Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia director Seigo Tono has been with the event since its second edition in 2000, when it was called the American Short Shorts Film Festival and showed only U.S. films. Since then it has evolved into what Tono describes as “a global event, featuring cutting-edge shorts from around the world.”
“Our aim is to make short films better known as an entertainment medium,” Tono tells The Japan Times. “We also hope to offer audiences in Japan a more nuanced view of the world, one not found in widely available feature films here. At the same time, we support young Japanese filmmakers by raising the bar for local short films and offering a gateway to the international stage.”
The festival has also kept pace with the digital revolution, switching from projection in the 16 mm, 35 mm and D-2 video formats to digital betacam tapes and finally HDCAM tapes and ProRes data files. Meanwhile, the selection committee has shifted from watching films on VHS cassettes (“Imagine having nearly a thousand VHS cassette tapes in a tiny office space!”) to Vimeo and other online streaming platforms. This has made submitting work easier, with more than 5,000 shorts now arriving annually.
It doesn’t mean, however, that content has kept pace.
“We see films that are technically high quality, but we rarely see shorts that are truly original,” Tono notes. “Many of the themes and subjects have already been done by someone else.”
On the positive side, the festival has given young filmmakers a boost toward acceptance and recognition at larger events. One recent example is 2012 Grand Prix winner Atsuko Hirayanagi, whose short “Oh Lucy!,” starring veteran Kaori Momoi as an introverted office worker who finds a new, more confident personality through English, won second prize in the Cinefondation Selection of the 2014 Cannes International Film Festival. Also, two winners of the festival’s Audience Award later took home Oscars in the Best Short Film category of the Academy Awards.
What are the highlights of this year’s edition? Tono points to a new program of six Southeast Asian films that the festival will present in cooperation with the Japan Foundation Asia Center, as well as a symposium on the current state and future of Southeast Asian short films.
“With the screening program and the symposium, we hope to provide some deep insights into what Southeast Asia is facing now,” Tono says.
Also new is a program of 11 shorts, both animated and live action, targeted at kids, selected with the support of the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival in France, the world’s largest short film festival.
“If your readers have small children, this is a program to watch,” Tono says. “Actually, adults can enjoy them too.”
Yet another recommendation is the War and the Power to Live program, whose six shorts examine the issue of war from various perspectives, some quite unusual.
“Not only armed conflicts, but also terrorism and urban crimes lead to loss of precious human lives,” Tono says. “Even we Japanese cannot ignore it anymore as something unrelated to us. Since 2015 represents a major milestone for looking back at the sacrifices made in World War II, this program gives you an opportunity to think about the real meaning of ‘living in peace’ with your loved ones.”
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