A still from ‘The Qingming Kid’ (2023) • Courtesy

In Qingming Kid, Eugene can’t remember the last time he had his birthday all to himself. He has the unique circumstance of sharing it with Qingming, the Chinese festival dedicated to honoring ancestors. Every year, Eugene shares his day with a celebration of his long-deceased grandfather that he’s never met. Instead of having a birthday party like all the other kids, he has to spend time in the cemetery. In this sense, he feels eclipsed by his grandfather’s passing memory. “Dear grandpa, I hate you! You ruin my birthday every year!” Eugene writes. 

He is frustrated and impatient that he has to partake in traditions he doesn’t care for. Burning paper offerings and setting out fruits makes little sense to him. His mother, grandmother, and older sister don’t know what to do. If my birthday were associated with my grandfather’s passing, maybe I too would have a complex about it. 

After a final straw of disappointment, Eugene abandons his family and goes on a short detour through the cemetery with resentment simmering on his mind. On his jaunt past gravestones and through a quaint mausoleum, he encounters a strange gambler that invites him to play a round of mahjong. Eugene soon realizes not all is as it seems.

Director Austin Chen presents a tranquil and sentimental look into how a grandson learns to heal his relationship with his family and with the grandfather he never met. It’s a touching short packed with a lot of heart and has a few surprising, magic moments to share with us, but ultimately tells a fairly simple story about honoring one’s family. It also carries a strong message to treat ourselves and our family with patience and kindness.

The film certainly reminded me of all the time I did not have with my own grandfather before his passing. I also considered all the old traditions that weren’t perfectly passed down to me, coming from a family that loosely practices similar ancestral rites drawn from Buddhist culture. Perhaps in a way, many of us can relate to how Eugene felt at some point in our lives. Expect to feel wistful after sitting down to Qingming Kid as I did

The Qingming Kid will be playing at the Seattle Children’s Film Festival on February 9 in the It’s a Mess, I Guess? shorts program.

From Yeondoo (2023)

A still from ‘From Yeondoo’ (2023) • Courtesy

On a listless countryside summer off at grandma’s house, two sisters are joined by an unexpected guest: a silent giant frog named Yeondoo. No one knows where he came from or how he got here. Older sister Yeonghee can’t stand him —Yeongeun can’t get enough of him. Faced with the strange and bizarre, they are stuck with him for the foreseeable days. Yeonghee does everything she can to avoid him. What might have started out as a lack of understanding between the two turns into a festering one-sided loathing on Yeonghee’s part. 

Grandma meanwhile is largely unbothered by the presence of a giant green frog in the house. While she prepares nostalgia-rich home cooked meals, Yeondoo spends the time entertaining little Yeongeun, much to Yeonghee’s ire. It seems she will never come to accept this strange guest intruding into her summer break; she never needed him in the first place. In the face of such rejection, Yeondoo only returns unconditional affection toward his adopted summer-time family.

From Yeondoo treats us to many cute and bemusing absurdities. The charming visual style is well-produced and draws on a gentle fondness for childhood summer days. It’s appreciation for the slow humid months where the time seems to just tick and tick on. Bugs dote around in the breezy clear skies and make the perfect afternoon snack for Yeondoo.

With only a less than 9 minute run-time we don’t get to see too many additional moments between Yeondoo and Yeonghee, or explore Yeondoo’s perspective (he is a frog afterall). But I feel the story would have benefitted from including more characterizing interactions between both characters. The core dilemma that the trio face later in the story is also resolved rather quickly. I did appreciate how Yeongeun, though typically the unserious younger sibling, took charge in helping Yeonghee find common ground with their unusual companion. Grandma is also mainly supporting in the background, and I wish we got to feel more of her presence throughout the story.

Overall, the film tells us a brief tale about coming to terms with the unknown and strange. It also encourages us to better understand and appreciate the differences we share with others. While its short plot might not completely convey its core message right away, it was an adorable watch that instantly calls back to old memories.

From Yeondoo will be playing at the Seattle Children’s Film Festival on February 9 in the It’s a Mess, I Guess? shorts program.

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