So here we are, drawing to a close of SSFF & Asia 2023, the 25th Edition. Our final Day 4 at Space O in the Omotesando Hills shopping & dining complex right next to Harajuku. Thanks to all who attended to a full house for the last 3 program screenings.
We started the day with the Asia International & Japan Program 11. This program featured shorts from China, S. Korea, & Japan.
Director Rhyme Lu came from China to represent his film “Eternal Sunday,” a not so distant futuristic love story. Based on a sci-fi novel, for Rhyme this was the perfect story to depict the feelings of isolation & loss of intimacy that the whole world had during the pandemic due to fear of infection & social distancing. After shooting for 4 days, he had to stop production due to Covid restrictions. Then the crew picked up again months later to finish with a few more days of production. A poignant & bittersweet love story.
Director Fukuda Momoko’s hilarious, high-energy yet deep-themed short “You Are Lit” follows the 2 protagonists as they go from sento to the streets of Koenji in the search for the “burning feet.” Based on a story by writer Kanako Nishi, the story is a fiercely ironic & comedic comment on Japanese society & it’s lack of progress in women’s empowerment & gender equality. But it’s done in such an over-the-top, J-pop style it’s gotta be hot abroad!
Ken Ochiai & his producer Shizuha Sanada brought their tender “friends in the night” story about a young man still unsure of his identity or where his future lies & his chance meeting with a drag queen in the night at a local park. All about not giving way to old social thinking & morals, accepting tolerance & diversity, & finally, following your own way.
International Program 8 had director Kaveh Tehrani an Iranian director from Norway, director Marcin Janos & his lead actor Darius Toczek from Poland & Liam Lo Pinto from the U.S. for a story about an Iranian boy growing up in Japan.
Kaveh’s roughly 5-minute long futuristic film about a near future where women can be provided with a digital hijab is a very current cautionary tale of how the digital world can also affect the spiritual one. He was able to cast his friend & one of the top actress Narges Rashidi (Gangs of London) as the lead & he hopes to make a feature in the near future.
The film “Sparrow,” is about an out of work & family alcoholic who is given a 2nd chance when he is recruited to appear in a film production that’s come to his city. Director Janos told us that there is a serious homeless situation in Poland & a lot of it is caused by alcoholism.
Finally, Liam Lo Pinto’s “The Old Crow” about an Iranian boy living in Japan who befriends an old woman at a graveyard where the boy works on his sketch book after school. Liam had lived here in Japan years ago & it was great to see how much the Japanese culture left an impression on him. The final reveal is sublime.
The final program, Asia International & Japan 12 features films from China, S. Korea & Japan.
“Nowhere Else” directed by Lee Kyeon-won from S. Korea is a very intimate story about a woman who lost her memory due to an accident returns to meet her then husband with her new husband from her new life. A very human drama with very fine actors in difficult roles. The director went through a 4-month casting search for his film that took 4 days to shoot. Brilliant.
Director Daishi Kato’s film “Alone” is only just over 5 minutes & he made this as a pilot or demo for a film. The story of a seemingly happy couple takes a very sudden turn into seething quite dark. Finely crafted & acted with a very sure hand directing.
So that’s that for SSFF & ASIA 2023. After 16 years with this festival, I’m always astounded, surprised & very humbled by the always high-quality submissions we receive year after year. And this year, finally, we were able to “get back to normal” & have screenings with big audiences & the “real, in person” participation of filmmakers from around the world.
Thanks always to the excellent sound & vision team at the venues, the amazing volunteers who make the festival happen & most of all our short film fans & audiences who made this 25th Anniversary year possible.
You can check out these Q&A’s for more detailed talks on our Youtube channel.
And now, let’s see who gets the awards & a chance to be considered for an Academy Award!