National Cinema Centre (CNC) hopes its Le Jour Le Plus Court initiative will encourage thousands of screenings of short films on the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

In France, the summer solstice on June 21 has been marked for the last 30 years by the famous Fete de la Musique, a celebration of music in which musicians perform for free in squares and on the street across the country on the longest day of the year.

Now, the CNC is launching a similar event, Le Jour le Plus Court (The Shortest Day) devoted to the short film on the shortest day of the year, Dec 21.

“The message is simple, on this date, marking the shortest day and longest night, let’sshow shorts everywhere, from on screens to walls,” CNC chief Eric Garandeau said at a press conference on Monday. “It’s a participative festival open to everyone.”

Exhibitors MK2 and Gaumont Pathé, institutions La Cinemathèque Francaise and L’Institut Lumière and the AFCAE art-house cinema network, comprising some 2,000 theatres across the country, have already signed up to screen special programmes of shorts that day.

The European Network of Young Cinema Nisi Masa and the Paris-based cinema collective Collectif Prod will also organize events throughout the day.

French video sharing website Dailymotion will devote its homepage to the event, paying special homage to Michel Gondry [pictured], who is an honorary guardian of the initiative alongside fellow director Jacques Perrin and actresses Jeanne Moreau and Mélanie Laurent. 

“Short films are essential…They give emerging directors an opportunity to do something more personal, to explore and experiment,” Gondry told the press conference. “I remember the first time I heard actors saying the words I had written, I came out in a cold sweat. That first short taught me a lot in terms of where to place the camera and how its positioning impacted the performances of the actors.”

The CNC also wants community centres, libraries, museums and other public spaces such airports and train stations as well individual members of the public to get involved. Screenings are being planned, for example, on some of the country’s high speed TGV trains.

As part of the operation, France’s short film agency has put together a catalogue of 250 shorts films ranging from one minute to 59 minutes in length, for which the CNC has acquired the distribution rights for Dec 21. The event is open to any short film, however, not just the titles in the catalogue.  

On Oct 10, the CNC will launch a dedicated website where participants can register their planned initiatives and download information.

Launched in 1982, La Fete de la Musique has since inspired similar celebrations in some 300 cities in more than one hundred other countries ranging from Algeria to the United States with events such as Make Music Cambridge in Massachusetts.

Could the same happen with the Le Jour le Plus Court? Garandeau certainly hopes so.

This year, the initiative will cross French borders into Germany through a night-long programme on Franco-German broadcaster Arte and related events are being planned as far afield as China through France’s network of Institut Francais cultural institutions.