Short Film is a genre in the film industry and by definition it is of short length. The film that the Lumiere Brothers (Auguste Lumiere [1862-1954] and Louis Lumiere [1864-1948]) produced and exhibited at the Salon Indien du Grand CafE9 in Paris on 28 December 1895 was the first short film of the world. Until 1898, they showed various films like A Boat at the Port and Baby's Breakfast. All of them were typical short films. The film of Robert Paul premiered in the Theatrascope machine in London on 25 March 1896, the film shown by Edison Company on 27 April and the film of Lumiere brothers premiered in their invented Cinematograph on 29 June were not shown for a long time. At the initial period of the film industry, all films were short in length. The concept of producing films long in length for commercial purposes came much later. Before the development of the story-based films, short films were in the currency.
The short film made an impact all around the world including the Indian subcontinent. Within the six months of the beginning of the production of commercial films, a few short films were showed at Watson Hotel in Mumbai, and all of them were short in theme and length. Maris Sestiere, an employee of the Lumiere Brothers, initiated this genre of film show in Mumbai. As a result, hiralal sen (1866-1917) showed clips of different films at the Classic Theatre in Kolkata at 9:00 pm on 9 February, 1901. At the beginning of the maintenance and exhibition of the story-based cinema in undivided Bengal, we find short films like Sarala, Bhromar, Alibaba, Hariraj, Dollila, Buddha Sitaram.
Until 1913, when the full length film was produced, all other films produced in the subcontinent were short films. For example, Satyabadi Raja Harish Chandra (1920), four reels; Shibratri, 6 reels (1921); Ma Durga, 7 reels (1921); Hindustan, 3 reels (1922); Shani Probhab (1922), Nartaki Tara (1922) and so on. Most of these films were premiered in Kolkata and produced by Jamshedji Framji Madan.
Following the trend of the films of Hollywood which are of two to three hours duration, feature films were being produced in the subcontinent. In Bangladesh, the time length of two and half hours is considered the standard length of a feature film. And these films are produced generally in 35 mm. Since the production cost of this type of film is high, the producers have to depend largely on the investors who are perhaps more concerned with dividend than with the artistic quality of a film. As studio-centric film production is very expensive, the entrepreneurs of this new trend wanted to produce films outside of studios, in 16 mm instead of 35 mm only in order to minimise the cost of production of a film.
Now, cameras and digital technologies are also used to produce films. In such productions, there is no tendency to increase the length of films by adding explicit sex, horror, repulsive and buffoonery scenes. They produce films on issues of everyday life, about which the commercial producers do not worry much. Hence, these producers go for easily available and portable 16 mm projectors. As a result, the producer became free from the studio-based control system. Now they can show their films in auditoriums or in tents away from the cinema halls, independently without depending on much logistic support. Conversely, in the mainstream of the film production distribution and exhibition are all beyond the control of the producers. In independent film production, the producer is also free in the selection of the plot. For example, Chaka was based on a story of carrying a dead boy on a bull cart. Such a plot is not commercially very profitable. Such a kind of independent films though long are termed as short film. For example, Nadir Nam Madhumati is a two and a half-hours long film, but, it is known as a short film.
For economic considerations, the production cost of such films is normally kept within limit. Hence, film stars who demand high remuneration are not usually included in the production of low cost short films, and the producers depend largely on the small-screen actors and actresses. For example, in the film Chitra Nadir Pare, of the chief characters of the film, excepting rawshan jamil (1931-2002), the performers like Taukir Ahmed, Mamtazuddin Ahmed and Afsana Mimi all belong to the genre of TV drama. An advantage of producing this kind of film is that, it can be produced by a group of friends, and the producers do not have to spend money on many people. Nor do they need to depend on any production companies or studios. However, the producer needs to be conversant with technical issues and the artistic aspects of films and must have organisational and logistic capabilities. Till now, proper exhibition system has not been arranged for the alternative course of film in the country.
The producers of short films encounter some problems, such as 1) Lack of a proper exhibition system; 2) lack of adequate investment opportunities; 3) small size of audience due to intellectual input; 4) small government support; 5) the envy, negligence and disregard by the vested interests. Some of the short fims produced in Bangladesh like Hulia, Chitra Nadir Pare, Agni Jamuna, Biswarnar Nadi, Iti Salma, Ful Kumar, Shilalipi etc. have received huge popularity. Similarly some of the short films producer like Tanvir Mokammel, Murshedul Islam, Tareque Masud, Shamim Akhtar, AKM Zakaria, Rashed Chowdury, Ashiq Mostofa etc. have also earned fame by displaying artistic skill in producing short films. [Khondakar Mahmudul Hasan]