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.
Now in its 24th edition, the Reel Asian Film Festival runs November 12-19, 2020, this year in a digital format available Canada-wide for the first time.
Opening the Festival this year is Ursula Liang‘s Documentary Down a Dark Stairwell which looks at how two coloured communities in New York City navigate a criminal case. The Closing Night selection is a live script reading with cast, the directors, and author of upcoming screenplay Scarborough, following three kids who find community, compassion, and resilience at a drop-in literacy centre over the course of a school year.
Other selections include:
Dust and Ashes, which unfolds over three days as a woman tries to navigate bureaucracy, her mother’s death, and a desperate desire to escape impoverishment; and A Rifle and A Bag, a documentary about a former communist rebel couple’s work to integrate into an unwelcoming Indian society following surrender. Making their Canadian Premiere at the Festival are The Horse Thieves. Roads of Time, a Western about fractured families and survival in the wake of violence; and documentary short I Do My Work, following students as the school year begins at the Afghan National Institute of Music ahead of the 100th anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence; as well as the Ontario Premiere of Moving On, chronicling family relationships, growing up, and getting old as a family moves in with their ailing grandfather in the wake of failed marriages and money troubles; and the Toronto Premiere of Mogul Mowgli, co-written by and starring Emmy-winner Riz Ahmed (Rogue One) which explores self-expression, identity, and intergenerational trauma in a story of a British-Pakistani rapper whose international breakthrough tour is compromised by a debilitating medical condition. The lineup also includes the first French-language Canadian feature to screen at the Festival, The Greatest Country In The World, set in an alternate universe with Quebec borders closed by an anti-immigrant government, desperate people try to make the best of their crumbling world; Goodbye Mother, a Vietnamese LGBTQ story chronicling a son subverting his community’s expectations of patriarchy and legacy, leading to the unearthing of family secrets; The Taste of Pho, which explores the different meanings of home to a father and his daughter; Labyrinth of Cinema, the swansong of the almost 60-year career of the late Japanese director Nobuhiko Obayashi; and an archive presentation of A.K.A. Don Bonus (1995) directed by Spencer Nakasako, a forerunner to the now-popular diary and vlog-style documentary format.
Tickets priced at just $7.99, are on sale October 15, 2020. This and more on the entire slate of selections available at http://reelasian.com.
The Reel Asian Film Festival is set to take place November 8 to 16, 2018 throughout the greater Toronto area once again. Canada’s top pan-Asian Festival is now in its 22nd year, announcing its lineup earlier today. Over 50% of the 62 Films at Reel Asian are from a diverse 16 regions this year, 50% directed by women.
In addition to some high-profile titles, ReelAsian introduces for the first time ever, a VR Installation. Homestay is brought to us by Creator Paisley Smith. It takes us right inside one family’s experience with international students, looking at immersion, clash and what we can take away from it.
Canadian Director Min Sook Lee is spotlighted with her Film, Hogtown: The Politics of Policing returning to the screen after its award-winning debut at Hot Docs more than ten years ago. It takes another look how the Toronto Police Services Board stands today versus then. A panel discussion is to follow.
Some of the marquee Films at Reel Asian this year:
Opening Night Gala, eight-time Golden Horse Award nominee DEAR EX
Legendary Hong Kong Band Wynners’ Biopic, HOUSE OF THE RISING SONS
Now in its 21st year, the Reel Asian Film Fest runs in Toronto from November 9-18, 2017.
The annual Festival has stamped itself as a fixture in the City giving lovers of contemporary Asian Cinema a public forum to share their bond. Highlighted by Opening Film DEAR ETRANGER from Director Yukiko Mishima (she will be in attendance) there are several Films giving Movie Lovers an array of options and genres to choose from. STAND UP MAN will be wrap the Festival also as the official Closing Night Gala.
Above this, there will be an In-Conversation-With spotlighting Canadian talent and the Cast of CBC’S Kim’s Convenience too will be appearing at the Festival on November 15, 2017 at Glenn Gould Studio. The Festival also will be offering free screenings for students and seniors before 5:00 PM.
Our Siobhán Rich (@Typo_Eh) had the chance to preview one of the Festival’s marquee titles, BAD GENIUS, which she tells us in the one Film you must see at the Festival!
Most Heist Movies follow a formula that ends with the hero walking away with vast sums of stolen money. In Thai Director Nattawut Poonpiriya’s new Film Bad Genius, her ragtag group of thieves aren’t hardened criminals looking to take down a casino but rather teenagers looking to ace their exams.
Scholarship student Lynn (Chutimon Chuengcharoensuking) is one of the smartest students at her elite high school. Her friend Grace (Eisaya Hosuwan), however, isn’t terribly bright so the two hatch a scheme to help Grace pass an important math test. News of Grace’s extra assistance gets around and soon Lynn is helping dozens of people in her year achieve better grades. With the biggest test of the year on the line Lynn, Grace, and their friends devise a plan that will take Lynn to Sydney where she must take the most important test of all their lives.
Although people may make parallels to 2004’s The Perfect Score, Bad Genius stands as a far more interesting and inventive premise. The plot twists are unexpected adding to the tension, particularly during the climactic Third Act. While the Film’s dénouement is less than satisfactory, a sharp script and strong performances make Bad Genius a must-see at this year’s Reel Asian Film Festival.
The 20th Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival kicks off today, running through Saturday, November 19, 2016. With 77 titles from 11 regions, the Festival this year will devote a bit of focus to Hong Kong Filmmakers with two feature Films and three Shorts coming from the territory.
In town to ring-in the occasion courtesy of the Festival and the Hong Kong Economic Trade Office (Toronto), is Actor/Filmmaker Derek Tsang, son of Chinese Cinema and Television icon, Eric Tsang. His Film SoulMate has the honour of opening the Festival at Isabel Bader Theatre.
A collaboration between Mainland China and Hong Kong, SoulMate has opened to great Box Office and critical success in China and just opened in Hong Kong a couple weeks back. Tsang speaks at a junket for the Festival held at Ramen hotspot Momofuku in Toronto, recalling his journey as a Filmmaker after graduating from University of Toronto, heading to Hong Kong to enter the entertainment business.
He landed his first job with respected Producer Peter Chan, knowing little at the time about film production. After branching out from acting into filmmaking, it was Chan who reached out to him after seeing his debut effort, Lover’s Discourse, which too premiered at Reel Asian. Confident that he had enough raw talent but needing still the help of a good Producer and guidance to marketing a Film in Mainland China, it took about five years before they both landed upon on a project they both thought was the right fit.
The project would become SoulMate, adapted from a 21-page Novella which he later learned was a well-loved by many Chinese women growing up in the ’80s. He promised to ardent fans on the internet of the Novella, to be faithful to the story seeing how it was such an important part of the social conscience for many women.
I ask Tsang how his experience growing-up in Canada has helped him today as a Filmmaker. He says, “It’s taught me about diversity. Canada is a multicultural country, where we respect each other’s cultures”. Being from Hong Kong and working in Mainland China, he admits “As a Filmmaker going to China, it was a big culture shock. My experience in Canada helped me make a Film where I was not looking in as an outsider, but someone that understands how Chinese citizens live.”. He spent much time in China before making the Film to immerse himself in the local culture.
A photo posted by Mr. Will Wong 📸 (@mrwillwong) on
We also are hearing positive buzz on Weeds on Fire at the Festival.
Contributors David Baldwin and Siobhán Rich preview for us a few titles at Reel Asian, including SoulMate.
SoulMate – Review by David Baldwin July and Ansen become best friends instantly at the age of 13, and are practically inseparable. But by the time they are 15, they begin to drift apart – each taking a radically different path with their life.
There is something inherently beautiful about SoulMate. Director Derek Tsang allows the Film to really hone-in on what it means to be friends, and the emotional toll that time and age takes on all of us. The Film has a habit of meandering through certain time periods before jumping into fascinatingly chaotic montages of others. Tsang’s message about friendship (and his darker messages about societal norms) get lost in some of these whirlwind moments, allowing the Film to fall into ridiculously predicable plot tropes – although a third act twist really shakes things up during the finale. The lead performances by Ma Sichun as July and especially Zhou Dongyu as Ansen more than make up for the plot’s flaws. They bring just the right amount of genuine emotion to their roles, making their characters’ multi-year journeys feel both real and downright devastating.
The Bacchus Lady – Review by Siobhán Rich
After a stunning debut at the 2016 Berlin Film Festival,E J-yong’s The Bacchus Lady has finally arrived in Toronto. The Film centers on So-young (Youn Yuh-jung), a sixty-five-year-old woman who ekes out a living as a prostitute in a society where many senior citizens are destitute. Her life becomes more complicated after taking in Min-ho, a half-Filipino boy whose mother is arrested in the Film’s opening minutes. To make matters worse, her clients have begun asking for far more than simple transactions for sex.
The smartly-written script defies convention at every turn even discussing the economic realities of South Korea and “young vaginas” in one awkwardly earnest five-minute conversation. Whether the Film is attempting to enlighten viewers about the difficulties of old age or the painful indignities of sex work, director J-yong’s lens never wavers. In a scene that could easily turn crass he captures the juxtaposition of So-young having sex in a park on a bed of fallen leaves with the hollow look in her eyes as she takes in the barren trees around her.
The Bacchus Lady is a must-see during the Festival for its poignant story and brilliant performance by lead actress Youn Yuh-jung.
Tyrus – Review by David Baldwin Tyrus is a Documentary telling the true story of little known artist Tyrus Wong, who celebrated his 105th birthday last year. His style helped shape and influence the look of the landmark Disney classic Bambi from 1942. After getting fired from the studio, he went on to work as an artist within the Film industry for the next three decades.
Director Pamela Tom briskly runs through the highlights of Wong’s life beginning as a Chinese immigrant in the 1920s, all the way through his multitude of works and career achievements. She fills in the gaps through interviews with Wong himself, animation historians, artists and family members. The Doc briefly glazes over some of the xenophobic struggles Wong and other Asian artists faced before, during and after World War II, as well as some family tragedies. But neither subject seems to merit much depth or discussion. Tom just seems content focusing on Wong, his work and the indelible impression his art made at the time and continues to make today.
More on the 2016 TORONTO REEL ASIAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVALhereincluding schedule and Films.
Hong Kong Cinema Legend Simon Yam since the ’70s has charmed Fans of Chinese Television and Film and in a rare visit to the City, the Star descended upon Toronto in support of his Directorial Debut, Tales from the Dark 1. The Horror Film is the first of three parts, premiering at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival tonight at The Royal.
Yam drew an at-capacity Crowd to the Venue for the Film in which he also stars in addition to helming, surprising Fans with Photo Ops following the Screening. On how to make it through a Horror Film with a loved one, he told the Audience tonight, “Hold her hand if she’s scared. Even if you’re not scared, pretend”, drawing laughter from the Crowd.
I have fond memories watching Chinese TV Dramas with my Mom as a Child, some of the most memorable ones which starred Yam who back then was relegated to Supporting Roles before eventually going on to become a bankable Leading Man at the Box Office. In 2010, he was awarded Best Actor for his work in Echoes of the Rainbow at the 29th Hong Kong Film Awards, proving his longevity as a Star. He made his North American debut back in 2003 starring in Lara Croft Tomb Raider, alongside Angelina Jolie.
See the Trailer for eerie Tales from the Dark below:
Although I just missed the tail-end of Yam‘s appearance tonight at The Royal due to work, I did manage to catch him in the nick of time before leaving town. The Actor, who lives in Hong Kong with his Supermodel Wife Qi Qi and Daughter Ella, was amazingly nice and actual v. fluent in English. And for being 58, he actually looks amazingly stylish and youthful – showing exactly why he is widely regarded in Asia as a Sex Symbol! “We’re going to take two Pictures okay?”, he tells me gratuitously. Yam was surprised that I was fluent in Cantonese, surprised that I was actually born in Canada. Not confident our Photos turned out, he ensured I double-checked to make sure I was happy with our Snaps.
You be the judge!
Now in its 17th year, the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival continues around the City until Saturday, November 16, 2013. More details here.
(Photo credit: Mr. Will Wong/Movie Addict Productions)