The West Virginia Mountaineer Short Film Festival highlights topical themes in contemporary culture. In addition to our normal categories, this year the festival invites submissions of works that explore the general theme of “health.” Taking stock of our collective situation, we see the issue of health as a subtext for the many systemic challenges we face, whether personal, social, political or environmental. In many instances, the health of these systems appears tenuous or faltering - sick perhaps.

We see civic and community institutions in decline, and regional economies unable to keep pace with global change.  In contrast, social ills such as the problems of mental health, opioid addiction and gun violence appear epidemic in nature. We see increasing tension and fear between racial, ethnic and other social groups; and growing distrust between communities and the governmental institutions tasked with serving them. We see faltering and outdated infrastructure, a burdened health care industry, and an education system increasingly characterized by issues of debt, finance and inequality. We see large-scale job displacement, ever widening disparities between income classes, and entire industries that have moved overseas.  We also see the growing and disturbing convergence of news, entertainment and social media, best epitomized by the Oxford Dictionaries’ selection of ‘post-truth’ as the 2016 Word of the Year. In apparent response to these changes, we see the growth of populism and nationalist expressions, confrontational rhetoric, and attempts to exploit these conditions, crystalized in the election of a president with a penchant for fomenting emotion and shaping the media spectacle. And looming large behind it all, we see a general sense of breakdown in communication, fellowship and empathy. 

We see reflections of this instability globally. It manifests in the rise nationalism and populism across Europe, in the revolutionary fervor spreading across the middle east, in the worldwide spread of terrorism and religious extremism, and the endless waves of immigrants and refugees in search of stability and peace. Alongside these, are the ever-present reminders of our ailing global climate, with erratic shifts in weather patterns, dramatic increases in biological extinction rates, and the unprecedented loss of entire ecosystems.

It is clear that in all of these realms, and at all of these levels, our collective decisions and choices have produced a general condition of instability and distress – one of sickness perhaps. What remains to be seen is how these dynamics will continue to evolve. We invite works - whether documentary, narrative or abstract - that reflect on these and other issues not mentioned here, relating to the theme of health.