Finnish Fest Comes Up Shorts

Finland’s largest film event, the Tampere International Short Film Festival, commemorated its 25th anniversary and the centenary of film with record audiences estimated at 30,000. It was a splashy, well-run celebration of the art of the short film.

The event, which ran March 8-12, also survived a symbolic strike of fest projectionists that delayed screenings. The projectionists, hired from Finnkino ranks, protested layoffs at the company, which changed hands last October and has experienced a management shakeup.

The fest, though smallish, has carved out a unique niche for itself as the world’s most respected forum for animation.

The most popular programs, sold out long in advance, were three selections of cartoons from England’s revered Aardman Animations studio, creator of Oscar winner “The Wrong Trousers.” At Tampere, this short has already attained cult status, and images of “Trousers” characters Wallace and Gromit were sported on T-shirts everywhere.

Other screenings of note included the commercials Ingmar Bergman directed for soap, short films made by Roman Polanski in the 1960s and a salute to Orson Welles, with what remains of his unfinished film “It’s All True.” A gay and lesbian program was repped by Frameline distrib Desi del Valle.

Taking top animation prize was Thomas Meyer-Hermann’s “The Creation,” a playful, seven-minute view of how the world got its start. Judged best docu was Jay Rosenblatt’s experimental film about growing up male, “The Smell of Burning Ants.”

This year’s Grand Prix prize, worth $6,000, went to a half-hour French fiction film “Quelque Chose de Different” (Something Different), by Bruno Rolland.

The $12,500 Risto Jarva Prize was handed out to Heikki Ahola and the Statiivinkantajatry Assn. for an hourlong docu on contemporary Helsinki, “City Symphony,” to which over 20 filmmakers contributed.

Tampere also hosted a variety of panels, but it was the lectures that were popular with young festgoers, with topics ranging from computer animation and how to pitch a film idea to producers, to a talk on “From the Velvets to the Voidoids: Video rarities from the pre-punk era.”

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