How to program a SHORT short film festival in 5 steps

Over the past couple of months, you may have been exposed to some earbashing about RUBIK’s City short film festival…

And since we want you to be knowledgeable about its programming method before you attend RUBIK, let’s break it down.

Shall we start with the basics?


  1. We decided to focus on Monash’s student-produced short films
  2. We identified a common thread (theme) among all the pieces: Urban Melbourne.
  3. We selected 10 short films based on social and political diversity, aesthetic value, innovation, significance and technical quality.
  4. For curatorial purposes, and regarding programming as the soul of the festival, it appeared obvious and boring to group the films based on single categories such as “documentary” or “experimental”…
  5. And taking advantage that the screening time wouldn’t exceed the two-hour mark, allowing the potential spectator to sit through the whole projection time of the festival, we engaged in the design of a storytelling approach, complemented with relevant Q&A sessions and performances, thus suppressing the use of categories.

Image result for short film

In essence, we created different conversation threads by putting some films together to either complement or contrast ideas, or simply to change the conversation and allow the spectator to breathe and to try a different flavor. All about creating a provocative and meaningful rhythm.

It’s not that we invented the wheel though. Film festivals came a long way to develop this sort of programming and curatorial approaches, and these five steps are only the tip of the iceberg.

We were heavily inspired by the “educational film work” model, crafted by the Friends of the German Kinemathek (Freunde der Deutsche Kinemathek, or FDK) in Berlin during the 1970’s.

Image result for Freunde der Deutsche Kinemathek

Let’s expand on it:

“Educational film work” advocates for storytelling over implementing explicit categories or genres in festival’s programming because they are a creation of the mainstream film industry that banalise and degrade the spectator’s experience (Schulte, 4).


It also considers short film programs as ideal for making the process that forms the basis of curating visible: “As curator, I can create a rhythm, try to direct the eye, guide the gaze, create antagonisms, ruptures, and contradictions; I can make and/or focus arguments; and I can even become a storyteller. Nothing is as boring as putting similar films together- be it a formal sameness, e.g., flicker films, or a sameness of content. It is vital, however, to mark each single work as such. It must remain clear that I am both an editor and a choreographer, that what I do is bring together different voices that the viewers understand. I only offer possible readings and connections, which need not be shared” (Schulte, 4)

Image result for Freunde der Deutsche Kinemathek

Finally, the “educational film work” model complements this filmic choreography by providing interpretation in the form of text and words: generating complementary programs and written pieces that inform the spectator about the curatorial criteria and intended story telling as well as having special guests, such as theorists, directors, critics or actors, that through Q&A sessions or presentations are able to engage in discussions of the films and the connections they make with each other (Schulte, 7).


Now that you have become aware, once you have experienced RUBIK’s City short film festival, I would like you you to tell me in the comments below what type of storytelling you witnessed and what connections and threads you identified.

What pros and cons would you consider when choosing an approach like the “educational film work” over a traditional fixed categories model for programming?



Schulte, Stefanie. “Showing Different Films Differently: Cinema as a Result of Cinematic Thinking”. The Moving Image: The Journal of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, Vol. 4, No. 1 (2004): 1-16. Print.

Jorge Chaves

ID 26663325


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