Shnit short film festival hits Cape Town

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Let’s get this out the way: shnit is not a different version of a similar looking expletive, but the German word for ‘cut’ or ‘snip’, and so it makes sense that it’s also the name of a global film showcase.

So after having read this, if you hear about ‘shnit International ShortFilmFestival’, you’d obviously know your shnit from your (fill in that similar sounding expletive here). You’ll probably start hearing all about shnit soon, as this festival runs simultaneously in nine cities – including Cape Town, Singapore and Cairo – from October 3 to 7.

Cape Town organisers Sean Drummond and Kelli Lakey told ‘The Big Issue’ that it’s the third year they’re running this gig at home. And they wouldn’t dare do it if not for the shnit-loads of accompanying fun.

Sean Drummond and Kelli Lakey of the Shnit film festival. Photo by Yazeed Kamaldien

“It’s shnitastic,” exudes Lakey, a social media strategist, who is the media and communications manager of the local edition.

Drummond, a writer-producer-filmmaker, is the local leg’s creative director. They’re a pair of self-proclaimed “shnit stirrers”.

We begged to know though what makes their shnit so special. When we interviewed the shnitsters, ‘The Big Issue’ had news about three other film festivals happening in Cape Town about the same time as this shnit. A fourth fest had sent out a call to local filmmakers for content.

“There aren’t any conflicting film festivals in Cape Town,” thinks Drummond.

“But this is the only short film festival. It’s a taste of the global film network and it is such an expanse of films. It’s also a chance for local filmmakers to create work and know they will have a platform.

“It’s a way to explore an idea, scene, concept or feeling without having to put together a feature film project. It’s become easy to make a short film because the means of production are cheaper.”

Drummond says that shnit is incomparable to other local festivals because “it happens every year over the same weekend in different cities”.

At least 200 short films are programmed from shnit headquarters in Berne, Switzerland, where the festival was first held in 2003. Films are thirty seconds to forty minutes long.

Drummond explains: “It’s run by people in the film industry with love. We do it for fun. There’s not much return outside the fun.”

Lakey adds: “We have conviction that our films are good so we don’t have to make up for it by being serious… It’s off the wall. The festival has also created an environment for other short film festivals in Cape Town.”

Lakey loves the platform because short films “encourage more risk-taking and creativity”.

Shnit’s local component called ‘Kaapse Bobotie’ meanwhile showcases seven hours of home-grown talent. That’s a selection from the 80 local submissions they received this year.

“We’re showing the best short films made here,” says Drummond.

Lakey talks more about the festival’s three-day filmmaking competition that last year had social issues activists with a “heightened sense of social consciousness” participating. In other words, it wasn’t only about film school students who focus more on impressing with filmmaking form than meaningful content.

“It’s the second year that we have emerging filmmakers competing. We have Cape Town Studios as the location where they will shoot for a day. We have support from the local film community and it shows how much people want to see really cool local films being made,” says Drummond.

shnit happens at The Labia cinema on Orange Street in the city. Screenings also entertain at Pulp Cinema in Stellenbosch and later this year at ‘Rocking the Daisies’ festival. Details at or


shnit shows global films

Sixty-two films are competing in shnit’s international competition that carry prizes worth R800,000. Films are screened in different categories.

‘Feel Good’ is a selection of the “most heart-warming shorts”.

‘Peeping shnit’ features “frivolous, audacious and sensual shorts centred on that most basic human instinct”.

“Indulge both the flesh and the spirit with this delectably lustful late-night peep show, which offers a whole lot more than just the old in-and-out.”

Animation, documentaries and experimental films that provide an “expedition into the twisted realm” also feature at shnit.


Made in South Africa

Thirteen films have made it to the last round of the Made in South Africa competition for local short films at shnit.

‘Umkhungo’ is one of these. It tells the story of a “disillusioned Johannesburg street thug who rescues an orphaned child with uncontrollable supernatural powers”.

“On the run, he must help the sickly boy master his gift before a superstitious family member finds them.”

Another local film is ‘Implosion’ which offers a “glimpse into the mind of a young man that suffers from multiple psychological disorders including the fear of time, the fear of sound frequencies, and multiple personality disorder”.

“The young man holds multiple identities within his mind and the film, told from the eyes of the shrink administrating the therapy, moves between himself as a boy and later as a father figure.”

‘Bokser’ meanwhile tells the story of a “young conscripted soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress, who flees from his military base and heads to the one place where he always felt at peace: his old boxing gym”.

“However, when two military policemen arrive looking for Willem, things quickly spiral out of control.”

You can catch some more of this psychological warfare on screen from South African storytellers – and some less worrying films “just like auntie used to make it” – in the Kaapse Bobotie section.


This article was published in The Big Issue magazine in September 2012. The Big Issue is a monthly publication sold by homeless persons in Cape Town, South Africa.



About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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