May 30, 2019
Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2019 called action on its annual program of short film screenings and awards, taking place at venues across Tokyo until mid-June, during an opening ceremony in the capital’s Shibuya Ward on Wednesday.
The curtain raiser for the Academy Awards qualifying SSFF & ASIA 2019, the largest international short film festival in Asia, was held at a hall in the Shibuya Hikarie commercial complex.
As hosts of the ceremony, SSFF & ASIA founder, the Japanese actor Tetsuya Bessho, along with Festival Ambassador, Japan-based Swedish TV personality and film critic LiLiCo, were first down the event’s red carpet.
The pair introduced the 21st edition of the festival which this year is being held under the theme of “Cinematic Attitude,” -- reflecting the diversity inherent to a film festival and the universal power of cinema and moving images, according to festival organizers.
While official competition awards, including the George Lucas Award Grand Prix and three Best Short Awards, the winners of which become eligible for an Academy Award nod next year, will be handed out later in the festival program, SSFF & ASIA 2019 launched straight into its celebration of film-making talent using the opening ceremony to hand out a number of honors. Among these were awards for short films exploring themes of tourism in Japan.
The 8th Visual Tourism Award (Japan Tourism Agency Commissioner’s Award) went to “Three Ojisan Relax In Hyuga,” coming out of Hyuga City in Miyazaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan.
The documentary short, for which Hyuga City, on the island of Kyushu, invited three stressed-out middle-aged businessmen to the region to relax (and make their surfing debut), came out on top of 10 finalists selected from 313 entries.
Collecting the award was Mayor of Hyuga City, Kouhei Touya, who was accompanied by the city’s Tourism Ambassador, Japanese ballet dancer and Hyuga native, Kazuhiro Nishijima.
(Mayor of Hyuga City, Kouhei Touya collects the 8th Visual Tourism Award)
“The ocean around Hyuga has really high, great waves that are host to international surfing contests. I'd like to try surfing myself but until now I haven't really had the chance so from now I think it would be nice if could have both surfing and dance in my life,” said Nishijima of the region’s reputation as a popular destination for wave riders.
“I have tried it (surfing) once, though. Being able to stand on the board towards the end, that feeling of standing on the ocean, it’s a really amazing feeling.”
Presenting the award was commissioner of the government’s Japan Tourism Agency, Hiroshi Tabata, who reflected on the role of film in the tourism industry during the presentation.
“There are many foreigners visiting Japan and it's important to have them visit many regions of the country,” said Tabata.
“Through film we can soon introduce Japan's nice places and its landscapes, so it’s an important promotional tool.”
Honors were also awarded to film makers taking part in the “Save The Earth! Competition.” Launched in 2008 by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, “Save The Earth!” highlights those films that explore and offer ideas about how to approach environmental issues.
German director Max Breuer was present at the ceremony to collect the competition’s Best Short Award (Minister’s Award, the Ministry of Environment) for the 2018 film short “BREATHE!” which he co-directed with countryman Mattias Kreter.
Also present at the opening ceremony was Greek director Dimitris Gkotsis who traveled to some 26 countries in the making of his documentary, “Fourth Wall,” which picked up the competition’s J-WAVE Award, voted for by listeners of the Tokyo-based radio station.
“I want to thank the festival for having me here. It's a deep honor," said Gkotsis on receiving his award.
“Although I come from very far away we share something deep in common, which is heritage and culture.”
(Director Dimitris Gkotsis on stage at the opening ceremony)
Rounding out the SSFF & ASIA 2019 opening ceremony, Japanese actress Yoshino Kimura and the pop star and dancer Exile Akira, a member of the all-male J-Pop group Exile, took to the stage to talk about the film projects, “Ladies for Cinema Project” and “Cinema Fighters,” respectively.
(Japanese actress Yoshino Kimura introduced the “Ladies for Cinema Project” during the opening ceremony of Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 219 - supplied image)
The newly established “Ladies for Cinema Project” is making its bow at SSFF & ASIA 2019, aiming to shed more light on, and offer support to, female creators in the industry.
“I saw a lot of works from many countries and what struck me the most was, among so many different nationalities and religions I saw women dealing with the same kind of troubles, the same kind of problems,” said Kimura on her experience of watching works from female creators for the project.
“In countries with similar cultures or, conversely, those with completely different cultures, women are dealing with the same troubles. It was a real learning experience for me,” said the actress.
The project will showcase selected works from female directors during the festival and is one of a number of new additions to this year's SSFF & ASIA. Along with online streaming and projects aimed at unearthing young film-making and acting talent, “Ladies for Cinema Project” sees organizers looking to keep the festival evolving as Japan enters a new era.
Around 10,000 short films from 130 countries and regions were received by the organizers of Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 219 ahead of the opening ceremony. Some 200 of these will be screened during the festival which runs until Sunday June 16, across five venues in Tokyo.
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