Film festivals are one of the best places to see, meet, and connect with new and established filmmakers from across the world. These are places that celebrate the creativity of indie and short directors, which is why we are some of our favorite places to find up-and-coming filmmakers that are taking risks with original stories. 

That is one of the reasons we look forward to the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia every year. The festival was founded in 1999 as the Short Shorts Film Festival (SSFF), then added a program for Asian short films in 2004, establishing this Academy Award-accredited fest as SSFF & ASIA with the support of the Governor of Tokyo. 

2023 marks the 25th anniversary of the festival, which brought a star-studded gathering of renowned actors, directors, and industry professionals from around the world to celebrate indie and short filmmaking. This year's fest takes place from Jun. 6-26. 

The fest has already announced a few winners and some great insight from first-time filmmakers during SSFF & ASIA 2023’s opening ceremony. Let's take a look!

Short Film Are Already Winning Big

About 200 films were carefully selected from over 5,215 submissions, including 5,196 entries from 120 countries and regions across the world. In addition to showcasing outstanding short films, the festival introduced various special projects and announced five prestigious awards: the Shibuya Diversity Award, the U-25 Project, the Milbon Beauty Award, the J-wave Sound of Cinema Award, and the Global Spotlight Award.

Sorami Habu’s animated short film DOCOOK took home the U-25 Project Best Short Award. The film follows a little girl staying home alone, trying to occupy her time until something unexpected happens. 

Christine Doyon received the Shibuya Diversity Award for her short film, Margot’s Sister, which tells the story of Margot, a pre-teen who is struggling with her identity while caring for her intellectually disabled sister in an after-school program. 

Saul_freed_-_wild_summon_logo_002_0'Wild Summon'Credit: Courtesy of SSFF & ASIA

WILD SUMMON was awarded the J-Wave Sound of Cinema Award. Directed by Karni Arieli and Saul Freed, the animated short takes the wild salmon’s dramatic life cycle a step further by giving the salmon a human form. 

Åsa Ekman’s LIVE TILL I DIE won the Milbon Beauty Award. Set in Stockholm, the short film looks at the close relationship between a care worker and a 99 year-old-resident without a family of her own. 

There was heavy competition for the Global Spotlight Award at this year’s fest. With films from Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Wim Wenders, Sally Potter, and Seo In-guk, there was a lot on the line for these filmmakers who had the global spotlight on them. However, Seo In-guk won the award for his experimental short film, TRAP by SEO IN GUK, which revolves around the internal pressures of the protagonist and his attempt to break out of his own mind and express his creativity without limitations. 

Trap04'TRAP by SEO IN GUK'Credit: Courtesy of SSFF & ASIA

Celebrating First-Time Directors and Their Insights 

At the opening ceremony, many esteemed actors who are making their directorial debuts at this year’s festival started a conversation about the challenge they encountered as first-time directors during the 3rd Actors Short Film Projects produced by WOWOW, a feeling that many of us have, are, or will be experiencing throughout our filmmaking careers. 

Kengo Kora shared his experience creating, stating, "The script was both fun and difficult. It took me half a year to produce this project. Previously, I had attempted to write a script that I wanted to work on someday, but I found it challenging. However, this time, I dedicated myself to the process."

Hiroshi Tamaki expressed his creative process on Count 100, saying, "I connected the words that seemed to convey a message out of the hundred that came to my mind, and thus, the story unfolded. Although it was challenging to convey my vision to the staff, the process was simply 'fun,' and I wished to continue shooting indefinitely. Reluctantly, I had to appear as an actor due to the rule that requires it.”

Count_100_chang_mian_xie_zhen_b'Count 100'Credit: Courtesy of SSFF & ASIA

Tao Tsuchiya, who took on the roles of director and screenwriter, expressed her delight, stating, "It was a joyous experience. Participating in the casting process, which is usually beyond my actor's purview, provided valuable lessons, further deepening my respect for the crew. Arimura Kasumi's role presented unique challenges, but I firmly believed that she was the only one capable of portraying the delicate and intricate nature of the character."

Taishi Nakagawa, who directed No Direction Home, emphasized, "Although the story is not based on personal experiences, it showcases three boys representing a specific era. My goal was to vividly portray the youth of today, including their language, by creating a work that resonates with people of the same generation." 

Mansai Nomura, who wrote and directed Tiger Torment, added, "For the shooting, we chose an intersection as the location, which required us to pause whenever a car passed by. As the day drew to a close, amid the cleanup, I decided to film a scene of myself dancing alone at midnight, which presented a battle due to the limited two-day shoot."

No_direction_home_chang_mian_xie_zhen__0'No Direction Home'Credit: Courtesy of SSFF & ASIA

25 years is a huge milestone for any film festival. SSFF & ASIA is a staple in the film community, especially for first-time filmmakers who are creating short films to showcase their current talents and learn more about what it takes to make a great film. There are infinite possibilities with SSFF & ASIA, maybe even an Oscar nomination, so find creative inspiration by checking out the free short films at this year’s fest. 

The great part about SSFF & ASIA is that you can still watch all of these award-winning short films and the extensive list of other great shorts online here.

What are you waiting? Let's get to watching great short films from around the world now!