Review: Next Gen Student Shorts at the Melbourne Women in Film Festival

6 March 2018

I came to sit in the theatre without having much expectations of what the films were going to showcase since I was never a fan of short films. However, I was blatantly proved wrong, even at the start, when the first film was screened. Now, to think about it again, I should have known the films would have a level of substantial standard to be even part of this city-wide film festival that is home to so many inspirational and binge-worthy films from high calibre filmmakers and actors.

Just like what the name suggests, Next Gen Student Shorts consist of eight short films that go for an average of ten minutes each and as short as three minutes. The shorts touch on sensitive themes such as tragedy and loss of loved ones, tension between perception of one’s sexuality and the pressure from expected social norms and raging inner rebellion as a teenager. The directors did a great job in making their films stand out to younger generations for their relatability and heartfelt connections that are ideally more appreciated than to older age groups. They reflect personal social issues that most teens would likely go through in their friendship groups such as losing best friends, standing up for one another during times of troubles, journeys of self-discovery in a society where there are so many norms to follow to be accepted and a desire for freedom in their lives.

Some of the films left me with strong explicit messages while others gave me ambiguous ideas of what exactly the films want to convey due to abrupt endings which provided ways for so many open-ended conclusions and interpretations. Other than that, the short films surely brought me onboard an emotional roller-coaster ride that followed the vividly unleashed story plots and messages alongside them. The short Uninvited radiated through me the most. It tells the story of a girl, Beth with a burgeoning sexuality and the dilemma she faces as she is unsure which one to choose: it is either the girl that she has a crush on (well, the film didn’t really mention that Beth has a crush on her but I guess it was implied and if not she is definitely romantically attracted to her) which shows her lesbian side, or her friends which shows her desire to fit in with her social group and society in general. During the so-called ‘decision time’, Beth longingly looks at her crush first but quickly turns away from her when she sees her friends on the other side, she then walks towards them. It was clear that she wishes to go with her crush but unlike superhero movies where justice always prevails, in a more realistic sense, Beth did not do justice to herself but instead succumbs to societal pressure.

On a quick note, these short films are not all about fictional stories based likely on true events, but they do cover a documentary, Homeful about homeless people. They share their stories about not having shelter and shed new light to how we think of them. No, they’re not all drug addicts but some are forced to live on the streets because they had nothing left and had no money. They’re not a social hindrance. Rather, we should sympathise with them and give them a helping hand because they need us and we can be responsible for helping shape our community into a warmer and kinder place to live in.

After watching these shorts, I found a new admiration towards short films because of their concise and not-unnecessarily dragged-out story development. Different shorts give me different impressions and memos to take home: it’s always something unique and something new to look forward to after a chapter ends. At least, I won’t get bored and find myself snoring in the cinema seats!

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