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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Japanese SSF&A Festival Director SeigoTono on India tour

Japanese SSF&A Festival Director SeigoTono on India tour

Tuesday, the 28th 0f February, saw the screening of four Japanese shorts at the Rangswar mini-auditorium, located inside Chavan Centre in South Mumbai. Organised by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, courtesy Prabhat Film Society, which completed 50 years this year, it was presented by Seigo Tono, Director of Short Shorts Film Festival (SSFF) and Short Shorts Film Festival Asia (SSFFA), Japan. It will be held during June 1-12 this year, which is The Year of Japan-India Friendly Exchanges.

Tono gave a background of the 20 year-old festival, which is held annually in Tokyo, and is accredited by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) as a festival where the Grand Prix winner automatically qualifies as a nominee the Oscar Award. Sing, which won the Oscar this year, had won the Grand Prix in SSFF & ASIA 2016, and was, as a consequence, nominated Academy Award. He also introduced each film. The films themselves, spanning three genres--documentary, fiction and inspired by true incidents--were of a good to very good standard, and included one that had a South Asian actor (Sheryar Khan) as its lead. The event was held in New Delhi on the two following days.

Mr. Tono revealed that a large contribution to the working of the festival came from the Uula app, which had music rights to a lot of hit numbers, and allowed the makers to use them without paying any royalty. Although the average cost of these films was USD50,000, he felt it was modest, considering the exchange rates of the dollar and the general standard of living in Japan.

Can & Sulochan (Dir. Mitsuyo Miyazaki, 2014, 14 min.)

Sulochan, an Indian chemist working in Japan, finds his new life in Tokyo is extremely lonely. One day he meets CAN, a talking vending machine, and an unconventional love affair is born. The film is a loveable, surreal comedy, and includes the popular number, No way to say, by Ayumi Hamasaki. Rating: ***

Half & Half (Dir. Takumi Saitoh, 2014, 15min)

Revolving around desktop doodles, this is a love story between a high school girl and a boy who attends only evening classes. The girl has lost her mother and wears an eye patch, seeing only half the world that has been so unkind to her. She is yet to meet the boy who shares the same desk that she uses at school, and doodles pictures and messages. Rating: *** ½

Pieces of the Future (Dir. Seiki Watanabe, 2016, 15mins)

Working on a building of a new house, apprentice carpenter Souta is asked by his boss, Oikawa, to build a shed by himself. It is linked to his overwhelming feelings towards people who have shared the same fate as him, being hit by the tsunami and rendered homeless. The film was inspired by an essay written by a young boy about his reaction to the tsunami. Rating: *** ½

Color of Life (Dir. Goro Ujishima, 2014, 13.51min)

The Shimuras, mother Fukumi and daughter Yoko, devote their daily lives in a lifelong pursuit to understanding and preserving the national treasure that is Japanese Textiles. Grand old lady Fukumi Shimora, who uses only pure organic dyes to weaves fabrics, is a Japanese national treasure. This is a pure documentary, visually stunning, that ends before it can become boring, like many such biographical documentaries tend to. Rating: ***

Seigo Tono

50 year-old Siego Tono studied journalism at Pepperdine University, USA and then spent three years studying in France, where he discovered the world of short films at its prestigious short film festival.

He then went on to direct a short film, Ichigo-Ichi (35mm, B/W) in Los Angeles, which was selected for the Tokyo International Short Film Festival, in 1998.

After working in two Hollywood productions, he returned to Japan, to write scripts for his own radio programme in Osaka for the station FM COCOLO.

He was a member of the Committee for Osaka European Film Festival, from 1998 to 2000.

Tono joined the Short Shorts Film Festival (SSFF) in 2000, as office manager, and became one of the founding members of Short Shorts Film Festival Asia (SSFFA), which is dedicated to promoting and supporting Asian short films. Together with SSFF, the two festivals are now held simultaneously, as SSFF & ASIA, and since 2003, he has been serving as its Festival Director.

Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia

Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia (SSFF & ASIA), co-organised by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, is an annual international short film festival in Tokyo. The festival is also supported by the Ministry of Environment, Japan Tourism Agency, Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The festival takes place in early June, and this year, the festival will mark its 16th anniversary.

With more than 5,000 short film entries from more than 100 countries per year, SSFF & ASIA has become one of the largest short film festivals in Asia, and since 2005, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes SSFF & ASIA as a qualifying festival for the Short Films category of the annual Academy Awards. The festival feels honoured to have Mr. George Lucas as an ardent supporter, since the beginning of the festival, sending us a letter of encouragement every year.

The festival’s main purpose is to provide resourceful information and support filmmakers while introducing them to the growing medium of short films. The festival also organises cultural exchanges between Japanese filmmakers and other filmmakers from all over the world.

In 1999 the Short Shorts Film Festival (formerly known as the American Short Shorts Film Festival) was established in Harajuku, Tokyo in order to introduce Japanese audiences to the world of short films.

In order to express the festival’s gratitude and respect for these filmmakers, the festival has featured their very early works in the festival’s Maestro Shorts. The festival has screened Mr. Lucas' 6 short films including THX1138-4EB, which later became the inspirational source for Star Wars. Furthermore, SSFF has also introduced rare short films by Ms. Jane Campion, Mr. Roman Polanski, Mr. Tim Burton and many others. It's thrilling to screen these early works by the great filmmakers still at their development stages. These film screenings have been a valuable opportunity for the Japanese audience and filmmakers alike.

SSFF & ASIA is a Qualifying Film Festival for the annual Academy Awards! The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has accredited SSFF as an official qualifier of short films, for nomination to the annual Academy Awards. The winner of Short Shorts' Grand Prix is eligible to receive an Academy Award nomination.

Short Shorts Film Festival Asia

In 2004, the festival received a request from the Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, to develop film programs showcasing only Asian short films. Thus, the Short Shorts Film Festival Asia (SSFFA) was born. Film markets in Asian countries have been developing rapidly and are producing many great short films of various genres. Considering the successful growth of the Asia film industry, SSFFA has anchored itself as a unique exhibition of Asian short films and as a facilitator for cultural and artistic exchange between the festivals Japan and Asian countries. Now, Short Shorts Film Festival (SSFF) and Short Shorts Film Festival Asia (SSFFA) are held together in Tokyo as Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia (SSFF & ASIA).

Core Structure of SSFF & ASIA

■Competitions

●International Competition (Organised by SSFF)

The festival presents Japanese premières of short films from all over the world.

●Asia International Competition (Organised by SSFFA)

The Asia International Competition provides an exciting opportunity to screen brilliant Asian short films, rarely seen in Japan.

●Japan Competition (Organised by SSFFA)

The programme introduces short films by Japanese filmmakers who are actively producing short films worldwide or within Japan.

The Festival’s Organising Committees are based in Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Mexico City, and a network of student volunteers at every venue who assist the Committee and Staff with festival operations.

In addition, the Festival has garnered support from several Embassies whose countries are represented in the event, and from local governments in Japan and abroad. The established network and the trained personnel who run this new style of film event are unlike those in any other festival.

I was invited to the event by award-winning Indian documentary and short film-maker, Dhvani Desai. Santosh Pathare, the Secretary of Prabhat, conducted the proceedings.

America-born Indian film-maker Pia Shah was among the audience and spoke briefly. Pia is on the panel of non-Japanese film-makers who have been asked to make promotional videos for Tokyo, in view of the 2020 Olympics being held there. The festival enlisted five young Competition filmmakers in the new Short Film & Tokyo Project, co-sponsored by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Pia’s film Waterbaby was screened in the Asia International Competition last year.

The event drew a small crowd and began more than half-an-hour later than scheduled. Viewers, who had to brave low air-conditioning temperatures, were denied the luxury of snacks or hot beverages. None were offered, not even Japanese tea, not even for sale. But what was missing physically in terms of hospitality was made good aesthetically, with the fare offered.

Though entries to the 2018 festival have been largely closed, entries in the Music Video category are still being accepted. Details can be found on this website: https://filmfreeway.com/festival/ShortShortsFilmFestivalAsia

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

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