AAIFF 2023: Dramatic Shorts

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The fourth edition of the All Asian Independent Film Festival took place in the Philippines on the 6th, 7th and 8th of October 2023, with many outstanding movies screened across seven different categories of independent cinema. Within the wider festival, eight movies have been competing to be crowned with the title of ‘Asia’s Best Dramatic Short Film’ … keep reading to find out the winner, which will be announced at the end of this article!

Flowers under Megalith
Directed by Chen Wenhai, this is a Chinese movie that focuses on the relationship between a professor and a student. Teachers can often be a guide for their students, to the point that they really look up to them; but sometimes professors struggle to give them a bright future because they can feel lost, too. Since the protagonists are both female, the teacher also tries to help her student overcome the struggles of living in a world where men are often treated as having more importance than women. The movie – in black and white – explores this connection in an unusual environment, bringing out the insecurities of both characters.

Gong Mengling as Li Ting in Flowers under Megalith

The concept: a woman seeks revenge for her sister’s death. This movie offers a great analysis of revenge and its strong power to completely change people; throughout the film we see the protagonist talking to her sister’s killer… During their strange face-to-face talks, she manages to poison him twice, succeeding in murdering him. Avenger by Zhou Lingyi won the award for ‘Asia’s Best Independent Film’ at this edition of the AAIFF. One of the film’s captivating peculiarities is its setting: it remains the same throughout the entire movie, up until the very last scene, in a visual proof of how intriguing and immersive a conversation can be.

A Sorry Love Story
As the title suggests, A Sorry Love Story focuses on the love story between a young couple in Singapore, showing how each of them perceives their relationship. The girl is quite sure that her boyfriend is cheating on her and she tries to find someone to cheat with, for revenge. What the director, Marcus Liew, wanted to explore is the idea that, in a relationship, there are always two different points of views – and most of the time these are not the same. The main feature in the movie is that the relationship’s dynamics are told from the inside in order for us to feel closer to the characters. It opens a debate about the problems faced within relationships: in particular jealousy and betrayal.

I Am No One
The alienation felt by immigrants when living in a foreign country is something many people still do not understand. For this reason, films like I Am No One have an enormous impact on people, especially on western societies. The main character of this film is Minh, a Vietnamese man living in Lognes, a city in France called the “Asian District” because of its number of Asian citizens. It is the place where Minh realises that he is a nobody; he feels like an invisible man in France because of his Asian origins.

Steve Tran as Minh in I Am No One

The two directors, Sebastien Kong and Steve Tran, aim to represent the experience of many immigrants around the world – people who truly believe themselves to be ‘no one’ – and the feeling of dislocation that grows inside many of them due to being treated as second-class humans.

Little Yellow Flower
Inspired by the director Chien-Ping Lin’s own experience, Little Yellow Flower describes a difficult father-son relationship, which becomes even more complicated given that A-nan is only a child. He accidentally killed the yellow flowers in his garden when spraying insecticide on them in order to get rid of ants; his father was so attached to these little yellow flowers that he decided to beat A-nan as punishment. From this moment on, their relationship changes forever. In the movie we see an old version of A-nan’s father, paralysed and very ill, re-living the sad moments lived by his son. He finally realises his responsibility for causing pain in A-nan’s life.

Wang Huai-Zhong and Ming-shiou Tsai as son and father in Little Yellow Flower

Jet Lag
Sergey Khromykh’s film Jet Lag is a representation of anxiety seen through the eyes of a psychology student. She has strange visions when picking up a public phone: suddenly it is night, sounds do not exist anymore and a scary monster appears near her. The mystery becomes even more unclear when a guy she met at a bar shows her a drawing representing that exact same monster. This new boy seems to have a hidden secret that she is not aware of, leading to her distrust of this character. What is the truth behind all of this? Is it only jet lag, or is this monster really alive?

The Connection
In this story, a girl wants to escape from her city to live in a new reality and discover an unknown world. One lucky day, she meets a boy who offers her a one-way ticket to find her freedom. Beside the instant connection between them, it appears that the boy comes from a magical place where “the blue never ends” – an idea which can be read as an allegory to the freedom the girl has long been searching for. At the end, the girl decides to use her ticket, hoping to find the endless blue, yet she is not able to find it. The cinematography is just breathtaking, lights and colours are perfectly combined to fit seamlessly with the story, making The Connection one of Peng Yue’s masterpieces.

The Dragon in the Clouds
If you are looking for a movie which deals with such topics as patriotism, war and sacrifice, The Dragon in The Clouds might surprise you. People have been trying to understand the logic behind war for a long time, asking the question: what drives humans to start conflicts? The film is brilliant for many reasons, but one particularly crucial aspect is the different characters’ ideas about being Filipinos. They all have distinct dreams for their country and are willing to fight and die for their purposes. Is the motherland worth their lives?

Still from Adrian William Jaugan Lo’s The Dragon in the Clouds

We are delighted to announce that The Dragon in the Clouds, directed by Adrian William Jaugan Lo, won the award for Asia’s Best Independent Dramatic Short Film! The AAIFF team would like to offer their heartfelt congratulations to Jaugan Lo and his team for a well-deserved win.

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