Interview with John Canciani, Director at Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur

With just under one month left until ASFF opens, we are delighted to have the opportunity to speak to John Canciani, Director of Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur, the largest short film festival in Switzerland and an international platform for professional exchange and between filmmakers, industry figures and the audience. Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur presents a specially curated programme of short films at ASFF 2014, sponsored by Embassy of Switzerland, providing a chance to experience world cinema with a focus on German language film.

A: What is the strategy behind programming Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur?
JC: Firstly, there are two strands at Winterthur: on the one side, we have the competitive sections and, on the other, we have our focus programmes.

The competitive sections are about finding new cinematic voices, which shows audiences what kind of short films have relevance at the moment. We try to show the present trends, while forecasting future developments to show in which direction cinema could go. Only the future will tell if we are right. This is also the reason we give avant-garde, art films and new forms of narration a lot of space. It’s often about balancing films with the filmmakers, the audience and the jury.

In our focus programmes viewers are invited to reflect upon the films in the context which is presented, and this can become politically and critically charged, but it can also open up new debate about artistic approaches and showcase works in context. Audiences are given the chance to participate in talks and panel discussions. It is the mission and responsibility of festivals to keep the history of cinema alive.

A: How would you define Winterthur and what it stands for?
JC: We aspire to show non-mainstream films and a wide range of filmic styles. I try to avoid showing stuff which people can see every day on television. This doesn’t make sense. Short films can’t be reduced to only entertainment but it surely doesn’t exclude it, it’s just not the first aim to entertain everyone, like television tries to do very hard. It’s about exploring viewing patterns at the festival. Also I think it’s important to show that short film is not a genre it’s a format with its own possibilities and not only the small sibling of feature films. In short film, we celebrate cinema and the cinematic space!

A: What qualities do you look for in a short film to screen at Winterthur?
JC: A film that stands out can be a big value production or a film made on a mobile phone. The idea, concept, narrative structure and techniques are all important aspects that have an influence on our choice and mostly it’s the combination of these.

A: Artists’ and experimental films are two major genres you explore at the festival. How do you contextualise these for the audience?
JC: We organise group showings, mixing genres in competition to get the full package. I believe that it’s important that people can see a whole range and contextualise themselves. We try to get most filmmakers to come and there is always a Q&A so the public gets more information about the works. I expect the audience to be open to watch our programmes but what they get is something special. It’s pure cinema in all aspects…and it’s OK to dislike certain films. This gives the audience a navigator and a chance to balance what they see.

A: Are there any projects you want to do at Winterthur in the future?
JC: There are many! We don’t lack on ideas but some projects are just too difficult to realise. We want to work more with museums and institutions here in Winterthur. We have also started to show installations (this year with Yael Bartana) and we will continue to do this. I would like to work together with curators from other institutions and the art world, which can bring in other aspects of cinema and to also explore the boundaries between film and fine art.

Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur runs 5 – 10 November 2014. For more information visit

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1. Film still courtesy of Internationale Kurzfilmtage Winterthur.