So we’ve come to the last day of screenings at venues. It’s been a great return to
Itscom Hall in Futako Tamagawa that began on Thursday. The Futako Tamagawa area seemed back to normal (although everyone smartly still wears masks here) with huge crowds at the shopping & dining areas adjacent to & near the station.
We started with the Animation Program 3 which included this year’s Digital Frontier Grand Prix 2022 Winner, “Frank the Pig” directed by young filmmaker Hiroshi Imafuku. This a very very cool anime for adults – surreal, hard-boiled & cool.
Our next program was the Non-Fiction Program – 3 which includes one of the most intriguing docs that raised a lot of conversation, “A Man in Chain.” It’s about Issa, in a small village in Ghana who everyone thinks is “mad” & is chained to a tree naked throughout the year for 14 years. There is a slow reveal that’s heart-breaking & yet raises questions at the same time. Excellent.
Our final program of the day & of the festival in venues saw 2 sets of guests for the post-screening Q&A’s.
1st up was director Yeongi Park, actor Hiroyuki Nishio & producer Lee Sechan. This film is a perfect example of short filmmaking with 1 set (a taxi interior), 3 characters & a heart-warming story about wanting to go back home again, that’s brilliantly told in 11 minutes! (we screeners love that!) What was astounding about this 1-take film is that director Park told us it took 3 HOURS to shoot. At our festival, we normally hear about a production having 2 – 3 days to shoot. A week is a luxury! But 3 HOURS?! And a 1-take style. Blows my mind. In addition, I asked that they must have rehearsed extensively since he wanted to shoot it in 1 long take. Well, they rehearsed for 3 hours. WOW!
Now our final Q&A of the festival was simply a star-studded affair. The film “Senko-Hanabi” is a story of a young woman coming home in less than good circumstances.
The film was shot in Yame, the hometown of director Hitomi Kuroki, a major actress & star, & stars Hana Hizuki. Both are originally from the world famous Takarazuka Revue, a show theater, troupe & school that has a history going back over 100 years. Director Kuroki has had an extensive career in film & TV & has directed 4 films. She told us that she had the desire to shoot a film in her hometown of Yame, a small town in Fukuoka Prefecture in Kyushu, one of the original areas that handmade “senko-hanabi” fireworks & is a traditional craft handed down generation to generation. She also said that she immediately thought of Takarazuka mate Hana Hizuki in the lead role of Miki & was very happy she was able to cast her. Hana had the audience laughing when she told us that the director would set the casting call for 7AM & when Hana arrived on set, Hitomi wanted to start shooting at 7:01!
Hitomi was very generous when she told us that the river that’s in the key final scene was a place she went to often when she was growing up there & at 1 point, she thought she was going to drown there! There was an audible gasp in the packed room! I think almost all of Japan were relieved that she lived through it!
So our final day here at Itscom Hall in Futako Tamagawa was a wonderful way to end our run of screenings. BIG shout outs to the always top-notch audio & visual tech crews who run the films seamlessly, the excellent volunteers who guide the audience smoothly in & out of the venues & as always, big thanks with love to the short film fans who support & give us their love for the past 24 years!
WOW! 25th Anniversary next year!
Lastly, always BIG BIG thanks & respect to all the filmmakers who made the films & submitted them to us. Whether selected or not, award-winners or not, you are all champions!
Now it’s on to the Award Ceremony, always a lavish affair, at the historic Meiji Jingu Kaikan (Hall) tomorrow.
Now more than ever,
Love & Peace!