Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the 2021 Reel Asian International Film Festival, takes place between November 10-19, 2021 with the theme being “HERE FOR THE BIGGER PICTURE“. Canada’s only pan-Asian Film Festival, will be available almost Canada-wide, a majority of it being virtual this year.
Martin Edralin‘s ISLANDS is set to kick things off as the Opening Night film! The Film premiered at SXSW 2021! Edralin and cast members will be in attendance too for a Q&A in-person.
The festival is proud to celebrate Governor General award-winning artist Ali Kazimi this year as the Canadian Spotlight Artist, with a focus on three of his feature-length documentaries. Continuous Journey, Random Acts of Legacy, and Shooting Indians look at intersectional community building and notions of history and friendship. Kazimi’s works, in addition to the live-streamed Canadian Spotlight Artist Talk alongside photographer Jeffrey Thomas, will be viewable on the Reel Asian website. The Canadian Spotlight Artist was produced in collaboration with imagineNATIVE and SAVAC.
An overview of this year’s Programmes at the 2021 Reel Asian International Film Festival.
Reel Asian X (RA:X) – Absence|Presence
Absence|Presence is a series of panel conversations, screenings and workshops reintroducing Desh Pardesh to Reel Asian’s audiences and community. Desh Pardesh was a multidisciplinary arts and culture festival that engaged with political issues of South Asia and its diasporas through a multi-day festival and conference, taking place in Toronto every year from the late 1980s until 2001. The festival programmed works and conversations about feminism, class, sexuality, access, disability, race, caste, imperialism, and capitalism, centering on the voices and experiences of underrepresented and marginalized voices within the South Asian diaspora. Absence|Presence seeks to honour and remember the histories of radical arts and culture spaces like Desh that paved the way for numerous queer diasporic art collectives and programs in the city, including SAVAC. From 2013 – 2017, SAVAC (South Asian Visual Arts Centre) worked on an oral history project aimed at collecting the stories of the organizers, artists, participants and community activists behind the festival.
The features programme represents the filmmaking community as a whole and spotlights the breadth of talent from master storytellers to first-time feature makers. This programme gives audiences a chance to settle in with a familiar voice or discover a new filmmaking perspective. They will be transported to different worlds through a variety of genres, including from experimental to environmental docs to political and fictional tales of family, self, home, community, and culture.
Thoughtfully examining family and loneliness while retaining an undercurrent of levity, Islands tells the story of Joshua, a shy middle-aged Filipino immigrant, who has lived in the comfort of his parents’ home his entire life. As their health declines, he longs for a partner, terrified of being alone after they pass.
In Frederik Hana and Marius Lunde’s Codename: Nagasaki, the two friends weave together a genre-bending cinematic search for answers in this unique, and captivating documentary. Another documentary being featured this year is Manzanar, Diverted: When Water Becomes Dust, Ann Kaneko’s account of generations of women coming together to defend their land and water. The award-winning drama Drifting will screen for the first time in Canada at this year’s festival. Writer/director Jun Li shows audiences a grittier side of Hong Kong, a marked contrast to the often glamorized version portrayed in film. In Chen Yu-hsun’s My Missing Valentine, audiences are whisked into the life of a young woman who lives life a step ahead of everyone else. Her whirlwind ways finally catch up to her when she wakes up to realize she has mysteriously missed an entire day … one that may hold the key to true love. Already a festival favourite across the world, Debbie Lum’s Try Harder! is a documentary set within San Francisco’s most competitive high school, where students vie for admission into elite universities. In Mari Walker’s thoughtful and compelling film See You Then, two people reconnect a decade after breaking up, one of them having transitioned. In Three Sisters from Lee Seung-won, the title characters gather in their hometown for their father’s birthday, but their little brother’s abnormal behaviour brings to light some things they’d all rather stay hidden. Junta Yamaguchi’s film Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is a fantastical tale about a cafe owner who discovers that the TV in his cafe suddenly shows images from the future, but only two minutes into the future. The documentary This Stained Dawn is a riveting account of the preparation behind the multi-city Aurat March (Women’s March) in Pakistan. Canadian filmmaker Anam Abbas follows the organizers of the march as they negotiate a deeply surveilled, paranoia-inducing, and often physically violent space in the hopes of spurring a revolution. A former Scripps Spelling Bee champion must reconcile with her estranged brother when he returns home to help care for their sick mother in Sujata Day’s Definition, Please. Pallavi Paul’s The Blind Rabbit is a mid-length experimental film touching on police brutality in Delhi, India, that will be sure to spark engaged discussion. A product of Telefilm’s prestigious Talent Fund, Emilie Serri’s Damascus Dreams is a documentary that is at once very personal while also touching on universal themes of homeland and identity. Muzzamer Rahman’s Hail, Driver, is the story of Aman, who after the death of his father decides to become an illegal e-hailing driver in Kuala Lumpur. Written and directed by KEFF, the film Taipei Suicide Story is a gripping tale of human connection that takes place over the course of one night in Taipei. The South Korean Digital Video Editing with Adobe Premiere Pro: The Real-World Guide to Set Up and Workflow from visionary director Hong Seong-yoon successfully combines horror, comedy, and romance into a truly unique cinematic experience.
Anchoring the features programme are two films spotlighting Hawaii, Waikiki (Christopher Kahunahana) and I Was a Simple Man (Christopher Makoto Yogi), both examples of a new wave of important narrative works currently emerging from the Aloha State. These ambitious and groundbreaking films both show important Native Hawaiian and local Asian perspectives on Hawaii that they know and love; a place that had too often has its stories told by outsiders.
This year’s Shorts programming includes films from notable directors including Jess X. Snow, Albert Shin, and Fawzia Mirza, amongst many others.
Midnight Snack: Delectably genre-bending, this programme serves up a seven-course meal that will surely leave you questioning whether you were even hungry to begin with.
Feel The Beat: Sing along to this collection of short films featuring characters who find themselves confronting systemic, structural, and personal challenges, all while defying conventional narratives and reconstructing alternative possibilities of storytelling
In The Moment: How does one trace lineages and map origins? Derailing form and convention, each of these films pave new pathways of understanding by reconceptualizing the relations between pasts, presents, and futures.
Familycore: Amid the abundance of narratives revolving around kin, this presentation of shorts brings refreshing and surprising takes into the un/intentional family-centric storytelling landscape, offering room for possibilities and reimaginings.
Ecologies of Place: Carefully set and intentionally crafted, the site-specificity of these short films recognize the role of place as a character integral to offering layered understandings of self, community, and purpose.
Sites of Affect: Recognizing the in/tangible ways feelings and relations can influence one’s actions, these six films tenderly hold the complexities of characters, places, and memories that are more than enough just as they are.
S-Express Myanmar: Guest-programmed by Thaiddhi in partnership with the Minikino S-Express Short Film Program Exchange, this collection of short films showcases young and new voices of independent filmmakers from Myanmar amid the sociopolitical changes of the country.
Unsung Voices: Four fearless emerging filmmakers embarked on a summer-long filmmaking journey online. We’re proud to present their world premiere here, in the landmark 10th edition of Reel Asian’s filmmaking program.
This year’s Reel Ideas conference is named “Here in The Future Past,” and wishes to ground in the present moment, looking backward and forward simultaneously through the abundant energy of the community in the now. Gathering industry professionals, filmmakers, performers, media artists, programmers, and curators, this conference reflects on how our present dialogue, work, and stories will form the foundations of memory, genealogy, and history for the future. Some of the most dynamic thought leaders in North America will be participating including, V.T. Nayani, Sagan Yee, Catherine Hernandez, JP Larocque, Khanh Tudo, and many more. This year’s sessions include (re) Rites of Passage: Asian Canada in Motion Anthology Editors’ Table Talk, Animating Place into Character, Telling “Asian” Stories, The Function of Festival in Crises II, Narrative in Other Mediums, For New Kids on The Block, and Sustainable Storytelling Careers.
CANADIAN SPOTLIGHT ARTIST
Ali Kazimi is Reel Asian’s Canadian Artist Spotlight in 2021. Appropriately for our 25th festival, the documentary filmmaker, media artist, activist, author, and educator has been a fixture in the Asian Canadian community, and we celebrate his over three decades of vital contributions to Canadian media. In 2019, Kazimi became the first Indo Canadian to receive the Governor General’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in Visual and Media Arts award winner. His documentary and media-arts work deals with race, social justice, migration, and memory, and emphasizes essential connections across racialized communities, between personal and public, through past and present.
Born, raised, and educated in India, Kazimi came to Canada to study film production at York University in 1983. Two decades later, after receiving over two dozen awards and honours as an independent filmmaker, Kazimi returned to York, where he is currently an associate professor in the cinema and media arts department.
Reel Asian is pleased to offer a sampling of Kazimi’s seminal documentary films, as well as a suite of talks that will give greater insight into his process, and a viewing of excerpts from new works in progress.
Inspired by his films’ spirit of friendship and collaboration, Reel Asian is presenting Kazimi’s work with our friends and neighbours imagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival, and South Asian Visual Arts Centre (SAVAC).
Wee Asian is a collection of shorts filled with imagination, possibility, and nuance that will surely resonate with audiences of all ages.
This year’s Wee Asian short film lineup includes:
The Good, The Bad, The Dokkaebi
Your Hand in Mine
Sorry for the Inconvenience
Story of a Beginning
Winning in America
Polar Bear Bears Boredom
Living with Viola
Back for a second year, join the Wee Asian Arts Channel for sweet and simple pre-recorded arts activities led by a lineup of talented local artists including Rosena Fung, En Lai Mah, Natalie Mark, Basil AlZeri, and Joanna Delos Reyes.
Public tickets will be priced at $9.49 and are on sale beginning October 20, 2021 at reelasian.com.