© VIS, Sarah Gruber


Anniversary edition features 301 films, more works by women filmmakers in competition, and the Oscar® Academy-Highlights include MYNTH, Martha Colburn, VR cinema, and a short film marathon

The 15th edition of VIS Vienna Shorts opens on May 29 with a big celebration and numerous distinguished guests and filmmakers. Our crystal anniversary promises to be a special one, as we honor two other landmarks as well: 50 years after 1968, our focus We Need To Disagree commemorates forms of cinematic protest and reminds us of the importance of political debate. And 100 years after the founding of the Austrian Republic, the exhibition shaping democracy investigates how this nation has come to see itself.

A total of 301 recent and historical works under 30 minutes will be featured in the festival-109 of them in competition. What's particularly encouraging-not least because of recent international discussions about the unequal treatment of women and men in the film and festival business-is that women directed more than 60 percent of the films in the Fiction & Documentary category. And the ratio is 50:50 in the National Competition (a ratio which is unfortunately not mirrored in the amount of national grants awarded each year).

Almost 200 films are shown out of competition, in solo presentations, curated programs, and live performances. Venues include Gartenbaukino, the Austrian Film Museum, MuseumsQuartier's Halle G and the frei_raum Q21 exhibition space, and METRO Kinokulturhaus, which is also where the festival is headquartered. The MUK.lounge of the adjacent Music and Arts University of the City of Vienna serves as the venue for the brand-new, two-day virtual-reality film competition, VR the World.

About 100 industry guests and representatives of important institutions such as the European Film Academy and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences are expected in the course of seven festival days. We will also welcome numerous international programmers and curators from film festivals such as Berlinale, Cannes, Venice, Rotterdam, Tribeca, Max Ophüls, Sarajevo, Torino, Winterthur, Zagreb, and Glasgow. Including the exhibition shaping democracy, Austria's largest festival for short film, animation and music video is expecting about 20,000 visitors this year.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which presents the annual Academy Awards®, will play a prominent role in this year's festival: In cooperation with the Austrian Film Museum, the Academy Film Archive will show restored films in three programs under the title The Academy & the Avant-Garde-curated and presented by Mark Toscano (US), who works tirelessly and expertly to promote the Archive's work.

Since 2003, Toscano has been considered the restoration specialist for independent film at the Academy Film Archive and has been responsible for achieving a new visibility of American avant-garde cinema. Three programs will provide insight into the Archive's activities: one about the Californian filmmaker Chick Strand (1931-2009), whose work will be shown in Vienna for the first time in this form; the second about independent animated films; and the third about West Coast Psychedelia, a dominant strand of the US avant-garde.


The focus deals with current socio-political developments in Europe and worldwide. Great Britain's Brexit vote was a forerunner of a general European wave of anti-solidarity. In Spain, the Catalan independence movement held a referendum that was subsequently deemed illegal. And only a few months ago, the Austrian conservative party formed a coalition government with right-wing nationalists. Divides in public discourse are deep in each of these countries, which is why this year's triangle program, centered on the idea that We Need To Disagree, looks at the situation from the perspective of festivals in Glasgow, Barcelona, and Vienna.

Today, 50 years after 1968's struggle for a more liberal society, we seem to have handed over our standards and values to populists and filter bubbles: polarization, not debate; taking sides, not taking a stand; building walls, not building bridges. But there is a need for debate and constructive opposition when it comes to shaping our society and calibrating the relationship between freedom and security, individuality and solidarity. Listen, think, substantiate-and resist the erosion of important achievements. Maike Mia Höhne, curator of the Berlinale Shorts, offers a historical view of the year 1968 with her program Home Is Where I Want to Change Things. The compilation comprises six films-including Color Test. The Red Flag by Gerd Conradt with Holger Meins, who later gained notoriety as a member of the Red Army Faction-and oscillates between radical statements and experimental on-screen protest. The program segues nicely into the Spotlight on Ernst Schmidt jr., who in the 1960s and '70s was one of the towering figures of Expanded Cinema in Austria. His work is marked by a critique of the establishment and by subversion and irony.

An off-screen public outcry is also scheduled for the festival. The panel Fair Festival Work Now will address an explosive subject: the precarious situation of many festival workers in the cultural sector (without collective contracts, largely without social security). How is festival work organized today? What is the funding institutions' position on issues related to working conditions? These questions will be discussed in the framework of the festival's discussion series, VIS Academy.


"A raucous blend of cinema art and wild jamboree," is how the Austrian magazine profil described the festival-and this blend is particularly palpable in this year's festival specials: from a marathon screening of the best films selected by national film academies around the world (Golden Nights, Wednesday, May 30, 1-12 p.m., free admission) and the immersive live performance FEED.X by Kurt Hentschläger, a cooperation with Wiener Festwochen, to a live concert in a movie theater, this year with the Salzburg-based electronica duo MYNTH and Cinematic Parallels.

One of the festival's central Spotlights is dedicated to a truly tenacious filmmaker: The artist Martha Colburn (US/NL) is regarded as one of the most subversive and original voices of contemporary political animated film, exploring American history and identity. No image is left unturned; everything is cut to the thumping beat in an intoxicating concoction that virtually jumps off the screen. Colburn will be present in Vienna and personally guide audiences through her solo retrospective.

The exhibition shaping democracy is a participative stroll down the history of the Austrian Republic along its guiding principles and essential paradoxes. Austria's image as perceived by itself and others is just as much a topic of this exhibition as the republic's political and cultural self-concept and its citizens' individual and collective memory. This 100th-anniversary presentation is on view at frei_raum Q21 exhibition space through June 3.