Thursday, June 16, 2011

Short Shorts Film Festival 2011

June 16th-26th

Short films normally get shunted around festival line-ups. They play against the schedule big hitters in some small inaccessible venue with little publicity or fanfare; not so the Tokyo Short Shorts Film Festival. For over ten years it has worked around the premise that a lot can be done in 25 minutes. Dedicated entirely to shorts it is the largest of its kind in Asia, with a reach that extends far beyond the continent. This year 68 films from 23 countries will be screened from the 16th to the 26th of June. The event’s scope, however, can be measured not only in the intake of films, but in it’s annual tours across Japan, and special events that have been held in Myanmar, Mexico, Singapore, and L.A. Its mark on the cinema-going trends of Japan’s capital can be seen in the opening of the Brillia Short Shorts cinema in Minato Mirai. Showing new work along with the 700 strong back catalogue of entries in monthly programs, it is a monument to the festival’s first decade. The festival is held in central Tokyo and Yokohama, with the heart of the event being the Harajuku venues of Omotesando Hills and La Foret museum.

The films are divided into groups and then again into programs. It is a good system that allows to you find what you want, giving you a few surprises at the same time. . The Japan Asia section looks great this year, with films from all over the continent. Park Chan-Wook (Oldboy) and his brother Chan-Kyong's film Night Fishing, which was shot entirely on an iPhone, is one to watch. Of course, being a Chan-Wook film it will be incredibly violent, expect some unorthodox use of fishing rods. Other highlights include Bonz (Program A&J-B) about a mysterious floating iron ball that seeks out a boring old man, Oh, Happy Day! (A&J-C) about a girl that gets muddled up in a violent lovers tiff, Left or Right A&J-D) looking at a typically indecisive Japanese man, and the mysteriousNapolitan, Sea (A&J-F). There is also a chance to see some upcoming talent in the FC Tokyo program, not based on the football team rather the Tokyo Film School of Arts students. The majority of films will have both English and Japanese subtitles.

The international line-up boasts some big names with films featuring Jesse Eisenberg (Social Network), Keira Knightley (Adaptation) and Colin Firth (The King's Speech). Joseph Gordon Levitt's work Spark will be screened, too. It looks like an intriguing piece that blends the past and the present with some nice surreal elements. But, behind the big names there is quality in all of the programs. Oppressed Majority (I-A) a French film about sexism in a parallel universe where women rule the roost, the Brazilian All You Need is Love (Program I-C) that takes us back to the criminal gangs of the favelas, Last Passengers(I-D), a film that seems to be channeling the spirit of Amorres Perros, and Touch (I-F) by Jen McGowan all look great.

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of J-League football Short Shorts is screening a special section of football related shorts. Stories look at the heart behind the sport, and with the recent debacle of the FIFA elections who couldn't do with a reminder of that. Three films in particular stand out amongst this group; The fascinating story of Panyee FC about a floating fishing village in Thailand and its unlikely kids football team looks brilliant, Oscar nominee Soccer Story from the spiritual homeland of soccer on the making of a legend, and Offside a fictional account of the football match between German and British soldiers in the first World War. Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry's film Eight about a young Liverpool supporter is featured here, too.

Keeping with the times there is a special 3D programme being shown exclusively at Cinemart in Shinjuku. 3D is still a massive opinion divider for me, watching the dulled colour of the blockbusters through the murky glasses has left me a little cold in the past. However, it is genuinely exciting to see some offerings from outside of the mainstream, and it'll be exciting to see what they do with the medium. There are several Japanese offerings, Run! which captures rural Japan in stereoscope nicely, Fragrance a story of a girl who is secretly in love with a musician, and the arty 2028 Belief by Chinese director Chen Xi. Some of the films have clearly been constructed with the notion of 3D as the central concept and look fascinating, the visual treats of the kaleidoscopic Uyuyui, Plasticity 3D which looks like an art installation, and the French Shooting all look to be genuinely innovative.Again demonstrating that the festival has its finger on the pulse, CG films have a ten deep program showcasing some of the weird and wonderful. It looks like it will have its fair share of Japanese oddities.

The festival has links to the American Oscars and works as a preliminary stage for Oscar entry making it an even bigger chance for film-makers to get some international recognition. The ties don't end there, as the festival will also be showing all the films selected in the Short Film section from this years Oscars. Luke Matheny's God of Love took that statuette home with his tale of a darts enthusiast who finds some darts that have the power to girls fall in love with him. Unusual love stories feature elsewhere in the programme with The Crush from Ireland, the story of a primary school boy who falls for his teacher. The inventive Madagascar, a Journey Diary which uses the pages of a travel journal to show the customs and lifestyle of Madagascar.

Rounding up the best of the rest the Canon EOS program is a selection of films made using the EOS camera itself. The camera shoots in digital high-definition and allows for films to be shot with much smaller crews. The Lets Travel program is a series of films made to promote tourism in Japan and Korea which has some solid entries. There are also Italian program to commemorate the 150th anniversary of unification, and a French program that offers a selection from this years French Film Festival. The Stop Global Warming! section with the excellent apocalyptic Dream is another to mark out on the schedule.

It should be a good year for Short Shorts, enjoy yourselves.