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Friday, Nov. 30, 2007

A film fest on the Net

Staff writer

Looking surprisingly young and cute in the flesh, 29-year-old Huang Ying won the Grand Prix at the 4th Con-Can Movie Festival with the short animation "The Pond," for which she received a cash prize of $10,000 at the award ceremony held in Shibuya, Tokyo on Nov. 16.

News photo
Huang Ying scooped top prize for "The Pond" in the 4th Con-Can Movie Festival.

Launched in 2005, the Con-Can, an online short-film festival, is organized by Media Research, Inc., a Japanese company that specializes in IT consulting, translation, publishing and media arts.

In 1999, the company's president and CEO Masahiro Yoshino first attempted to launch a festival in Shinjuku Ward to discover new filmmaking talent. When the costs involved forced him to give up the idea, he decided instead to run the festival online.

The first festival received 151 entries from 25 countries, then rose to 461 entries from 57 countries this year. Yoshino says that "the quality of the films is getting better each year."

The 80 selected shorts, all of which are under 20 minutes and have both Japanese and English subtitles, are currently streaming online for free on the festival's Web site. The films range from a documentary on transsexual prostitutes in Indonesia to a humorous clay animation from England.

Selected by an international jury that includes Jukka-Pekka Laakso, the Finnish organizer of the Tampere Film Festival (an acclaimed and long-running short-film festival held in Finland) and Tapan Sinha, a highly-rated Indian director (his film "Daughters of this Century" won the UNICEF Award at the Berlin Film Festival in 1988), Ying's "The Pond," is a 6-minute long animation. Yoshino says that it displays a "beautiful fusion of traditional Chinese art and new technology." Imitating traditional Chinese ink painting styled and using 3D computer graphics, Ying's animation is more like a moving landscape painting than a film. It depicts blossoming flowers, buzzing dragonflies and a carp swimming in a pond.

Ying studied animation at the Beijing Film Academy, the largest film school in Asia, where she currently works as an animation instructor. She says that she plans to use the prize money to make another animation film.

The Con-Can Web site receives visitors from 99 countries, yet the festival has struggled to make a profit. Yoshino and the three employees who volunteer to organize the festival are now hoping to go offline as well.

"We had the first offline screening at the Kyoto International Indies-Cinema 2007 in September and are hoping to expand that kind of offline screening more in the future, together with the online streaming," says Hiroyuki Tanimono, the festival's producer.

To view the films visit www.con-can.com/en/index.php

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