The iconic festival closes with big awards and a call to short filmmakers.
Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia officially concluded on June 21 with an inspiring awards ceremony that celebrated, front and center, the art of the short.
The livestreamed event began with the festival president Tetsuya Bessho remembering the origin of the festival. It started 23 years ago with short films by George Lucas in his university days.
This year, the 2021 festival received over 6,000 submissions from 120 countries and regions!
The MCs for the evening were the actors and famous anime voices Subaru Kimura and Kana Hanazawa, who, along with ambassador LiLiCo, launched the awards. The first award of the evening was the Cinematic Tokyo Competition. The Best Short Award/Governor of Tokyo Award went to And Then filmmaker Jenn Ravenna Tran. Congratulations were given by none other than the Tokyo Governor herself, Yuriko Koike.
Governor Koike had some inspiring words for everyone.
“Now more than ever, the power of film is being tested,” said Koike. “As we are globally taking on the Covid-19 as a substantial challenge... the film medium transcends borders and offers mutual understanding and empathy.”
Next, the Awards Ceremony introduced us to Naomi Kawase, Japan’s most celebrated female director, who was chosen as the official documentary filmmaker to the Tokyo Olympic Games. She asked her very young crew of filmmakers to join her on stage to explain how they were together working hard to capture every beautiful thing about Tokyo and Japan for the Olympics.
She spoke about the SSFF & ASIA and how important it is for the future of filmmaking, saying, “This cultural festival shall continue for 100 years, or 1000 years; that is a wish from my heart!”
For the Official Competition supported by Sony, award winners received their awards either virtually or in person, depending on what part of the world they were in.
Filmmaker Gustavo Milan, who won the International Competition Best Short Award, shared with the festival over video that he hopes his film Under the Heavers could "initiate a debate about the human condition, particularly immigrants leaving everything for better life."
Also tuning in remotely, filmmaker Rafael Manuel said that he was heartbroken not to be able to come in person to celebrate the win of Filipiñana for the Asia International Competition Best Short Award.
“Thank you for championing cinema,” said Manuel, addressing the festival. “Now more than ever we need cinema to remind us the empathy and patience required to connect with each other and ourselves.”
Finally, filmmaker Atsushi Hirai was able to receive his award in-person on stage, for the Japan Best Competition Award for Return to Toyama.
“Toyama is my home,” the now-expat said emotionally. “I always aspired to be a part of this festival... I’m so happy my dream came true.”
As the ceremony continued, Sony shared the cutting edge technology of LED walls and in-camera VFX behind their DIVOC-12 program, which features 12 shorts from 12 directors as a way to bring as much emotion and creative entertainment as possible during the pandemic.
Next up were additional prestigious awards in diverse categories, like the Smartphone Film Competition.
This was a brand-new category in SSFF & ASIA this year, and it broke the record for new entries.
The co-directors of the winning film, viewers:1, were on stage to accept their award in person. Their sci-fi short was filmed during the pandemic.
Co-director Yosuke Kobayashi said, “With a smartphone, you can film anywhere anytime.”
Adding to that was filmmaker and Juror Tetsuya Mariko, who said it was his first experience judging films shot by smartphones.
“This winning film represents a new era of entertainment while making you reflect on the current times.”
Another juror, Mike Plante, tuned in remotely to share how much he liked this movie, as a Sundance programmer and a “lover of weird movies!”
Next up were the Hoppy Happy award, given to the happiest film by a Japanese director, the Biogen Award for “making the impossible possible” with compassion, the Vertical Theater Competition Awards supported by Smash, which features films shot vertically/in portrait mode, the U-25 (under 25 years of age) Award, the Non-Fiction award, and the CG Animation Award.
Throughout the event, jurors, filmmakers, critics, and artists all remarked on the power of the short film.
“Until last year when I was a juror at the festival, I thought a short was a simple thing,” said the esteemed actress Mariko Tsutsui on stage. “But after this I realized, it’s a completely different genre. There are things that only short films can depict.”
Finally, the last award of the night was given out, the Grand Prix George Lucas Award. The award is selected from one of the three main competition films, and Tadashi Maeda came on stage to present the Grand Prix to Rafael Manuel, director of Filipiñana.
This concluded a remarkable celebration of short films and filmmakers.
You can watch the full event (with English translations) below.
Since SSFF & ASIA is an Oscar-qualifying festival, keep an eye out for these films at next year’s Academy Awards!
If you want to see all these creative and entertaining short films for yourself, you can stream them through the festival until June 30.
Check out the official festival website here.