Film is life: its viewing forms a part of daily life, and the subject matter, no matter how speculative, owes completely to the happening of life.
Usually held in June, the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia was postponed to September this year. During the delay, amid global turbulence, the theme of the festival was changed from “borderless” to “(new) borderless.” From the fluctuation of national economies to the slight gesture of covering a cough, life has changed. Festival organizers hope to account for this change through modes of viewing and, in future years, through the stories they choose to screen and stream.
Perhaps the short films they picked this year could not have anticipated the pandemic, but the lineup certainly resounds with audiences worried about disaster, and weary from how our leaders have handled it. Bong Joon-ho’s 1994 student film Incoherence questions the dignity of certain moral authorities (with a characteristic comedic bite fully realized in Parasite). Another special screening is the early Taika Waititi short Two Cars, One Night (2004), which maintains a sweeter view of humanity.
The majority of the Short Shorts selections are from lesser-known creators and range from animation to live action, from gritty realism to anachronism and myth. Here are five standouts. These depict individual and interpersonal tussles; and reckonings of career, friendship and family that we actually might crave in this isolation period.
1. Leeha Kim, Mascot
Like that of every good animator, Kim’s fictional world is a critique of our own. His Seoul-like setting is populated with blank-eyed animals, and his protagonist is a fox whose dream is to be the city mascot. To this end, he goes to a mascot training academy, works at various part-time jobs and takes out loans to undergo plastic surgery. Kim’s cute cast and atmospheric tone makes the tale all the more chilling, making for a timely commentary on idol culture and the human (animal?) toll of the entertainment industry.
Screening: Sep 20 | 15:40–17:30 | @ iTSCOM
2. Ryushi Lindsay, Idol
Anglo-Japanese filmmaker Ryushi Lindsay works across documentary and fiction – his filmography includes Kokutai, which explores the fascist imagery of Japan’s national baseball tournaments. Accordingly, Idol is a fictional story drenched in social realism. Miyabi (Ryoka Neya) is the single mother of Kasumi (Miyu Sasaki; you likely recognize her as little Lin/Yuri from Shoplifters). Miyabi frets when Kasumi, a child idol, is replaced in her group by a more popular girl. She must get her daughter back in the group or the two risk destitution.
Screening: Sep 23 | 13:30–15:20 | @ spaceo
3. Karishma Dev Dube, Bittu
Inspired by a school poisoning in 2013, Bittu tracks a fierce friendship between two schoolgirls, Bittu (Rani Kumari) and Chand (Renu Kumari), who live in a remote Himalayan village. Dube says, “I’ve always tried to explore individuality and the cost that often comes with it,” apparent in her eight-year-old protagonist Bittu. When tragedy strikes at school, this individuality is brought to the fore, while her relationship with Chand is eclipsed.
Screening: Sep 20 | 13:30–15:20 | @ iTSCOM
4. Leni Lauritsch, We Deliver a Smile (Wir liefern ein Lächeln)
The festival’s International Program screens short films from outside Asia. Austrian writer and director Leni Lauritsch examines the psychological toll of racism, and the moral dilemmas it imposes upon its victim. Food delivery man Karim must endure the power games of his customer Bridgitte, who does anything to get him to stay at her home. The lines between the old woman’s loneliness and her possible racism grow blurry, and ultimately Karim must choose between morality and compassion.
Screening: Sep 21 | 17:50–19:40 | @ iTSCOM
5. Noboru Suzuki, Incarnation
In a Coenesque move, Suzuki infuses mundanity – particularly, a coffee shop outside of town – with mythic and bizarre tones. The film is dialogic, depicting an exchange between an old woman who claims to be a 400-year-old vampire and a con man who tries to swindle her out of her money.
Screening: Sep 19 | 17:50–19:40 | @ iTSCOM