While some know the San Diego Asian Film Festival through many international large movies they bring every year, the organization also showcases several programs of shorts for attendees to enjoy. Out of the collections of small films, there were some that stood out from the rest.

“Umishu”

Director Ken Yoshioka’s 15-minute film transported viewers to a strange but quaint bar a man (Naoki Matayoshi) found after looking for a place of solace from troubles at home. The old bartender (Mickey Curtis) who played his ukelele from time to time served his new visitor a glass of wine. The drink shocked the young customer when sounds of the ocean came into his mind. He found out that it was not “umeshu” or plum wine he received, but “umishu,” sea wine. Immediately the man asked for another glass, however one with the water from his hometown. Maybe it was fate that brought him to this small place after drifting far from his family.

This intimate and minimalistic short had a calming feeling from beginning to end, including during the brief moments of tension. Several questions concerning the characters are never answered, but Yoshioka ended the film with his protagonist reaching a personal resolution.

Arrival

Alex Myung’s 23 minute-long animation short was a journey of self-discovery and acceptance. As part of the “Shorts: Best of Asian Animation,” Myung’s film took its audience through the eyes of a young man as he grew to be his own person in the big city.  It was when he found the love of his life when he started to doubt himself and fear that the only other person he cared for would not accept them as they are. Now the obstacle appeared, blocking him to arrive to the next chapter of his life.

Myung took part in a Q&A session at the end of the program and mentioned how he looked to older anime series and art styles like those by Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli to be a source of inspiration for the aesthetics of “Arrival.” He also told the audience that the story was originally autobiographical, but then looked at others who were also in relationships. The project took over three years to complete with the help of many, including musical duo Upright T-Rex and those that donated to their Kickstarter campaign. Surprisingly, Myung is not a career animator and has a different day job, but said he has a new short in the works.

Moom

Tonko House adapted writer Genki Kawamura and illustrator Yuuki Mashiko’s children book “Moom” into a computer-generated short. The animation followed an adorable yellow creature named Moom who took care of an open meadow filled with old objects. With the help of a friend who used an old astronaut suit to move around, they released the memories out of the items that arrived. Everything was routine until the two found a pair of ballet shoes and the pink memory that resided inside of them. Unlike the others, this new being was like Moom and his friend in shape and ability. Not used to the area, she started to cry and it’s up to them to find away to make her happy.

It was easy to pick up on the experience Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi of Tonko House got after working with Pixar. However, some of the younger members of the “Shorts for Shorties” audience were unable to comprehend its theme of loss. Those that did understand appreciated the film’s light-hearted atmosphere as it presented a heavy and complex concept.

Born With It

It’s never easy fitting in a new class, especially when you do not look like the rest of your classmates. Director Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour Jr.’s short “Born With It” told the tale of a young half-black half-Japanese boy named Keisuke who transferred into a small elementary class in his new town out in the country. Difficulties were already there by being the stranger, but it got worst when the child’s peers started warning everyone to stay away from him because they think he might be carrying AIDS. Luckily, Keisuke found a friend that trusts who he is and hope that Keisuke will find acceptance of himself and shake off the lies.

Osei-Kuffour Jr. presented a powerful film about individuality and fighting against racial stereotypes. The director spoke during the post-program Q&A session how he created this project, including choosing the “hafu” or mixed race boy instead of a foreigner. The quote from Keisuke’s father “I refuse to let people destroy me with their judgement” was a powerful message that resonated with anyone living in areas with racial tension and other struggles against people’s identities. Hopefully one day there will be a time without heavy judgement on what is on the skin’s surface.

To check out what else PacArts showed this year, visit their festival’s site. Follow them for more information on other screenings and what they have in plan for the 2017 Spring Showcase.

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