A Polish animated film about the friendship between Poland and Japan won the top prize Monday at one of Asia’s largest short film festivals.
“The Bridge,” a story by Poland-born director Izumi Yoshida based on the so-called Siberian Children who were rescued by the Japanese Red Cross Society following the Russian Revolution, was announced winner of the George Lucas Award, or the Grand Prix award, at a ceremony in Tokyo at the culmination of the three-week festival.
“I’m very surprised because I never thought I could receive such a wonderful award,” a tearful Yoshida said following the announcement at Short Shorts Film Festival and Asia. “I’m very moved.”
The 23-minute short film follows the tale of Janek, a Polish boy in the 1910s dealing with severe trauma who becomes the reluctant leader of a group of orphaned children on the brink of starvation.
The children are then brought to Japan, where they are nurtured back to health and learn what it means to be a child and have fun again. Janek eventually meets a young Japanese girl and forms a connection with her.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the festival was attended by the likes of Japanese celebrities such as actor Masato Hagiwara and director and screenwriter Satoko Yokohama, and Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.
Other films showcased were more in line with this year’s festival theme “Unlock,” which depicts life in a world after COVID-19. For example, the documentary production “Teleporting,” created by four young female filmmakers from Japan and South Korea.
The four met online amid the pandemic, and noticed the similarities in gender inequality and social pressures in their respective countries.
Held yearly since it was founded by Japanese actor Tetsuya Bessho in 1999, the festival is accredited by the Academy Awards and is eligible to nominate five films, including animation, for the following year’s Oscars.
Having kicked off on June 6, the 270 short films showcased in the festival were selected from 5,215 submissions in 120 different countries and regions.
Held in hybrid format, the festival screened movies in several cinemas across Tokyo, and had the works available for online viewing.