Short films showcase Asian culture

January 20, 2007

Daniel Briggs

Posted: 1/17/07

The creators may have been from halfway across the world, but the sentiments in their work were universal at the second annual Asian Shorts film festival at The Redhouse. The festival showcased seven films consisting of three to 18 minute glimpses into the diverse aspects of Asian cinematography.

The seven films worked well together, each providing a pointed view of different aspects of Asian culture, subtly tackling complex subjects such as death, marriage, love and racism. Other than a few digital skips during several of the films, the showing went smoothly.

Redhouse film programmer JT Lee, who helped found the gallery three years ago, created the festival to promote Asian culture. Lee, who studied film as a student at Syracuse University, chose the films from those offered by Asian CineVision. The company, a non-profit distributor, has screened more than 1,000 independent films, and sells the 89 it considers the best.

The immediacy of short films makes it an effective vehicle for cross-cultural communication, Lee said.

“We are dealing with something edgy, something more provoking, something different than the main stream,” he said.

In “Two Girls,” the first film shown, director Ming Kai Leung captures a feeling of solidarity between the main characters, two anonymous girls, one Chinese and one American, as they suffer through similar emotional travails. All 14 minutes of the film are melancholy, in part due to the rueful, triadic piano melody present throughout much of the duration.

The girls meet at a phone booth, which they take turns using to break up with their boyfriends because of long distance issues. When their calls are completed, they sit next to each other, smoking and gazing downward sullenly.

As they sit on the steps near the phone booth smoking, the scene manages to convey the power of their brief emotional bond through the many shots of the girls’ faces shown individually culminating into several shots of them together, side-by-side.

“Lost Sole,” directed by Saif Oleki, was the longest of the films, with a running time of 18 minutes. When the main character loses his sandals after worshipping at a Mosque, he sets out barefoot to find them. Strangers walk by and cheerfully greet him, but he is too preoccupied with the plight of his sandals to return their greetings.

Just when he is about to lose all hope, he sits down on the mosque steps, his face fraught with anguish. His daughter arrives to lead him back to the house. She brings his hearing aid, which sheds some light onto why he has been so dismissive to those who greeted him. She lends her father her green flip-flops on the train back to her house. The final shot shows her feet, which are bare, next to his, which are clad in green, feminine flip-flops.

Oleki does an impressive job of creating a complex character in under half an hour. As the main character lumbers about, he evokes feelings of pity while searching for his sandals and disgust as he ignores all around him. When he rides away on the train next to his daughter, the denouement is achieved, embodied by his sense of completeness. It is a cathartic moment in which the main character regains touch with the world around him.

Susan Hayes of Schenectady, whose sister is involved with the Redhouse, said “Lost Sole” was her favorite film of the seven shown. “It really showed family love in an unvarnished way.”

If you go:

What: Asian Shorts Film Festival

Where: The Redhouse, 201 West Street.

When: Sunday, Tuesday; 2 PM until Jan. 21

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