Fantasia Fest 2022: The West Meets Asia

Posted in Fantasia 2022, Festival Coverage, Movies by - July 21, 2022
Fantasia Fest 2022: The West Meets Asia

Stories come from everywhere, and Fantasia does its part in finding those stories from everywhere. There are lesser ingredients in this cultural mosaic of a piece, which is mostly my fault. Most of the shorts I’ll be writing about are Korean. Specifically, the Korean shorts are part of Korean Animation: Perspectives 2022 program. The other are Japanese. Nonetheless, I expect diverse styles within both countries nonetheless.

Jeon Soeun’s Nalsum is complex and imaginative, showing what a rusty water world is like. Its protagonist is a girl running away from sharks with old school scuba helmets. I have a feeling that this is the first short in a few here that deal with children in danger which, leave children alone!

Things get emotional in Min Ji-hye’s Goodbye Drama, a story about a woman, a man, and a dog. Excellent use of negative space and pointillism as it explores more of the plot points. Specifically, that woman escaping what seems like an abusive, codependent relationship. Beautiful, heartbreaking, and hopeful all in one.

The animation aesthetic in Kim Kyong bae’s Amen A Man is akin to a graphic novel with its bold colour blocks. It’s good enough of a sight to see that it seems irrelevant whether or not it compliments its story of Christian guilt. Besides, the clash between Christianity and Korean culture is interesting enough and the short uses that clash to its advantage.

While Amen A Man uses a more comic book aesthetic, Jeong Jiwon and Roh Hyemin references Eastern manuscript art in their short Scent of My Shape. It feels less like 2D animation from a computer and more like brushwork on parchment, establishing two kinds of spaces. One is of Heo Nanseolheon’s colourful haven in early modern Korea, and another of the dangerous world outside of that haven. The authenticity of this short’s the spaces and the characters within is a marvel to behold.

The short animation movies I’ve seen so far during this showcase is in 2d, which I usually prefer, but when I saw that Apartment by Lee Jul was in 3d and unabashedly so it made me happy. A man breaks into a woman’s apartment, and the actions of the other tenants affect the power dynamic between these two main characters. There’s a good twist in here as well, making this shortest short fun.

Will a turtle last through the night? It’s not hard to root for a baby turtle, Molly, the protagonist in Yang Hyeonseo’s Shining Night. Molly accidentally walks away from her natural seaside home and enters the urban world where there’s always light, but in a disturbing way. The neon turquoise surfaces feel too whiny, but then that may be the point, and the ending is nihilistic, but that’s real life, I guess.

Individual viewers can grasp any meaning to any animation short without dialogue. That’s more true in Our 2 from Song Yungsung. I interpret the plot here as showing two humanoid figures transfigure, separate, and birth each other in different dimensions and lifetimes. Apparently it’s an adaptation of Dante’s The Divine Comedy, which makes me almost feel like I should start reading books again. Starts out with very post pop art figures, making way for simpler shapes and lines that are formless yet refreshing.

The figures in Jeon Ji-kyu’s The House of Loss are less characters than impressions, sometimes disappearing from the screen to make way for the story it tells. And the story is that of an older generation with memories of a war that younger people are almost forgetting. This is the second short in this showcase depicting old characters, which are thankfully finding their place in festivals.

How do young people deal with 21st century life, though? That’s the question that Moon Sujin asks in her animation short Persona. The short seems sexual at first, with the image of a woman getting a bath. That image shares the most similarities to Korea’s eastern neighbour but with darker colours for hair and shadows. That’s enough aesthetic merits, but as it turns out, that woman is actually the skin of a woman getting a washing from it’s wearer. And this wearer is a more authentic, tired version of the titular persona she wears in public. There’s decent editing here too, letting the story breathe as the woman navigates both the outside and the inside world.

I like the concept in the last short in this showcase, Kim Chang-soo’s Things that Disappear, which depicts another old man. This time around, this character lives in a rural area, caring for his cat even if the latter is dead. He’s also reluctant to leave his village and hide in the forest despite of loud sounds forcing him out. Great sound design, great metaphors, the colours are bright in a good way. They express a place with flowers the eye can see, where humans reunite, where things no longer disappear.

Anime no Bento is a three film showcase presenting short animation films, the first of which, Ushio Taizawa’s Deiji Meets Girl, is perfect for people who short attention spans. It tells the story in episodes lasting 90 seconds. That story is about a young girl, Maise (Kiyono Yasuno), working reception at her father’s seaside Japanese hotel. Her life changes as a young actor books a room where she works. And by change I mean they experience natural phenomena. The background work isn’t as great as the foreground but it’s as if the characters have actual volume to their presences here.

Short is sweet but it can be melancholic too. A Girl Meets a Boy and a Robot is the newest film from Shinichiro Watanabe of Cowboy Bebop fame. Watanabe beautifully uses impressionistic methods to depict a European city in ruins and the three characters trying to survive there. The film also feels light aesthetically, and I like how that counters its otherwise sad subject matter. The short’s twist also comes as a surprise.

For us to call a movie short it needs a 40 minute running time. loundraw’s Summer Ghost is three seconds under that limit. And it has a sense of humour unique to a film that’s also an animation teen melodrama. The titular ghost, Ayane (Rina Kawaei), says boo before she disappears. The people she’s haunting are three teenagers, Aoi Harukawa (Miyuri Shimabukuro), Ryo (Nobunaga Shimabukuro) and Tomoya Sugiaski (Chiaki Kobayashi). There’s an urban legend spreading around their circles saying that a ghost appears when teenagers play with fireworks. But Ayane clarifies that the ghost, her, appears when someone thinks of death. Other than the storytelling hitting the right tones, the aesthetics are both papery and soft. And it finds new ways to depict light and other phenomenon. A good way to end a program.

Find out how to watch these shorts here.

This post was written by
While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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