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Ten independent short films that you should binge instead of Netflix

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Dazed put out a call last year for your short films – here’s our selection of the best, featuring talent from around the world

At the end of last year, Dazed put out a call-out across our social media platforms, asking young filmmakers to share their work with us. We were blown away by the submissions and the level of fresh, young talent out there. Here, we’ve chosen the best of the bunch.

There’s something for everyone in this international selection of short films, comprising a mix of both documentary and fictional stories. Plus, you can take a trip around the world from the comfort of your own bed, with films set in places as far-flung as LA, Denmark and an isolated island in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Sit back, tune in, and let your endless scrolling-induced lethargy fade away. You can thank us later.

NO MORE KNIVES LDN, DIR. WILL COTTAM AND CARLY RANDALL

No More Knives LDN was conceived as a result of the knife crime epidemic in London, and the government’s failure to effectively tackle the problem. Shot on 16mm film by the talented cinematographer Joel Honeywell, the film weaves together threads of art-directed symbolism, interpretative dance and raw performances from people affected by knife crime. Directors Will Cottam and Carly Randall teamed up with 17-year-old poet and Slambassador winner Maya Sourie, to create a powerful and provoking piece of poetry which carries this goosebump-inducing short. Their aim is to bring about debate and spark conversation among young people which challenges the idea of what exactly it means to carry a knife.

DAIMI, DIR. MARIE GRAHTØ

In this dark short from Danish director Marie Grahtø, a troubled 12-year-old named Daimi spends Christmas alone in a rundown apartment with her pet pig, trying to get through to a mother who isn’t there. This slightly absurd film that is both comedic and harrowing, weaves together moments of misery and levity to show the strange ways humans sometimes cope with pain and tragedy in order to keep ourselves sane.

SECOND HAND, DIR. LAUREN CABANAS

Here we meet Shaye, a young artist and fashion designer living in Los Angeles, California. In this narrative piece as told by Shaye, we learn of how a near-death experience caused the 21-year-old to turn his life around. “Sometimes it’s good to find the light in the dark, especially when you’re in the dark for a while,” Shaye divulges. With a renewed sense of appreciation for life and art, he began to repurpose clothing from thrift stores into his own unique designs. “I like to have shit worn down already. It builds character to the clothing,” Shaye says of his creations. In this series of beautifully shot vignettes directed by Lauren Cabanas, we discover that Shaye’s ability to breathe life back into damaged things goes beyond a talent for reinventing the material, to include a restoration of the self.  

BUTCHER BOY, DIR. EVA DOLEŽALOVÁ

Eva Doležalová’s Butcher Boy starts out as a cinematic portrait of young love, starring an all-American couple played by Camille Rowe (Mia) and Jacker Kilmer (Ian), but as the name would suggest, there’s a plot twist afoot. The film follows the seemingly star-crossed pair from a diner to an arcade to a nightclub, but takes a turn when Kilmer suddenly deserts Rowe faster than you can say Cinderella. Devastated, riding home in a cab, Rowe’s character spots Kilmer on the street and gets out to follow him on foot, for what seems like a long time. So far, so predictable right? Not quite. The ending might be a little wacky, but it’s certainly not the one you’re expecting.

BELIEVER, DIR. FABIEN VILRUS

Believer is set on Reunion Island, a remote enclave in the middle of the Indian ocean. The short film follows a local boy as he muses on themes of place, life and spirituality. It’s a personal project for the filmmaker Fabien Vilrus, who calls the island home. Existing in such isolation, far from any large civilisations, beliefs and superstitions are held to a high esteem among the islander community. Growing up in this kind of refuge, Vilrus has an innate interest in humanity’s allegiance to rituals. Through his artistic films, he aims to explore how your faith can shape your vision of life. This attitude is reflected in the juxtaposition of a sunny but spiritual atmosphere that permeates the piece, through the filmmaker’s use of soft focus shots, vibrant colours, intimate moments and hymn songs.

YOUNG FATHER, DIR. LUCILE BRIZARD

In this art film from Lucile Brizard, eight fathers meditate on the layered complexities that come with having a son: navigating the similarities and the differences, the co-existing feelings of attachment and distance, the pressure to be brave, and the desire to appear tough. The men also reflect on their relationships with their own fathers, lamenting the moments of disconnect, missed conversations, things left unsaid, emotions unexpressed. One narrator reluctantly admits, “It kills me to say it, but I’m uncomfortable with him. There.” This elegant film is both touching and sad in its exposure of the inherent vulnerability and fragility of fatherhood, the pressures of masculinity and the ways our familial relationships bring us joy, but can also cause us pain.

HOW TO WATER ROSES, DIR. MIRELLA CARDOSO

Filmed in a nostalgic style that feels very Jean-Luc Godard meets Wes Anderson, this short from director Mirella Cardoso tells the story of a broken-hearted girl who finds her self-worth in fantastical encounters with women in her past. In one flashback, her mother tells her, “Be careful who you lend your heart to. Not everyone will give it back.” Along with a group of voyeuristic tourists led by a park ranger, we are given a tour through the history of the relationship, in what feels like a very Anderson-like scenario.

PALM TREES AND HOMELESS PEOPLE, DIR. BROKENINT

As the name of this experimental piece suggests, Palm Trees and Homeless People (directed by BrokenInt) explores the duality of a city built on pretensions. Peeking behind the glossy veneer of Hollywood, the narrator raises questions around the problems lurking beneath. It begins as a fast-paced, audacious interrogation, “Maybe Hollywood means nothing.” She pauses. “Maybe it might even be the worst.”

Things take a slower, more melancholic turn in the second half, when the narrator addresses the problems on a more direct level. The music drops in tempo, and the mood becomes more contemplative. Against the backdrop of devastating imagery of homelessness, we hear the voice of one outcast named Albert say, “I don’t know anybody here. I’m by myself.” The narrator surmises, “Maybe someone is responsible for this. Maybe I don’t know how I feel about this. Maybe I don’t feel anything at all. Maybe there’s nothing I can do about it. But at least now you know.” Ultimately, this is moving and thought-provoking piece about homelessness in Hollywood. In questioning her own inaction, the narrator causes the viewer to reflect on their own.

LES POÉTES, DIR. SAM SULAM AND GEOFF LEVY

Co-directed by New York-based filmmaker Sam Sulam and Geoff LevyLes Poétes is a short documentary unraveling the rich history of Parisian hip-hop. While it’s the genre that has been widely associated with America for the last 30 years, it’s a scene that has flourished in France. Here we are introduced to some veterans from the so-called golden age of French rap including Gaiden Premiere, Scred Connexion and JP Manova, and hear from them first hand, what sets French rap apart from the rest of the world. The resounding opinion among them is that text is central to the identity of French rap – the lyricism and poetry that is specific to the French language. Beyond questions of identity, the film also follows the matured class of French rappers as they try to find their place in a new world where the genre has been subsumed by online culture and the arrival of the “internet rapper.”   

BLACK COAT, DIR. TANYA VYSHEGORODSEVA

A girl wakes up in an unfamiliar place, with no recollection of who she is or how she got there. Mysteriously, she’s wearing someone’s black coat. We follow her as she navigates her way through a strange dark world that feels caught somewhere between nightmare and reality. As she ambles along the roadside, she is picked up by two shady characters in a truck. Vulnerable and confused, she gets in. When she realises there are sinister motives at play, the girl flees, and a chase ensues.