Short. Sweet. Film Fest. expands to five days to celebrate ninth year


Courtesy of Michael Sugilo

“El Astronauta,” (above) is one of the 150 films presented at the Short. Sweet. Film. Festival in downtown Cleveland.

Matt Hooke, Executive Editor

The Short. Sweet. Film Fest. started in the basement of Market Garden Brewery, spearheaded by Case Western Reserve University alumni and faculty member Michael Sugilo. That first show had 30 films. Now, nine festivals later, over 150 films will be shown at the Alex Theater at the Metropolitan at 9 a.m. in downtown Cleveland.

The festival hopes to provide an outlet for short films, which often don’t have any outlet for public viewing outside of festivals or online platforms, and especially for local filmmakers. Around half of the short films were made by Cleveland area directors.

The festival received around 500 submissions in 15 different categories. They even added an evening of programming just for students because of the volume of submissions they received.

“We got so many student film submissions that I thought this needs to be its own thing,” said Suglio. “This is our first year going to five days instead of three days and one of the main reasons to be honest is that we got so many student film submissions. So now we have one night of just student films on Thursday, Feb. 27.”

Suglio does not accept movies longer than 30 minutes. There is no minimum time limit, the shortest film in the history of the festival was 15 seconds long, a single shot of a girl breaking up with her boyfriend. The shortest this year, “Pneuma,” is a minute long sci-fi film about A.I. 

“You can try out a new idea, see how it works and see if you can expand on that idea,” said Suglio on the appeal of short films for artists. “It’s a different audience that you’re trying to go for. A lot of times people make short films and use that to try to get funding for a feature or get picked up as a pilot for a series.”

Suglio said many short filmmakers use a mix of Kickstarter, grants and self-funding to get their artwork made.

Along with providing an avenue for local art, Suglio said the festival also adds to Cleveland’s national reputation as a center for the arts and culture. Many filmmakers travel to Cleveland for the event to meet other filmmakers and participate in question-and-answer panels. The Venezuelan short “El Astronauta,” about a man who wants to go to the moon to say goodbye to his dead wife, is an example of the festival’s international reach.

A new edition this year is the presence of virtual reality. There are five virtual reality films that can be viewed on the Oculus Ghost.

“You’re a character in the film or an observer,” said Suglio. “It’s the same as watching a regular film, but you can watch what’s going around you with a 360 degree viewpoint.”

“Over time there’s been more interest in films in the city and viewing them,” said Sugilo on his festival’s growth. “More films are filming here with the tax incentive. The technology is more accessible, people have spent their whole lives with cell phones that have video elements to it. This idea of visual storytelling is a bigger part of people’s lives.”

The Short. Sweet. Film Fest. will run from Feb. 26 to March 1. Tickets for a single night cost $25, with the student night on Feb. 27 priced at $15.