The Best Short Films screened at ESFF

Launched in 2011, by a group of film-makers, the Edinburgh Short Film Festival has screened 323 short films in 5 years. Creating an eclectic programme ranging from Edinburgh-made community shorts to Oscar winning films. In no particular order, we’ve compiled a list of some of the Festival’s best short films over the last few years and some directors to look out for in the coming years.


Alan Holly (Ireland)

Alan Holly’s imaginative re-interpretation of the ‘Everyman meets Death trope’ takes a lyrical and poetic approach to the story of a drunken inhabitant of an un-named Irish town. Following a car accident late one night, he encounters the shrouded figure of Death in the local park. Since the protagonist refuses to accept his fate, Death takes him on a surreal, beautifully-drawn journey in which the hero learns acceptance. Combining philosophical themes with 2D animation that floats and swoops across the screen like it’s ethereal nemesis. Accompanied with a haunting piano score, the film evokes a powerful mood and a thought-provoking solemnity.

Screened at the 2014 ESFF, the film was Oscar nominated in 2015. It has gone on to be screened at over 30 film festivals as well as picking up 22 awards including the Most Creative Short at the Edinburgh Short Film Festival so you can see why this made the list of best short films.

Dark Net

Tom Marshall (England)

‘Dark Net’ features a brilliantly manic performance by Johnny Vegas, who plays an irresponsible Northern loser in Adam Woodhall’s brilliant comedy noir. The ending pays homage to the revered British cult crime thriller Get Carter. The grimy Northern roots are also evident in the back streets, decaying and somewhat decrepit clubs and bars. Populated by lonely men who resort to using the dark side of the internet to resolve their issues.

While being very, very funny it also has a noir-esque edge so it had to be up there on this list of best short films. Yet the hard boiled exterior is softened by a sharp and blackly comic wit, a terrific central performance and some uniquely Northern locations.

A Wee Night In

Stuart Edwards (Scotland)

A charming and life-affirming documentary following the relationship between two octogenarians living in East Kilbride in Scotland and their carefree, happy and durable friendship.
Chrissy was a sickly child that no one expected to live to a ripe old age. Nevertheless, this Scottish woman is now 95, frail but full of life. From her retirement home she engages in activities that keep her active, fun and bursting with vitality and humour. Today, Chrissy’s 91-year-old boyfriend Bill is coming over for the evening. A simple idea, beautifully told with an unobtrusive camera that allows it’s subjects the space to come to life.

Previously selected for the American Film Institute’s AFI DOCS Festival and the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, A Wee Night In also won the 2015 ESFF Rising Star award.

90 Grad Nord

Detsky Graffam (Germany)

Shades of ‘Lost’ in this twisted, surreal German horror by experienced director Detsky Graffam. An arrogant businessman, late for a meeting, is lost in a forest after his car breaks down. He comes across a lonely traffic island in the middle of the forest and begins a terrifying ordeal on what must be cinema’s deadliest traffic island. You’ll never look at pedestrian lights the same way again! The mise-en-scene is highly impressive with the action of the film taking place over a year. The director ratchets up the tension as the protaganists face a daily battle for survival while they attempt to outwit their unseen opponent.

Detsky said he wanted the film to feel like a Grimm Brothers fairy tale and he certainly delivers on that in this superb short which screened at the 2015 Edinburgh Short Film Festival and has now been selected for Cannes 2016.

The Misbehavior of Polly Paper cut

Bryan Ferguson (Scotland/Mexico)

A comic book obsessive creates a sociopathic female super-villain who confronts and undermines authority. Polly uses pink body cream to fashion pistols and cuts the air with her knife whilst longing for an opponent worthy enough to fight against. There’s just one little thing holding up her plans.

A freewheeling, anarchic slice of moviola that defies a pat description and was nominated for the Scottish Short Film Award at the Glasgow Film Festival in 2014.


Isobel Peppard (Australia)

Screened in 2013, Butterflies is a claymotion, steam-punk fairy-tale that follows a young girl dreaming of becoming an artist. She accepts a job drawing greeting cards in a dingy, underground factory, watched over by a sinister capitalist. She is accompanied by 3 strange, moth-like insects with breasts, figures that represents her dreams. The forced labour deep in the bowels of the factory threatens her hopes and the life of her companions.

The film is an outstanding example of animation created with vision and won best animation at the Sydney Film Festival before being screened at the Edinburgh Short Film Festival.

Roger the Real Life Superhero

Felicity Monk (England)

Felicity Monk’s documentary, Roger the Real Life Superhero first screened at the ESFF in 2012. It tells the story of 19 year old Roger Heyhurst, who lives on an estate in Salford, Manchester. With the support of his mum Jennifer, Roger dresses in a spandex suit and cape and adopts his superhero persona of ‘Night Warrior’. He patrols the streets at night handing out food packages to the homeless. His unorthodox approach to community service is increasingly attracting attention – not all of it welcome!

Felicty Monk’s heart-warming, austerity-era fable and it’s charming protagonist makes for a memorable short. The film was also screened at Encounters and the London International Documentary Festival.

Love Cake

Eleanor Yule (Scotland)

There is a distinctly 1960’s Boulting Brothers/Ealing Studios retro feel to this romantic comedy. Filmed in the period mews and cobbled lanes of Edinburgh’s New Town and featuring a sexually-charged baker’s pantry where the flour and icing is put to somewhat spicier use than normal! A repressed spinster falls for the local Lothario in the shape of the hunky baker along the can she overcome her inhibitions to reveal her true feelings?

Directed by Eleanor Yule and produced by an all-female team. Love Cake was also screened at Aesthetica and was one of the Edinburgh shorts we selected for the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival last year.


Samantha Dinning (Australia)

By turns quirky, elegiac and witty, Samantha Dinning’s indie-influenced tale is never short of surprises. The film’s colourfully bright, sunny look and its elegant composition is at odds with the dark, internalised turmoil of the lead character – played with a lonely grace by Ella Speedie. Her inability to conform in a world of cruelty, leads her to make ever-increasingly elaborate plans for her own demise, sketched out Heath-Robinson style in her high school maths jotter. The director skilfully traces her isolation from her peers. While every day on her way to school, she passes a dangerous looking Sinkhole.


Gareth Dunnet-Alcocer (Mexico)

A taut, spare and engrossing thriller. Scorsese-esque in its use of music and an absorbing exploration of two characters, both magnificently played. Contrapelo grips and ratchets up the tension with each scene. A barber in a small town in Mexico is kidnapped to shave the murderous boss of a drug cartel. As he does so, he faces an increasingly urgent moral dilemma, whether to kill the ‘capo’ or not, while he lies under the towel, neck raised to meet the razor. Oscar qualifying, the short is a perfectly paced and never less than gripping.

That’s 10 of our best short films but we couldn’t resist squeezing one more so as per ‘Spinal Tap’, the dial on this article goes all the way up to 11!!

He and She

Marco Gadge (Germany)

Drawing inspiration from the cult 1970s Indie feature film ‘Harold and Maude’ . Marco Gadge’s freewheeling heroine, Annemarie is a 70’s-something oddball who engages loser-in-love Thomas with a life-lessons at a remote motorway service station. The film is a deftly-executed road movie with some wonderful characters and at it’s heart, an unlikely couple. The film also features a hugely impressive opening sequence. As Thomas’s camper van, laden with all his worldly possessions (including an outsize fluffy mouse strapped to a sofa) makes it’s way erratically along the autobahn, as he learns his girlfriend has dumped him.

The film originally screened at the Palm Springs Shortfest and was shown at the 2015 ESFF.

This post was written by the Edinburgh Short Film Festival to showcase 10 of the best short films that they have screened. Do you have a short film list you’d like to feature on the site? Let us know!