France spotlights short films on winter solstice

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France marked the shortest day of the year on Wednesday with the launch of a nationwide short film festival, 30 years after starting a hugely-popular music festival on the summer solstice.

Dubbed "The shortest day", the festival is a mix of formal events, held in cinemas, museums or train stations around the country, with an open invitation to celebrate and support the art of the short film.

France's National Cinematography Centre (CNC), which organised the event, hopes to emulate the success of the "Fete de la Musique", which has become a fixture on the French calendar, and has inspired similar events around the world.

"There are fewer and fewer short films shown in cinemas and on television -- or only in the middle of the night. But production has never been as rich as today," said the CNC's president Eric Garandeau.

"Cinemas understand that shorts are the future of film," said the CNC's event organiser Sophie Massot, since many directors cut their teeth on short formats before moving on to feature-length works.

French actresses Jeanne Moreau and Melanie Laurent are sponsoring the event, along with the offbeat director Michel Gondry.

Top Paris venues from the Pompidou Centre to the Bastille Opera were taking part, while Montparnasse station, where the pioneer filmmaker Georges Melies lived his last days as a toy seller, was showing 21 films on a giant screen.

But organisers also hope to kickstart a grassroots movement, urging amateurs -- armed with cameras or smartphones -- to screen their creations in community halls and schools, and calling on arts centres and towns to join the party.

Uptake has been enthusiastic so far, according to the French short film agency which has been swamped by requests for works to show at some 1,800 events nationwide, flagged on a dedicated website at

The CNC secured the rights to 150 shorts, which it made available to associations and movie theatres, with film chains CGR, Gaumont Pathe and MK2 agreeing to show a short before each feature film, a once-common practice which died out after the 1970s.

© 2011 AFP

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