The best of Fribourg Film Festival shorts

Film vultures on the hunt for culture will delight in Festival Scope, a festival-on-demand website accessible to cinephiles around the world for free (but you need to secure virtual tickets as they are limited).

This is my go-to website if I need an art-house fix in short format. In a world saturated with mind-numbing entertainment, Festival Scope is your hub for soul-stirring short films featured in recently concluded prestigious film festivals. From Cannes to Locarno —the site features nearly 60 important film festivals around the world.

The 38th edition of Fribourg International Film Festival (FIFF) took place from 15th to 24th March 2024 in Fribourg, Switzerland, and so some of the short films (in competition, included) are now available to stream on until 15 April.

FIFF is a highly respected fest in the European festival circuit as it champions visually superior African, Latin American and Asian films.

I checked out some of the featured entries from the 2024 Short Films International Competition and here are my top three:


This bagged the FIFF Best International Short Film Award and the CH Cinema Network Award.

The Iranian short documentary shockingly opens with Mrs. Iran, who looks 70 years old but states that she’s just 30.

With this bewildering information, director Marjan Khosravi manages to immediately open the eyes of the viewer to a life that is alien to many of us free women: the systematic discrimination against Iranian women.

Mrs. Iran is the first wife of Sultan Mohammad. The second wife, Sara, also lives with them in the mountains. It’s not a pretty picture of a blended family with a total of 12 kids — but a picture of a labor force.

Sultan, with nonchalance, even tinkers with the idea of getting a third wife, because there’s too much work to do in the mountains. Women here are goat-herders, goat-milkers, caregivers, cooks, cleaners, hunters, toiling 24/7 to serve the men. Marriage is equivalent to forced labor.

The exquisite visuals, evocative of National Geographic photographs, are a stark contrast to the disturbing gender apartheid. Khosravi uses natural lighting, resulting in stunning imagery of light, shadows and vibrant colors. Every frame provokes thought and takes the breath away. There are scenes that are a bit indulgent, but nevertheless, there is power in this short.

(4 out 5 stars)


In this deeply ruminative Bangladeshi short, we hear the disembodied voice of a disillusioned architect as we are transported to Dhaka. There, in the capital city, director Mehedi Mostafa immerses us in the mundane and the repetitive: the endless building of concrete structures. Within the mechanical urban cycle, there is a great sense of lethargy articulated by a philosopher-slash-city dweller

Through snapshots of the chaos, construction work, traffic and incessant noise (and at one point a startling shot of a bleeding cow), the architect’s narration — brimming with longing for the past, as early as his ancestors’ village, and way back before cities were built and swallowed us — strikes a deep-seated sadness for a different type of existence.

Deep in the concrete jungle, we experience his fantasy of quietude, meaning and peace. Such a profound 15-minute experience.

(5 out 5 stars)


Set in a boxy 4:3 aspect ratio, the experience feels like peering into someone else’s dream disturbed by some medication. But it’s pretty cool. This is the type of art-house that causes cognitive absorption.

Bathed in grainy texture, the film’s mood is plaintive. Desolate forests, an invalid man with empty eyes stuck in bed and a tale of runaway cows. Plotless but packed with layers of discomfort.

At the center of Ali Alizadeh’s Iranian short is an old man. You feel his sense of loss from the disappearance of his cow. Trapped in a hut with the stench of illness and disability, the old man’s loss becomes increasingly palpable. When he screams for his cow in the forest, your screen almost bleeds with his desperation. That’s how visceral this short is.

The next scenes are intense. The back of a cow, then some insanely unpredictable turn of events. Then an apocalyptic planetary crash to complete this deliciously surreal cinematic outing.

(5 out 5 stars)