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This article was written By Guest Contributor on 24 Mar 2011, and is filed under Reviews.

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Toronto Japanese Short Film Festival 2011

One of the toughest genre of films to be successful at has to be the short film. The filmmaker has a very limited time to either create an involving story or to get his point across. And even if you are successful, there is very little reward. Maybe one day your film will be collected along with other ones on a compilation DVD or will wind up being a bonus feature. Still, they are a great springboard for developing filmmakers and, in some cases, the short format can be used to create something marvellous that couldn’t be achieved at any other length.

Being a fan of the short film, I always look forward to when the Toronto Japanese Short Film Festival rolls into town. This has only been the second year I’ve been able to make it, and both times it was for only one of their five programs. Still, what a great night out. Organized by the Japanese Art Festival, these programs have a ton of diversity highlighting many different genres, from anime to dramatic. Even if you are not a fan of short films, I would be surprised if there weren’t one or two selections in each program that couldn’t win you over.

The first film of the six in the Mikan (Orange) Program was a great little animated short called A Gum Boy. Using an animation style that resembles watercolours that are purposely darkened, this short is about a boy whom none of the other children in school like. However, when he chews his bubble gum he is whisked away into a magical world (I’m like that with internet porn). The fact that the film is played over a cruel schoolyard chant/singsong gives the short a very off-kilter feel. A very good start.

The next film was the much more surreal Chisato Stared. It was probably the most professionally animated piece of the shorts, and also the hardest to describe. Great music, great visuals and a fast pace, but I might need a couple more watches before I get a grasp of it. Luckily it can be seen right here:

Next was a very strong entry, Jellyfish Boy. It tells the story of a young boy who likes to wear dresses and scarves, and his good buddy who foolishly believes that his friend likes to resemble a jellyfish. Gaydar obviously needs a little tuning. The drama between the two is incredibly sweet as the audience realizes Jellyfish boy has a big crush on his oblivious friend, although he will be moving soon. Along with this touching drama we have many hearty gags about poop, Pokemon and rock, paper, scissors. The film definitely brought to mind the great french film Ma Vie En Rose both in content and style. Cannot wait to re-watch this little gem.

My favourite of the night was the one man show by Ryo Inoue, Little Red Hood and Health. Absolutely delightful, this is a hard to describe film so I won’t bother. Do yourself a favour and watch it here:

Next up was the B & W film based on a 1910 nursery rhyme, Canary. This short uses a mixture of live action and stop motion all done to the recital of the title song. Hypnotic, eerie and beautiful, this is a great example of what the short film can accomplish.

Lastly was the Cassavetes-inspired Two-Timer with the director Rikiya Imaizumi in attendance. This drama examines love in all its strange forms, from unconditional to mere habit. The two timer of the title (three timer to be precise) is sleeping with his girlfriend’s sister and another girl. All comes to a head when his girlfriend’s stalker sets up a camera in her house to spy on her and catches her sleazy boyfriend in the act. Imaizumi used a cinéma vérité style to get across the drama and some funny moments. He explained at the Q & A afterwards that he wanted to show the stalker’s love as being the only pure love in the movie, while wearing the same outfit the stalker wore in the film. You can’t stop him from loving you! It was also funny when a women asked a question about something she was convinced happened in the film but didn’t and could not be persuaded otherwise, even by the writer/director. Made for quite a few uncomfortable giggles, even from the filmmaker himself (who, of course, remained unbelievably polite).

A wonderful night of short films that could only come out of Japan, and that’s a great thing.

Christopher Brown is known round these parts as The Uncoolcat, a name not given to him but chosen by himself.  You can read his ramblings at Cool Stuff for the Uncool.

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