a large role in the Clermont competition and two recent BAFTA nominees - Edmond (Dir. Nina Gantz, UK, 2015) and Manoman (Dir. Simon Cartwright, UK, 2015) – will be on hand for audiences to enjoy. Both of these stop-motion animations are dark yet affecting pieces of work that speak of individual alienation and the desire to try and break free from the shackles that are imposed by society. Another popular animation is The Master [Isand] (Dir. Riho Unt, Estonia, 2015) an allegorical tale about a monkey and a dog living a life after their Master has disappeared that won the Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Annecy Film Festival and also won Best Estonian Film of 2015.

While the Clermont International Competition is often a disparate affair, themes of isolation, migration and war loom large in the programme with films such as the urgent documentary 9 Days – From my Window in Aleppo (Dirs. Floor van der Meulen, Thomas Vroege & Thomas Vroege, Netherlands/Syria, 2015) charts renowned Syrian photographer Issa Touma as he documents the Syrian uprising from his flat window while Uzak mı... (Dir. Leyla Toprak, Turkey, 2015) observes the influence of the Kobanê war on people and nature.

For all the reflection on the current state of the world, the International Competition manages to include one or two lighter moments. These include Subotika – Land of Wonders (Dir. Peter Volkart, Switzerland, 2015) a stylish and satirical spoof of a fascist state’s attempt to advertise itself as a tourist spot and Madam Black (Dir. Ivan Barge, New Zealand, 2015), a wonderful and silly shaggy dog (or perhaps that should be shaggy cat) story about a man who runs over a cat and tries to hide the fact from its youthful owner.

With films from more than 60 countries, the International Competition at Clermont remains an interesting journey of discovery providing both a snapshot of films that have delighted in 2015 and a glimpse of things to come over the coming year.

Go HERE for more information on all the films showing in the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival.

11 January 2016, by Laurence Boyce