Short Shorts Film Festival and Asia 2013

Last weekend saw the close of Japan's Short Shorts Film Festival and Asia 2013 which has been taking place over the past month in locations around Tokyo and Yokohama. The festival was started in 1999 in Harajuku, Tokyo by actor Bessho Tetsuya as a way of bringing the short film format to a Japanese audience. While in the beginning it concentrated mainly on foreign works a separate festival, the Short Shorts Film Festival Asia, developed in 2004 focused solely on shorts from Asia and Japan and the two festivals have been running parallel with each other ever since. Short Shorts is the biggest short film festival in Asia and is the only Japanese film festival accredited as an official qualifier of short films for the Academy Awards, meaning the grand prize winner is eligible for nomination.

This year's winner of the Grand Prix and Best Short Award in the International Competition was the UK produced Mass of Men, directed by Gabriel Gauchet. It follows the desperate measures taken by an unemployed man who arrives late for his job centre interview. In the Asia section Tina Pakravan took the award for her film It Was My City, a look at life and war. In the Japan competition Tanaka Kimie won with Kotobuki/To Us, the tale of a city girl visiting her hometown and finding things have changed. The festival also hosts a CG Animation Competition which was won by Autumn Leaves, a French production from Aude Danset and Carlos DeCarvalho.

In the short film format the most important factor is an original idea or concept that can impact upon the audience in the limited time available. Unfortunately compared to the rest of Asia, and the world for that matter, Japan seems to be seriously lagging in the ideas department, churning out the same dreary melodramas time and again. The winning film in the Japan competition Kotobuki/To Us was a grey and lifeless experience with an unlikeable protagonist which left me cold. In comparison with all the wonderful, vibrant material I got to see at this festival, it just didn't stand up.

One short I really enjoyed was a Korean comedy-drama called Dug-Goo TV which followed an old couple in a rural province who enjoy watching their favorite drama on their old television set. When the set breaks Doog-Gu, the husband, enters a competition to win a new one for his wife, but in a surprising twist wins something quite unexpected. The short was funny and charming with some great comic touches
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Out of Erasers - a kind of horror noir from Swedish animator and filmmaker Erik Rosenlund - also stood out. In a world where erasers are needed to combat a strange disease that takes over the body turning people into strange paper/pencil killers a woman is forced to run for her life.  The film looked great and with its out-of-time city setting and odd characters it had an off-kilter reality reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Jeunet's France.

The winning films will continue to be screened at the excellent Brillia Short Shorts Theatre in Yokohama until mid July.
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