The short film has long been the proving ground for filmmakers – a unique format that allows creators to explore and experiment with cinematic ideas. But in years past the short format has gone with little recognition.
Japanese actor Tetsuya Bessho wanted to change that and introduce his homeland to the possibilities of short film. In 1999, he launched a film festival in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo and screened six of George Lucas’ early shorts. The festival then became Short Shorts Film Festival in 2001. By 2004 it was accredited as a qualifying festival for the Academy Awards®, bridging east to west and bringing a spotlight to cinematic talents.
Also in 2004, with support from Tokyo Metropolitan Government, Short Shorts Film Festival Asia festival was established to open up opportunities to young filmmaking talents from throughout the eastern Pacific Rim. The two festivals are now held together as Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia (SSFF & ASIA)
To promote cultural exchange and collaboration, the Japan Foundation Asia Center has partnered with SSFF & ASIA to create the Southeast Asia Program & Symposium Project with the goal of focusing on the current status and future of Southeast Asian short films. This year the project will focus on and screen short films from five countries: Brunei, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
This year’s lineup is yet to be released but the films screened last year are as follows:
Along with the short film program there will be a major symposium hosted in June 2016, dedicated to developing the short medium throughout the region. This is a follow up to last year’s symposium event which welcomed the following panelists:
- Chea Sopheap: Cambodia – Deputy Director of Bophana Audiovisual Resource Center
- Yosep Anggi Noen: Indonesia – Filmmaker/Producer
- Athidxay Bouandaoheaung: Laos - Manager and co-founder of Doklao Media Center
- Derek Tan: Singapore – Co-founder of Viddsee.com
- Marie-Élaine Riou: Québec Canada – Programmer/Short Film Market Director at Saguenay International Short Film Festival
- Bertrand Rouchit: France – Clermont-Ferrand International Film Festival Head of Children/Young Audience program
In 2015, the topics of discussion included how short film is positioned in the market place, what educational resources are available to young filmmakers in terms of schools and training and how Asian countries can work together to foster a better environment for short films.
The project has established a website featuring columns periodically written by industry professionals that focus on the unique filmmaking challenges of the featured Asian countries. A sample column below from filmmaker Bety Reis captures the challenges of filmmaking in the small nation of Timor-Leste
Film is not only entertainment, for in Timor-Leste it can also play an important role in augmenting the nation’s identity. The island of Timor became fragmented under Indonesian occupation. Movement and communication between districts was limited and, to this day, many Timorese are not aware of the extent to which communities in other parts of the country fought against Indonesians during the struggle for independence. This has contributed to the country’s lack of unity, culminating in geographic tensions that led, in part, to the crisis in 2006 that saw the country on the brink of collapse.
Film can be considered a unique tool in the telling of Timor-Leste’s story. It can be used to demonstrate shared experiences and contribute to a sense of national identity with which comes stability and unity. In a country with few books, high levels of illiteracy, and numerous languages, film becomes a powerful way to develop a sense of nationhood. The Timorese Government recognizes its value through channels such as the civil education program and in its support of the open air screenings. However, film funding is still considered on a case-by-case basis and remains very limited.
Be sure to click over and check out the rest of this column and others.
Other SSFF & ASIA Projects
Though the deadline for submissions to SSFF & ASIA 2016 has already passed – there’s still a chance to get involved with the International Short Film Pitch Competition.
With the theme “Thrilling, Exciting, Moving“, you need to write a pitch for short films that will stir the emotions and have the ability to thrill, excite and move audiences.
The top five pitches submitted will be chosen in the primary selection. Following this, the author of the best pitch overall will be awarded prize money (1 million JPY for top winner) and be offered the chance to receive a production budget of up to 100 million JPY (approximately $800,000). The completed short film will have its world premiere at Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2017 and be submitted to film festivals around the globe thereafter.
December 1 (Tue), 2015 ~ February 29 (Mon), 2016
How to Enter
1. Upload your short film pitch in addition to completing the designated entry form in order to be considered for the primary selection. All elements listed below must be included in the pitch. Please note that the projected run time must be less than 25 minutes.
- Plot (250 words max)
- One line that sums up what kind of film this is
- Photographic images of the world you envisage
- Entrant profile
- Link to a showreel or individual links to past works