Last night, the winners of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Reel Asian) were revealed at the digital awards ceremony. This year, Canada’s leading pan-Asian film festival returned with a hybrid in-person and virtual format and included programming available across Canada. Co-host of CTV’s The Social, Etalk co-anchor, and founder of LaineyGossip.com, Lainey Lui hosted the online awards ceremony, revealing the winners for the juried features and shorts prizes. The ceremony also included performances by local Toronto artists Sakako and Ley Vara. The Festival which opened on November 9 and runs until November 20 is screening 77 films from regions including Canada, the United States, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, India, Pakistan, Iran, Indonesia, Australia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore. Tickets for online screenings and other events — including the closing night live musical presentation of Canadian Spotlight artist Romeo Candido’s web series Topline at Isabel Bader Theatre — are still available at reelasian.com.
“Every year we’re enamoured by the diverse stories being told and our 26th hybrid-edition is no different,” said Deanna Wong, Executive Director, Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. “It’s undeniable that this year’s jury chose films that are exceptional, showcased a range of styles and highlighted timely subjects that reflect perspectives across the Asian diaspora.”
Feature films honoured include the Opening Night film Riceboy Sleeps, which won the Reel Asian Best Canadian Feature Film Award; winner of the Reel Asian Best Documentary Award, The Grizzlie Truth; and the CineSend Best First Feature Award, presented to Bad Axe.
Independent juries comprised of distinguished creatives, filmmakers and industry professionals selected this year’s award winners.
Features Jury: Ada Tseng, Sami Khan, Aashna Thakkar
Shorts Jury: Micah Kernan, Kim Sun-woo, Chris Chong Chan Fui
2022 Reel Asian Award Winners
Air Canada Short Film or Video Award:
All short films and videos are eligible for this prize and will have the opportunity to broadcast on Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment screens on all Air Canada flights. The jury selected four films for this year’s Air Canada Short Film award, highlighting a great mix of perspectives and styles. All films showcase the reality of unsettled moments in life, while leaning into humour, beauty and the resilience of relationships.
Everything will be All Right (Farhad Pakdel, Canada)
Jury statement: This short film did a great job of capturing the moments at the start of COVID, when so much felt uncertain. Farhad was able to seize a moment in time that reflected the unknown.
Desi Standard Time Travel (Kashif Pasta, Canada)
Jury statement: This film was so heartwarming. It really allows an audience a moment to reflect on family and how at the end of the day we are all doing the best we can.
Further & Further Away (Polen Ly, Cambodia)
Jury statement: Further & Further Away is such a unique look at the struggle of needing to leave a place you are comfortable with, but it can be made easier with the thoughts of what are truly important in life.
Madhu (Tanmay Chowdhary & Tanvi Chowdhary, India)
Jury statement: Madhu, dir. Tanmay and Tanvi Chowdhary, is filled with vivid colours and unique shots. It captures a beautiful moment in time showcasing two young women enjoying themselves.
Michael Fukushima AnimAsian Award:
All animated works are eligible for a $600 cash prize.
To Kill the Birds and the Bees (Calleen Koh, Singapore)
Jury statement: For the Michael Fukushima AnimAsian Award, the jury selected To Kill the Birds and the Bees directed by Calleen Koh. This film tackled the way gender cultures and norms are viewed by various generations and delivers a strong message that navigates the conflict caused by differences in thoughts. The film’s tempo and witty comedic elements intensified the film’s intent and left a lasting impression on the jury.
Armstrong Acting Studios Outstanding Performer in a Canadian Feature and Short Film:
The award recipients will receive full class tuition coverage of a class at Armstrong Acting Studios. $2,250 value.
Feature winner – Riceboy Sleeps (Actor, Ethan Hwang)
Jury statement: For his role in Riceboy Sleeps, Ethan Hwang receives the Armstrong Acting Studios Outstanding Performer in a Canadian Feature Film. Hwang’s riveting performance as Dong-Hyun marks the arrival of one of North America’s most promising young actors.
Shorts winner – Knots (Actor, Kim Villagante a.k.a “Kimmortal”)
Jury statement: For the Armstrong Acting Studios Outstanding Performer in a Canadian Short Film Award, the jury selected Kim “Kimmortal” Villagante in Knots. We were very impressed by Kim’s performance in this film, in the way they brilliantly played the main character who struggles with various external factors. In particular, we noted the change in emotional performance in the final scene by Kim was outstanding.
DGC Ontario and WIFT Toronto Film Award:
All films made by female-identified Ontario-based artists are eligible to receive a $1,000 cash prize. $500 in programming gift certificates and two one-year memberships to WIFT Toronto.
Wherever you are, Wherever I am (Kay Chan, Canada)
Jury statement: The jury would like to present the DGC Ontario and WIFT-T Film Award to Wherever You Are, Wherever I Am by director Kay Chan. Chan’s poetics in the spoken word and visual expression of their cross-cultural ancestry sets new perspectives that live within our skin and thrive upon the lands that define us. A lyrical film that crafts a simple sentiment into a grand movement of compassion.
Nathalie Younglai Award:
All Canadian short filmmakers over the age of 40 with fewer than two writer/director credits (film OR television) in the last five years are eligible for a $2,500 cash prize.
Winner – Natalie Pelletier
Jury statement: Congratulations to Natalie Pelletier, an Indigenous middle school teacher who went back to school for filmmaking and is writing her first drama pilot about an Indigenous woman who helps others while being haunted by an evil ghost from residential school. We admire Natalie’s courage and making such a drastic career change to pursue her dreams, the strength of her vision, and I believe her pilot can get her into writing rooms which embodies what this award is about.
National Film Board of Canada Best Canadian Short Film Award:
All short works made by emerging Canadian artists (with credits fewer than four films) are eligible for this prize of post-production services. $5,000 value.
majboor-e-mamool (Haaris Qadri, Canada)
Jury statement: The winner of the NFB Best Canada Short Film Award is majboor-e-mamool by director Haaris Qadri. Director Qadri took great care and attention in a simple trip to the doctor. The duty of a daughter to her mother reveals a delicate balance of resistance, authority, and unconditional care. With an outstanding mature performance by the lead performer, the film handles the eternal and universal story between mother and daughter with great warmth and subtlety.
Honourable mention – Tehura (Wei Li, Canada, French Polynesia)
Jury statement: The jury would also like to give an honourable mention to the debut short film animation Tehura by director Wei Li for the film’s powerful and cutting take on the colonial gaze.
Reel Asian Best Documentary Award:
All documentary films are eligible for this $1,500 cash prize, donated by Karla Bobadilla, Diang-Yee Iu, Immanuel Lanzaderas, Sonia Sakamoto-Jog, and Victoria Shen.
The Grizzlie Truth (Kat Jayme, Canada)
Jury Statement: This year’s Reel Asian Best Documentary Award goes to The Grizzlie Truth from filmmaker and superfan – Kat Jayme. In this expertly crafted, engaging and delightful documentary, we follow Kat’s journey to discover the truth behind why her beloved NBA basketball team, the Grizzlies, were moved from Vancouver to Memphis. Featuring candid interviews with players, team owners, coaches, and fans, she leaves no stone unturned in her search for answers. But the real revelation is Vancouver’s continuing emotional connection to the sports team and the community of fans which endures. Sports have the power to inspire and unite, to uplift and heartbreak. The Grizzlies were a way for Kat to connect with her family, with her roots in Canada and the Philippines. We applaud her positive, heartwarming, and authentic portrayal of Asians finding connection and community through sports.
CineSend Best First Feature Award:
All first feature films are eligible for this award: $500 cash prize and CineSend Files Team Annual Plan (valued at $4,500)
Bad Axe (David Siev, USA)
Jury statement: The jury awards the CineSend Best First Feature to Bad Axe. In this personal documentary, director David Siev turns the camera on his family in rural Michigan during the pandemic, as the adult children come back to their hometown to help their parents with their family restaurant. Siev courageously and delicately documents each family member’s vulnerabilities, and captures the complex emotions that arise from generational trauma and the racial tensions that are exacerbated during this time.
Osler Best Feature Award:
All feature works are eligible for a $2,000 cash prize.
Free Chol Soo Lee (Eugene Yi & Julie Ha, USA)
Jury statement: The jury awards the Osler Best Feature Film Award to Julie Ha and Eugene Yi’s Free Chol Soo Lee, a moving and brilliantly constructed documentary that sheds light on a pivotal moment in American history and offers us all urgent lessons on how to navigate our fraught present. Relying on exhaustive research, stellar editing, and deep empathy, Ha and Yi’s film provides not just compelling historical and social insight, but a profound and ultimately tragic portrait of an Asian-American icon. Free Chol Soo Lee is an absolute must-see film for Asian-Americans, Asian-Canadians, and everyone who is interested in understanding the full cost of fighting injustice.
Reel Asian Best Canadian Feature Film Award:
All Canadian feature films are eligible for a $1,000 cash prize.
Riceboy Sleeps (Anthony Shim, Canada)
Jury statement: This beautifully crafted film highlights the need for community and familial connection. From its heartrending script, its haunting cinematography, and an incredible cast of actors – this film is a clear standout in Canadian cinema this year. Through its genuine reflection of an immigrant single mother and the growing pains of her son as a second generation Korean in Canada, this film attempts to heal the wounds of loss and grief between loved ones. The recipient of the Reel Asian Best Canadian Feature Film Award goes to Anthony Shim’s Riceboy Sleeps.
Honourable mention – Big Fight in Little Chinatown (Karen Cho, Canada)
Jury statement: We’d also like to give an honourable mention to Big Fight in Little Chinatown directed by Karen Cho. This urgent story of gentrification, racism, and the importance of maintaining family legacies dove deep into some of North America’s most overlooked cultural hubs. Through the many deeply personal stories told, this film helps paint a fuller picture of how Chinese communities in the diaspora have taken control over their narrative through organizing and activism.
Blue Ant Media Audience Choice Feature Film Award
The winner of the Reel Asian Audience Award—Feature is selected through a tally of votes from the viewers of the 26th edition Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. $2,500 cash prize.
Reel Asian Audience Choice Short Film Award
The winner of the Reel Asian Audience Award—Short Film is selected through a tally of votes from the viewers of the 26th edition Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. $500 cash prize.
(Both awards will be announced on Reel Asian’s social media at the end of Festival.)
The 2022 Reel Asian Awards Ceremony can be watched here.
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