Le Jour le plus court: Short film day on 21 December goes international
The 21st of December this year is the winter solstice. In Central Europe it will remain dark for 15 to 17 hours out of the 24. A perfect day to go to the cinema? In France, at any rate, the shortest day of the year was proclaimed Short Film Day in 2011. On 20 December 2011 none other than Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand declared before an illustrious audience at Centre Georges Pompidou – Jeanne Moreau and Michel Gondry were among the guests – that the longest night of the year would henceforth be celebrated as the national “Fête du court-métrage”.
The idea was hatched at the short film festival in Clermont-Ferrand based on the model of the “Fête de la musique” that takes place each year on the summer solstice. One of the initiators was the head of the CNC at the time, Eric Garandeau. Garandeau, a former advisor to Nicolas Sarkozy who has since stepped down, campaigned for the digitization of France’s film heritage, launched the World Cinema Fund and was above all an important champion of the “exception culturelle” in the audiovisual sector during the TTIP negotiations with the USA. Under his aegis, short film funding was boosted by 3% in 2011, to 11 million euros. He planned the Short Film Day from the outset as a major event, taking on board television stations, cinema associations and prominent filmmakers. In cooperation with the Agence du court métrage, Short Film Day organizers were offered 250 films license-free. Centrally controlled from Paris, the event addressed virtually all market segments and institutions nationwide: multiplex cinemas, television channels, arthouse cinemas, media libraries, museums, cultural centres, clubs, schools and also some unusual venues such as train stations. The initiative also had an educational component, with a focus on raising awareness of film heritage by means of seminars, film workshops and the involvement of schoolchildren. The funding programme was geared to encouraging all citizens to run their own cinema for a day and thus also addressed amateurs, i.e. film enthusiasts. According to Culture Minister Mitterrand (note here the use an English description!), “Cette nuit, chacun peut poser ses propres empreintes digitales sur le patrimoine filmique du court métrage, devenir, pour une nuit, programmateur, créer son ‘home cinema’ côté court.”
The first edition of the “Jour le plus court” was a huge success, with 6,000 events and more than 1.5 million participants. Benoît Labourdette, co-director with Isabelle Massot of the Short Film Day, described the event as a kind of referendum on behalf of short film. Thus established, “Le Jour le plus court” witnessed in the following year an increase in the number of events to 10,000.
The event concept was spread internationally through the participating Instituts français, and soon organizations in other countries began to put on their own Short Film Day. From “The Shortest Day” to “El Día más corto” to the “Kurzfilmtag”, events inspired by the French model in the meantime take place in some 50 countries worldwide on the winter solstice.
In Germany, the third national “Kurzfilmtag” will be held in 2014. The coordinator is the Bundesverband AG Kurzfilm (German Short Film Association). On the first Kurzfilmtag, 157 events took place in 74 locations. The second edition already saw an increase to 208 events in 94 locations. By contrast with France, no free film programmes could be offered. Cooperation with distributors and archives did make it possible, however, to provide programmes for a reduced rental fee. As in France, there was a common branding, and assistance was provided for those applying to hold events.
Also like in France, anyone can participate in the German Short Film Day. What is striking in this country is that, despite cooperation with the cinema associations, a very large number of events take place at alternative, often improvised, venues. There were screenings the first year at all conceivable locations: pubs, clubs, staircases and even private living rooms as well as subways, shops, building façades and public spaces. Only in the second year did the cinemas – mostly arthouse and “Kommunale” cinemas that regularly show short films anyway – far outnumber the off-spaces, at least in the number of film bookings with distributors. Also of interest is that more than half of the organizers put together their own programme for Kurzfilmtag 2013. It is hardly surprising, though still worthy of note, that pure film screenings had a harder time attracting viewers in 2012 than programmes with more of an event character.
To kick off the current, third round of the Kurzfilmtag, the AG Kurzfilm is offering not only help with choosing content, as in the past, but also new funding opportunities for organizers. This year, the eight most creative event ideas will be rewarded with 100 euros each, and in structurally weak regions where three partners join forces the cinemas will be provided with customized advertising media.
There are also some new developments in France this year. Due to the huge demand, the organizers have said they will not accept any more applications for the fourth Jour le plus court once the number of events approaches 3,000. At the same time, the Short Film Day has been extended to the whole weekend from 19 to 21 December!
The third German KURZFILMTAG is supported by the German Federal Film Board, the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media, the Saxon State Chancellery, the German Arthouse Cinema Guild, the Association of German Film Theatres (HDF), the Municipal Cinema Association (Bundesverband kommunale Filmarbeit), the European Film Academy and First Steps. Media partners are ARTE, EinsPlus, 13th Street and filmecho/filmwoche.
Links and sources
Opening speech by Frédéric Mitterrand: http://www.culturecommunication.gouv.fr/Ministere/Histoire-du-ministere/Ressources-documentaires/Discours/Discours-de-ministres-depuis-1999/Frederic-Mitterrand-2009-2012/Discours-2009-2012/Discours-de-Frederic-Mitterrand-prononce-a-l-occasion-de-la-premiere-edition-du-Jour-le-Plus-Court-Fete-du-court-metrage
Stocktaking by Eric Garandeau after the first Jour le plus court: http://www.cnc.fr/web/fr/discours-et-interventions/-/liste/18/1344733