After the launch of our 2021 Short Awards yesterday, this year’s prize-giving marks the 14th edition of our annual short film honours. Starting back in 2007, when we favored a more conventional top 10 list, this playlist celebrates ALL the winners of our ‘Short of the Year’ prize – if you ever wondered what are the best short films ever featured on S/W, this playlist is a good place to start.

2007Inside

dir. Trevor Sands

What we said: Inside feels both fresh and familiar…it has an eight-minute story to tell and does it in eight minutes—that’s a pleasure after watching so many eight-minute stories told in ninety.

What they did next: Describing Inside as his “director’s showcase short”, over the last decade or so since we featured Sands, he’s been busy working as a writer, adapting big sci-fi novels to the screen. He’s also sold two original screenplays and continues to work as a director.

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2008Muto

dir. Blu

What we said: Often an old story makes a splash when it’s told in a new way, given new context, or played out on a larger scale. Muto does all of these. Here, the familiar morph animation takes on a new face where characters animate across the real-life streets and buildings of Buenos Aires.

What they did next: Blu has continued to be a much-in-demand street artist mixing guerilla work with hi-profile commissions in several European countries. A collection of his work, in book-form, was released in 2018.

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2009Skhizein

dir. Jérémy Clapin

What we said: Clapin has improved his technique from (prior work), Skhizein is a huge leap forward for the French animator in regards to design, background detail, and character movement…Clapin takes the film and its character in a direction far different than I expected, and really caused me to reevaluate my initial impressions afterward.

What they did next: A real favorite of the 2009 festival circuit, Skhizein heralded an exciting future for Clapin. He followed that short with another in 2012 – Palmipédarium – before his debut feature J’ai perdu mon corps (I Lost My Body) became the first animated feature to win the top prize at Critics’ Week since its launch in 1962. Picked up for worldwide distribution by Netflix, the film was nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2020 Oscars. 

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2010Plastic Bag

dir. Ramin Bahrani

plastic-bag-werner-herzog

It doesn’t look like there’s currently an official version of Plastic Bag online

What we said: It connects us to sensations that are mythic and epic, yet in its environmentalist message seeks to embrace us all in a consciousness of our shared community and planet. All this in a flick about a plastic bag. It is the most amazing short film of 2010.

What they did next: Already a notable director for his microbudget features like Chop Shop, Bahrani followed up this Herzog-narrated short with even more hi-profile projects, directing the likes of Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon and Michael B. Jordan in the feature films 99 Homes and Fahrenheit 451. Bahrani’s latest, White Tiger, has recently hit Netflix and, for his next project, he’s set to direct an adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s novel Amnesty for Netflix.

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2012WELCOME TO PINE POINT

dir. Michael Simons & Paul Shoebridge

Welcome to Pine Point is an interactive documentary – click HERE to view the full project.

What we said: At our core, we at Short of the Week prize storytelling above all else. We trumpet stories, we celebrate storytellers, and in our editorial, we try our hand at telling stories ourselves. Stories have the power to inform, transform, transport and uplift ourselves and, through extension, the world. Maybe that’s why Pine Point struck a chord with us. Sure, we have an interest in technology and trends, and as the first interactive film to unimpeachably “work”, Pine Point is a sexy choice for us to make as our Short of the Year. But sexy isn’t our mission. More than medium, more than form or structure, this work resonates because it is a good story about the importance of stories.

What they did next: Since Welcome to Pine Point won our award back in 2012, duo Shoebridge and Simons (aka The Goggles), have announced several projects that they’re working on – including Touch: An Interactive Story about the Death of Print and Chasing the Sun: A trans media tale about the Arctic. Though neither has seen the light of day (as far as we can tell), the pair did create an interactive documentary that launched alongside feature doc The Ghost in our Machine.

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2013THE EAGLEMAN STAG

dir. Mikey Please

What we said: We were shocked when the Academy Awards made the huge mistake of not nominating this masterpiece. The Eagleman Stag is flat out one of the best short films you will ever see! It tells an epic tale of life and loss “resolutely strange, mysteriously beautiful” the human experience compressed into 9 minutes. It’s also an incredible work of craftsmanship carved entirely from foam with a scalpel. In a way, the Oscar snub makes perfect sense. Let’s face it, the Oscars have come to reflect an aging taste for safe, classic film. Powerful, shocking, innovative films like this deserve better.

What they did next: Created as his thesis film at the RCA, Please followed-up The Eagleman Stag with 2013 short Marilyn Myller, before going on to work on a board game, graphic novel and a TV pilot. Now working on a seasonal stop-motion with long time collaborator Dan OjariRobin Robin will be a 30-min stop-motion short, created with Aardman Productions, and set to premiere on Netflix in late 2021.

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2014 – THE RUNNERS

dir. Matan Rochlitz & Ivo Gormley

What we said: Born from the idea that people might be more open if they were asked questions while running, Matan Rochlitz & Ivo Gormley’s documentary The Runners provides an insightful glimpse into everyday life by catching their subjects at a time when their inhibitions are at their most relaxed. Quizzing the joggers on a range of personal topics, from sex to religion and marriage to mental health, The Runners takes us on an unpredictable journey through the human mind. So simple, you can’t believe it hasn’t been done before, it’s ideas like this that really restore your faith in the originality and creativity of filmmaking.

What they did next: Since completing the documentary short The Runners, Matan Rochlitz has continued to work in the documentary field, with his latest short I Have a Message for You nominated for an Emmy in 2018. Meanwhile, his directing partner, Ivo Gormley has left filmmaking and is now the Founder and CEO of GoodGym – an initiative that combines regular exercise with helping our communities.

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2015The Gunfighter

dir. Eric Kissack

What we said: We like some ol’ fashioned bawdy humor as much as the next site that exclusively specializes in online shorts, yet I’d suggest the unexpected success of this gem of a film is subtly more complicated than it appears. The meta-implications of an omniscient Nick Offerman are as disturbing as the results are funny. Questions of free will, fate, and even God abound. In addition to the philosophical implications, the concept of a blood-crazed cosmic puppet master is frankly pretty horrifying! Yet it all goes down easy thanks to bestiality and anal sex jokes…oh my.

What they did next: With a string of impressive Editor credits to his name – including The Good Place & Veep – Kissack has primarily placed his focus on the world of TV since we awarded him SotY in 2015. Having started producing and directing on The Good Place before the show ended last year, we hope to see more of Kissack in a director’s chair soon.

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2016KUNG FURY

dir. David Sandberg

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Due to age restrictions, Kung Fury can’t be embedded, click on the image to watch on YouTube.

What we said: As fun as it is to champion unknown but worthy talents, it would be disingenuous to not recognize the remarkable achievement of Kung Fury, and its even more remarkable cultural impact. List the events: a massively viral trailer leads to a phenomenally successful Kickstarter, leading to the concept being optioned for development before it had even received its debut, which happened to be at CANNES of all places, then, with the hype at a fever pitch, it goes online and then somehow becomes an EVEN BIGGER DEAL. Wow! Not since Kony 2012 (ominously enough) do I think a short film has had this kind of pervasive effect on the internet, and even better this was a true grassroots fandom phenomenon, not celeb-driven. It really is just that awesome, and everyone felt compelled to tell everyone else how much they needed to watch it. Now we are telling you as well.

What they did next: With almost 40-million views on YouTube, Kung Fury is probably one of the biggest “hits” we featured on Short of the Week. With the online reaction to Sandberg’s short reaching unprecedented levels of insanity, it should come as no surprise that the filmmaker has been working on the follow-up—Kung Fury 2—ever since. Starring David Hasselhoff, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Fassbender, principal photography wrapped in September 2021, but the post-production recently hit a snag over what the Hoff describes as a “beef with the money”.

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2017POSSIBILIA

dir. the DANIELS

 

What we said: 2016 saw the online release of the single best interactive experience to date. It did not come from technologists, but instead rare and shining film talents, the DANIELS. In contrast to the medium’s long association with non-fiction storytelling, Possibilia bills itself as the first narrative interactive experience, and, in the hands of the prodigiously talented directing duo, the endeavor is a massive success—a deeply satisfying experience on an intellectual and emotional level, one that is novel, and endlessly rewatchable.

What they did next: Having first featured the DANIELS back in 2011, it quickly became clear these were filmmakers on the rise. Winning awards at Sitges and Sundance, their debut feature Swiss Army Man proved they could carry that unpredictable spark into longer projects, and now the duo is working on the sci-fi comedy Everything Everywhere All At Once, an “interdimensional action film” with the Russo Brothers, producing, and A24 on tap for distribution. 

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2018I KNOW YOU FROM SOMEWHERE

dir. Andrew Fitzgerald

What we said: IKYFSW is a near-perfect short: technically accomplished and innovative, as well as thematically complex, this stand-alone narrative engages with the culture in genuinely important ways (via the medium of its own distribution no less). It’s simply a bonus that the short is fast-paced and hilarious, making its caustic satire go down easy. Short film was f-ing brilliant in 2017, but despite stiff competition, IKYFSW is a worthy winner of Short of the Year, one that I feel confident that many of us will be returning to again and again in the years to come.

What they did next: Following IKYFSW’s success on the festival circuit (where it was nominated for awards at the 2017 Sundance & SXSW festivals), Fitzgerald continues to work mainly as an editor, with credits like PortlandiaNathan for You and 2020 Tribeca short John Bronco, to his name. He is also currently pitching a feature adaptation of IKYFSW, taking part in prestigious events like IFP’s Film Week. 

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2019JOY IN PEOPLE

dir. Oscar Hudson

What we said: Oscar Hudson’s film, anchored by a stellar performance from Meredith Colchester as Ben, is a unique marvel. Formally daring, the film adheres to a loose outline, but is verité in execution, as Ben wades out into real-life settings to have unscripted interactions. Shot guerilla-style, immense amounts of footage were shot, and untold numbers of interactions instigated without their subjects’ prior knowledge, and edited together into a coherent, and frankly devastatingly emotional, narrative arc. With Ben as a Chauncey Gardiner-esque guide, the film is a surreal, sometimes ugly, always fascinating, look at a pure expression of nationalism. For us, our perspective filtered through his naive vantage, it is a unique opportunity to look at this topic from a place of estrangement—why do we form attachments to these theoretical constructs? What does it mean to be a member of a nation? What do these divisions provide us, and what do we lose?

What they did next: A name we were already well aware of because of his eye-catching music video work, Hudson revealed he working on developing a feature when we last spoke to him back in early 2019. Since then, he’s directed an inspiring advert for Nike (racking up almost 60-million views on YouTube) and helmed the always much-anticipated Christmas ad for John Lewis.

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2020ALBATROSS SOUP

dir. Winnie Cheung

What we said: is there any short film as purely entertaining this past year? With its delightfully psychedelic aesthetic, it’s eye-candy in every sense of the phrase, a parlor game…on acid. Even when the answer reveals itself and things get very, very dark, you can’t help but have a smile on your face. For being both a subtle and imaginative piece of boundary-crossing craftsmanship and a simple and compelling crowdpleaser, we’re happy to call Albatross Soup Short of the Year.

What they did next: Maintaining an active career as commercial and film editor, Cheung’s newest directing effort, an erotic creature feature titled Last Call was successfully Kickstarted in 2020. The team is currently in pre-production.

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2021The Voice in Your Head

dir. Graham Parkes

What we said:The Voice in Your Head is a great concept and genuinely made me laugh out loud” noted one of our jury members, and another added that is “a great marriage of conceptual ingenuity, acting, cinematographic style”. Parkes’ ability to elevate a cliché premise into something both surprising and profound did not escape notice these past several months, and, in a year of hardship, the film’s insights into loneliness and mental health were undeniably topical.

Structurally adventurous (the twist arrives halfway through the film!), sharply written, and brilliantly performed by rising screen star Lewis Pullman (Top Gun: Maverick) and Mat Wright, we’re proud to recognize The Voice in Your Head as our first ever Jury Prize winner.