Intl film event in Tokyo urges contemplation of thin line between war and peace

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) - A short film event centered around the theme of war has begun in Tokyo, presenting a collection of concise, powerful works on how thin the line between peace and conflict can be.

 Held as part of the Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia, a major film festival currently under way in Tokyo, the event — titled “War and the Power to Live” — showcases 13 dramas, animated works and documentaries from more than 10 countries, including Japan.
 Among the filmmakers being featured is Michelle Kee, a Singapore-born director from Vancouver. “War is not that great,” she told The Japan News on Saturday in Tokyo, highlighting it as the core message of her musical drama “Send Us Smokes.”
 In the approximately 11-minute film, a 7-year-old girl living in Vancouver during World War I goes on a lone quest to take cigarettes to her father on the front line. Her mother had been reluctant to go to the post office with her, unable to tell the girl that her father has been declared missing in action.
 Walking in a forest, the girl falls into a fantasy world and finds herself in a trench. She finally meets her father among cigarette-hungry soldiers singing excitedy in unison, but is soon caught up in a battle and returns to her real world without him.
 Kee pins hope on the power of imagination to understand matters of violence and peace. The 26-year-old said she aimed to “juxtapose the reality of a terrible trench life with the imagination of a kid.” 
 “As a filmmaker, the most important thing is to be able to empathize [with people],” Kee said. “I live a very cushy life. When I see some on the street who’s not as well as me, it’s hard for me to see that.”
  Supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the war film program has been held annually since 2015. “We want to focus on human drama in the sense that people living in conflict are ordinary people,” said Hitomi Makabe, communication head of the ICRC mission in Tokyo.
 Among the 13 films in this year’s event is Japanese director Jun Tanaka’s “March 1945, Tokyo,” a gentle animated film about an elderly man who gives up his deceased wife’s portrait to save a child in the Japanese capital amid air raids. In “Are You Volleyball?” Mohammad Bakhshi from Iran portrays a heartfelt exchange between Arab asylum seekers and English-speaking border guards across a barbed-wire fence.
 The films were all screened earlier this month, and a second and final round will be held at iTSCOM STUDIO & HALL Futakotamagawa Rise in Setagaya Ward. Seven films, including “Send Us Smokes” and “March 1945, Tokyo,” will be shown on Thursday and six movies, including “Are You Volleyball?” will be screened on Saturday.
 “There is no fundamental difference between fights between neighbors and a war,” said Makabe, who has worked in conflict areas. “Empathizing with people can help make a better world to live in.”