66th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen – Best Asian Shorts

oberhausenasian2020I share my thoughts on my favorite Asian films presented at the 66th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, which took place from May 13th to 19th via Online.

About the festival:
Oberhausen is not only the oldest short film festival in the world, it is also one of the most important, alongside Tampere and Clermont-Ferrand. The competition provides a good overview of “serious”, avant-garde short film productions (Hamburg, on the other hand, offers the more entertaining films). The festival focuses on innovative, artistic short films, paying special attention to new technical development. Oberhausen hosts the biggest short film market in Germany, attracting the major buyers. All films entered for selection as well as all films of the entry platform will be available on video terminals.

First, I would like to thank the organizers of the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen who were kind enough to give me a press pass to cover the festival. I was able to watch the Asian films and some international productions. I really enjoyed the programme and it was nice to discover new musicians/bands at the Muvi Competitions (Music Video Competitions). I want to start talking about two Special Mentions, then I will discuss two very well-done animations and finally I will comment on my favorite films.

Special Mentions:

Chinbin Western2

Chinbin Western, Representation of the family by Chikako Yamashiro – Japan | 2019 – 32 min.

This video installation centers around two families at the Henoko district, Nago City (Okinawa). On one hand there is a typical family where the father works as a foreman at a local US military base construction. On the other hand, we find a young plastic artist who works at the local bar. These two characters will collide in a particular situation. The film mixes good photography, musical scenes, and traditional theater in a surpassing manner. It talks about the importance of protecting our lands & heritage from aggressive foreign economic developments.



We still have

We still have to close our eyes by John Torres – Philippines | 2019 – 13 min.

This sci-fi film uses documentary footage captured from sets of various productions (such as Lav Diaz and Erik Matti sets) creating a world where human avatars are controlled by an App. The story may look simple, but if you take into account the current political situation of the Philippines, the film has deeper meaning. Who is controlling the avatars to commit these crimes? Can these people be judged? Or are they merely doing what they are told to do? I think this film rises important questions.






Phoenix by Su Zhong – China | 2020 – 8 min.

This one-shot short shows the camera going into different rooms or situations. It talks about love, death, oppression, violence, and History. It’s a beautiful well-done CGI short that for sure will move you. There were times I had to look away as some images are really hypnotizing.



Them People

Them People by Nausheen Javed – Germany, India | 2020 – 6 min.

A small child lives a comfortable life, fulfilling society’s expectations but soon his reality changes, “they” arrive. This short film was inspired by a poem from the director who speaks about the growing intolerance towards “the other”. I chose this film because it talks about a common complicit around the world. Intolerance, racism, and xenophobia seems to be on the rising because of authoritarian regimes and the use of fake news.



Best Films:

Junu Ko Jutta

Junu Ko Jutta (The Shoes of a Little Girl) by Kedar Shrestha – Nepal | 2019 – 13 minutes

Junu is a 5-year-old girl who has trouble learning how to wear her shoes. She often mistakes left from right and adults around her constantly keep correcting her. One day she discovers a method to remember how to put her shoes the right way.

This sweet story talks about the importance of letting kids find their own ways to solve problems. Children’s natural creativity and curiosity are sometimes frustrated by schools’ teachers who guide them to follow “the norm”. As the director said in a recent interview, “even when children are expected to learn, parents and elder people want them to learn the way they learned. Children are not given the freedom to explore the world their way.” This film won the Special Mention Award at the Children’s and Youth Film Competition.




The Smell of Coffee

The Smell of Coffee by Nishok Nishok – Singapore | 2019 – 12 minutes

The film centers around Raga, a young boy who lives with his grieving grandmother in the wake of his grandfather’s passing. Confused about his absence, Raga keeps thinking he will soon return. But soon he self-discovers the truth.

Death is part of human condition; we are the only animal that knows that one day we will not exist anymore. This inevitable reality is hard to explain to kids, as they can’t understand that someone may “not be” anymore. Most of the time children discover this on their own when they experience a pet or other animal losing its life.




Bittersweet by Sohrab Hura – India | 2019 – 14 minutes

Sohrab Hura focuses on intimate family life, particularly the relationship between his mother, who was diagnosed with acute paranoid schizophrenia, and her dog, Elsa. What began as a way to escape his family situation turned into a method of confronting the realities at home. Photographed and filmed over a period of ten years, it is a search for meaning and closure, with Hura questioning and discovering the banalities of everyday life at home

Bittersweet is a very personal film. We should thank the director for letting us be part of this experience. This audiovisual essay mixes photographs and poetry, to showing the relationship of the director with her ill mother. The film is a reflection on life and love. This film won the Principal Prize of the International Competition Jury.



She Runs

Nan Fang Shao Nv (She Runs) by Qiu Yang – France, China | 2019 – 20 minutes

In an ordinary Chinese winter, a small city junior high student, Yu, tries to quit her school aerobic dancing team.

After winning multiple awards for “A Gentle Night” (2017), Qiu Yang returns with an intimate story that shows the struggles of Yu to fulfill her duty. Pressured by her father and school coach she must participate in a school aerobic dancing presentation, but she doesn’t want to be part of it. Yu tries to scape from her duties by faking injures to avoid dancing practices, but she gets caught every time. She only finds comfort in her grandmother’s comprehension of her suffering. All this tension keeps boiling up until Yu can’t take it any longer. The film is a critic of China’s patriarchal society and how social pressure forces youth to extreme competitive efforts. Most remarkable is how the director builds up moments of tension between the characters without using dialogues. Looks, body language and camera positions are enough to let us know what the characters are thinking and feeling.





I’m Not Your F***ing Stereotype by Hesome Chemamah – Thailand | 2019 – 29 minutes

As a Muslim girl from Southern Thailand, Maryam falls prey to racism in school. She begins spiraling into an identity crisis, and starts resenting her name, religion, and birthdate.

“I’m not your f***ing stereotype” is the graduate and debut film of Hesome Chemamah. In an interview given to the Oberhausen Film Festival he explained that being Muslim from the southern part of Thailand he was victim of Islamophobia when he moved to the capital, which inspire him to make this film.

Bullying is a sad reality most students suffer nowadays; kids not only gets bullied at school but also on social media. The film is able to show this by overlaying text comments from students mocking and making up stories about our protagonist as the story progress. Things appear to look brighter for Maryam when she starts to make friends until a student throws bacon at her, making her lose control again. The pressure by her peers and her family is so unbearable that she wants to change the information of her ID. Luckily, the government officer advises her not to do so. She finally learns the importance of believing in herself despite what others may think.

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