As Head of Programming for Short of the Week, I can sometimes be a hard man to please when it comes to short films. At times I want to be moved, other times I simply want to be entertained, however, the thing I most regularly look for in our curation is originality. The short format offers such a golden opportunity for experimentation it feels criminal not to push boundaries and try something daring and bold. This is why today’s pick Kaiju Bunraku was such an easy and important selection for me.
An unauthorized indie Mothra movie told via Bunraku (traditional Japanese puppetry theatre), I can confidently say Lucas Leyva and Jillian Mayer’s Kaiju Bunraku will be unlike anything you’ve seen before. Looking to tell the story of one of the thousands of anonymous people you see fleeing the monsters in the Godzilla movies, this 13-min short started life as play before morphing into the distinct short it is today.
“I wrote a full length semi-autobiographical Mothra film that takes place in the Cuban countryside”
“My parents grew up in Cuba where it was very difficult, if not impossible, to consume American entertainment”, writer/director Leyva explains. “As a result, they grew up watching lots of Russian and Japanese media. When I got into dinosaurs as a kid, my dad shared his love of Godzilla with me. I wrote the first version of this as a play for a 24 hour theater festival in Miami (it got bad reviews). Years later, I wrote a full length semi-autobiographical Mothra film that takes place in the Cuban countryside and Miami. This short is the prologue.”
Though Kaiju Bunraku is undoubtedly an odd watch, it’s strangely relatable due to its central husband and wife characters. The film may be set in a land where giant monsters can destroy the life of a human with one powerful footstep, but the real drama comes from the conflict between this couple. And with Leyva revealing that with hindsight the film was a way of “working out some residual issues” from his break-up with Mayer, the short was obviously a personal and cathartic process for the filmmaking duo.
Now working on a “feature film about a speedboat”, if that vague description of Leyva and Mayer’s next project doesn’t have you intrigued, I don’t know what will.