MIFF features one of the most highly regarded short film competitions in the Southern Hemisphere.
The 60th MIFF Shorts Awards were presented by Mountain Goat Beer. Thanks to our generous partners, we once again celebrated the craft of short-form cinema across several categories. In 2021, the filmmakers competed for a total prize pool worth over $63,500. The 2021 jury members were writer/director Natalie Erika James, award-winning journalist Osman Faruqi and Arcadia co-founder Alexandra Burke.
You can watch the 2021 awards presentation on MIFF’s YouTube channel. Congratulations to all the winners:
Film Victoria Erwin Rado Award for Best Australian Short Film
Director: Brietta Hague
Producers: Brietta Hague, Estela Rasal and Gala Gracia
Brietta Hague’s impressive debut, Baltasar, explores racial prejudices over the Three Kings holiday in Spain with nuanced and vibrant writing, an unflinching eye and empathy for all. Babou Cham is compelling as Aziz – a migrant father working to provide for his family in Senegal – and beautifully captures his quiet dignity and heartbreak in the midst of displacement. This is assured storytelling that lulls you into a false sense of security before going for the jugular.
Award for Emerging Australian Filmmaker
Propelled by extraordinarily natural and confident performances, Reptile is both a darkly funny and terrifying interrogation of male aggression and toxicity. The film does a superb job of setting up charming, relatable protagonists and a scenario that seems harmless enough, before demonstrating how something as innocent as school children playing a game can descend into brutality when men are left to their own devices. The tension and the chaos continue to ratchet up until the characters eventually realise that, even though they are the architects of their downfall, they can’t escape.
Award for Best Fiction Short Film
Director: Zou Jing
Producers: Wang Yang and Qiu Yang
Zou Jing’s masterful debut is an intimate look at one woman’s endeavour to save her dying father by earning money as a surrogate. Anchored by Huang Lili’s captivating and understated central performance, the film explores the quiet tragedy of personal loss and the injustices of the disposable and disadvantaged within the thrall of a city thrumming with life. Lili Alone takes us on a gut-wrenching journey that manages to find moments of joy and connection even in darkness, and leaves us with images that linger long after the credits roll.
Award for Best Documentary Short Film
Listen to the Beat of Our Images
Directors: Audrey Jean-Baptiste and Maxime Jean-Baptiste
Producer: Gérard Azoulay
Listen to the Beat of Our Images is a gripping micro-history, told through video essay, about the transformation of one’s homeland by the forces of imperialism and colonialism. The way the archival footage is edited makes it clear how alien and unnatural the presence of a French space centre is in this context. And while the film climaxes with a rocket blasting into the atmosphere, rather than evoking a sense of elation or satisfaction, we’re left feeling melancholy for a land expropriated. There’s no joy; there’s despair for what was lost.
Award for Best Animation Short Film
Director: Matisse Gonzalez
Producers: Matisse Gonzalez and Toufik Abdedaim
Gravedad leads us into an imaginative world where one woman’s emotionally light and heavy days are rendered beautifully through physical gravity. Employing a charming line-animation style with comically disproportionate and offbeat characters, pitch-perfect narration and score, Gravedad examines the emotional cost of chasing one’s dreams and tackles big philosophical questions with great humour, whimsy and pathos.
Award for Best Experimental Short Film
Director: Simon Liu
Producer: Rachael Lawe
Happy Valley captures the little things in its sensorial portrait of the Hong Kong district. Each shot is deliberate, from the half-constructed sidewalk and the soft silk scarf on a mannequin, to night-time strobe lights and the kids on a fun-park ride. The sum of these parts forms the fabric of life in Happy Valley. The distorted sound design brings a sense of repetition, constantly flicking between radio stations, and days seem to pass indistinguishably from the next. This time, however, there is a sad irony in Liu’s ‘sense of place’. Those captured little moments – the depiction of time passing from one day to the next, of perseverance – are not lost on us. This beautifully rendered film hits you with an emotional blow as Hong Kong prepares for a future unknown.
Blackmagic Award for Best Cinematography in a Short Film
Director: Akinola Davies Jr
Producers: Rachel Dargavel and Wale Davies
The cinematography of Lizard is as rich as the world it depicts – a textural, vibrant Lagos in the 90s through the eyes of an eight-year-old girl. DOP Shabier Kirchner’s frame establishes the gated confines of a wealthy Christian megachurch. We follow the girl down dimly lit corridors, where flickering blue light reflects on murky puddles. She witnesses seedy dealings through doors that should not be open. Between shelves, inappropriate advances and abuses of power take place. With little dialogue, it is through the lens that we feel the girl’s acute sense of danger, her growing awareness that the words of the preacher do not match the corrupt actions of the congregation. There are elements of fantasy and imagination, the girl’s own imprint on her lived experience. And, with the tensions rising, Lizard culminates in a brilliantly captured handheld action sequence, a rare feat in the format.