NOW BOOKING: London Short Film Festival 2021

A guide to this year’s London Short Film Festival, streaming from London to the world from 15 to 24 January 2021.

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Normally at this time of year we’d be thumbing through an already worn print copy of the London Short Film Festival (LSFF) programme, getting overly excited about already sold-out programmes of short films and other tantalising special events. Previous editions have seen RADIANT CIRCUS overwhelmed by a screening of TEAROOM’s ultra-disturbing 16mm police surveillance footage at ICA in 2018 (simultaneously triggering our Robert Yang fandom…), and bouncing around an inflatable barge on the cold canal shores of Hackney Wick to watch some films about rubber fetishes in 2019.

Well, as with many screen events of our COVID times, this year’s LSFF will be a little different. Despite gearing up for their 18th event, the internationally celebrated short film festival is getting its servers ready for its first ever online edition. And, apart from missing the thrill of the shared cinema/inflatable experience, we’re pleased to say the programme remains as rich and rewarding as ever. Seriously, if you’re contemplating a streaming diet of short films in 2021, you should ignite your New Year with these digital fireworks.

One of the other things RADIANT CIRCUS loves about LSFF is their commitment to radically diverse voices in independent film making and exhibition. Under the theme of the “collective”, this year’s collabs include guest curators Fringe! Queer Film & Arts Fest, a double bill about activism from the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and Groupe Medvedkine, and solidarity-building documentaries from Palestine and Indigenious reoccupation project, The Unist’ot’en Camp. Now an annual and UK touring staple, MY EYE IS MY EAR presents short films meditating Deaf identity, culture and language from both D/deaf and hearing storytellers.

If you’re totally strapped for cash after the enduring economic crisis, then there’s free access to this year’s INDUSTRY EVENTS. LSFF will also be presenting a free outdoor installation of looping AV compositions and performance visuals projected onto the side of BFI Southbank: MOTION SUSPENDED. This immersive programme will celebrate “the graft and creativity behind the scenes of live gig visuals” with work originally created to accompany the Pet Shop Boys, New Order and London Grammar. Just keep your social distance…

Here’s how everything breaks down.


The NEW SHORTS strand includes a bit of everything across 13 programmes from “short, sharp comedic hits and science-infused fictions, to digital abstractions and kaleidoscopic animations”. Being saddled with horror heads at RADIANT CIRCUS, our favourite proposition is possibly the MIDNIGHT MOVIES programme: “a visceral, fluid-spattered ride through sinister cults, nightmarish macrodosing, human taxidermy, and more.” But there’s a lot here to enjoy (and their FUNNY SHIT comedy lineup was always popular in venues).

59 shorts are screening in the UK and International COMPETITION programmes (you can unlock them all with a single money-saving Festival Pass). As you’d expect, these cutting edge shorts reflect our changing COVID times: “some produced pre-pandemic, some completed during, and some responsive to a world in lockdown, each are testament to cinema’s tenacity and enduring creativity.” The actual LSFF 2021 Awards Ceremony takes place online on 24 January so you can find out if your fave film wins.

The other major shorts strand is DOCUMENTARY which features 4 programmes this year (again there’s a pass for that – see our DISCOVER MORE section below for all ticketing and pricing options).


The festival’s SPECIAL EVENTS programme is often where the most intense action is at, and this year showcases “archive gems of radical activism and collective action”. Everything starts with a firecracker of an opening night (15 JAN 19:00) featuring HOWDOYOUSAYYAMINAFRICAN?’s GOOD STOCK ON THE DIMENSION FLOOR: AN OPERA. This “genre-bending, 35 part visual epic offering radical, expansive perspectives on Blackness” is rarely seen after the predominantly Black and queer artists collective withdrew it from exhibition in 2014 in protest at art world racism. This is the first UK festival presentation of GOOD STOCK in its entirety that streams with an exclusive live Q&A.

Elsewhere, experimental artist filmmaking is celebrated in LSFF’s annual PLATFORM strand which welcomes radical anonymous Mexican collective Colectivo Los Ingrávidos to the stream for 2021. Their “defiantly in-your-face work disrupts through both form and content, tackling topics from femicide to capitalist complicity in the COVID-19 pandemic”.

And finally, pioneers of DIY citizen journalism, radical TV collective Videofreex are presented in retrospective in partnership with Video Data Bank. Films include rare footage of the late Chairman of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton and the 1970 Women’s Liberation Demonstration of New York City.

We told you it was good…


How to get involved…

You can access all of the virtual LSFF screenings on their Eventive platform. We found the programme on their festival website a little easier to get a view of everything that’s on in each strand and programme.

Each day of the festival, a number of programmes will go live for your enjoyment. You can pre-order tickets for each programme and will receive an email reminder when your screening goes live so you don’t miss a thing.

Each programme has a 48 hour availability period after it goes live. In this 48 hour window, you will also have the opportunity to buy a ticket if you haven’t already, unlock the programme and start watching. Like Brigadoon, each programme will disappear at the end of its 48hrs.

You get a 24 hour watch period at any point during this 48 hour window once you’ve started streaming (even if you click in the final, fading minutes…).

Special Events are priced at £5 each (plus booking fee) and New Shorts programmes at £4 each (plus fee) which, for the most part, gets you over an hour of shorts. Industry Events and the BFI Southbank installation are free.

LSFF are also offering money-saving Festival Passes as follows: Competition (UK & International) at £25 (plus fee); UK Competition at £15 (plus fee); International Competition at £15 (plus fee); Documentary at £12 (plus fee).




*THE SMALL PRINT: Opinions author’s own. // As accurate as we could make it. Apologies for any errors. Updates & corrections will be made to the online version only. // Event dates/times/formats are subject to change by the venue/organiser. Events may already be sold out at the time of posting, so please click quickly. // We try to list as many original format screenings as we can (8 to 70MM), but sometimes formats change due to age of the print, availability, logistics etc, so please check ahead with your venue if the format is your thing. // All images are used in the spirit of fair use for reporting & review – no ownership is implied or intended / unless otherwise credited to RADIANT CIRCUS as the original rights holder. We will remove any images immediately upon request – just get in touch. // We don’t filter our listings by age/certification: all readers & subscribers should therefore be 18+. // Finally, we always try to follow The Carny Code by “not screwing up anyone else’s game”, but everyone can make mistakes… If something does go wrong, we will always do our best to put it right. //.