Short-film festival holds Tokyo edition

by Cameron Allan Mckean

Staff Writer

Short-film fever is hitting Tokyo this month, with festivals planned in arty-nooks and cinema-crannies across the capital. But not all short-film festivals are created equal — the good ones are both cleverly curated and take daring approaches in how they screen films.

The Future Shorts Festival, which began in London in 2004, is now held in more than 300 cities, including Tokyo. Films are curated by the London team and hosted locally across 90 countries.

Tokyo producer Makiko Watanabe thinks this open, flexible approach, is what makes Future Shorts special; it’s a festival where different organizers around the world, “create their own space,” she writes via email from London.

What further separates this festival from the others is its focus on films with “social issues as a background.” But this isn’t heavy-handed conscience bashing — the films are passionately (not perfectly) crafted human stories, giving poetically off-beat perspectives to modern problems. And they’re also pretty funny, especially “Tooty’s Wedding,” a U.K. tale about a neurotic woman’s trip to a wedding, with her horny, idiotic husband. Another highlight is “Jonah,” a be-careful-what-you-wish-for story about an enormous jumping fish (and no, it’s not poorly-rendered in CGI), which makes a man and his town world famous; an allegory for the damaging effects of tourism.

Seven films are being shown this year — all vetted as being A-Grade by other film festivals, including Sundance — but Watanabe’s favorite is “Svamp,” for its authentic, unsophisticated portrayal of colliding emotions in a Swedish housing estate.

We live in an age when sharing a “film experience” can mean scrolling down to read the comments on YouTube. Watanabe thinks it’s important to share the experience in-person, where you can see how everyone reacts.

Future Shorts Festival will be held at 3331 Arts Chiyoda, a repurposed junior high school in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, on May 16 and 17. For more information, visit www.futureshorts.com.