American Short Shorts Film Festival

American Short Shorts Film Festival

Program B, with special guests

Egyptian Theatre, Hollywood • May 1, 2003

The “American Short Shorts Film Festival” is a diverse, international celebration of short films that launches in Tokyo and travels throughout Japan. The purpose of the festival is to showcase short films (under 40 minutes in length) as a pure form of entertainment and legitimate work of art. Anyone who has attended a film festival will surely remember the shorts they screened. It’s astounding to see how the filmmakers can package so much information with limited amounts of time and resources and it’s wonderful to see a festival pay homage to this slice of filmmaking.

Now in its fifth year, the ASSFF event held its second US screening at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles and I was thrilled to catch the second night of festivities. The range of films presented was thrilling, from drama to comedy, animation to epic historical reenactments — most under ten minutes!

The ASSFF has always stressed the importance of short films in the careers of big name directors, so to kick off the screenings for the night was Alexander Payne’s short “Carmen”. The director of About Schmidt and Election has clearly come a long way since his mid-’80s silent comedy homage to the opera.

“SUZUKI” was the first of the new breed. A hilarious look at the future of dating in Japan combining live action with some funky effects including a chimpira (Japanese for “dick” or player) making a cameo. Clocking in at just over a minute this short was so funny I was sad to see it end and eagerly await more work from its creators. They were on hand after the screening to discuss the production, which was completed at an advertising firm the gang worked in. A DIY kind of thing! Awesome.

“Fish Never Sleep” by Gaelle Dennis is an animated affair about a sushi bar worker and her agonizing insomnia. The subtleties involved with this piece are gorgeous, enveloping you into her world of fish and silence.

The Australian “Supermarket Trolleys” was one of the funniest films of the evening with its National Geographic-style look at the cheeky life of shopping carts. Awesome claymation work lent to the fun of this piece which still has me giggling.

Not all of the films were contained under ten. “Last Stand,” by director Gabe Torres, ran about 20 and seemed more like an epic big budget production than a little film. Though impressive, especially after a discussion where the actors and producer shed light on the production, the film felt like it was forcing the drama on me. Still, it’s a very nice work and does justice to the story of the young Indian and the cavalry man in need.

Continuing on a topic of serious themes was the Brazilian filmmaker Gustavo Moraes’ “Baseado Em Estorias Reais” (Based on True Stories). Another fantastic film! The film intricately highlights a Brazilian guerilla rebel’s capture and the censorship taking over the country’s media. Moraes was also available after the screening to discuss the piece and the history of Brazil’s struggles in the 1970s. Currently working on more Brazilian productions, look out for this young director!

The grand highlight of the night for me was the Japanese animated short we wrapped the evening with. “ATAMA YAMA” (“Mt. Head”) is an outstanding, hilarious look at a miserly bastard who grows a cherry tree on his head. Told with gorgeous, dizzying animation and traditional storytelling, song and narration, this film is a bizarre celebration of the Japanese cherry tree. I thoroughly appreciated the hanami parties when hordes of drunk office workers appeared to gaze at the blossoms on top of Mt. Head! This film made me laugh my ass off while feeling nostalgic for my former host country and its seasonal festivals and fun characters. “ATAMA YAMA” is a phenomenal work!

The Short Shorts screening was a blast! It’s fantastic that a festival is not only highlighting the art of shorts but giving them the legitimacy and respect that seems to be lacking from most festivals. You walk away from the Short Shorts festival with thoughts of mini films dancing merrily through your head while reeling with admiration for the filmmakers who could tell a captivating story in such short confines. The Short Shorts Film Festival does a stand up job of showcasing the overlooked art and diversity of short filmmaking.

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