5 films to watch at the Reel Asian Film Festival 2012
The 16th annual Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival is a unique showcase of contemporary films and videos by East and Southeast Asian filmmakers in Canada, the U.S., Asia, and all over the world. Suffice to say that Reel Asian has something for everyone.
Here are 5 films to watch at the 2012 Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival.
Floating City (Cantonese w/ English subtitles)
This gorgeous social-historical drama is set against the backdrop of the British-colonized harbour known as "the Floating Village." Floating City tells the coming of age story of a half-British, half-Chinese orphan name Bo Wah-Chuen (Aaron Kwok). From rags to riches, the film follows him as he climbs the ladder of the notorious Imperial East India trading company. This film is a great study of racism, classism, and the eternal struggle to define who you are.
Wolf Children (Japanese w/ English Subtitles)
Beautifully animated and family friendly, this latest masterpiece from Mamoru Hosoda (The Girl Who Leapt Through Time) tells the story of a college girl who meets a boy that can change into a wolf, and the eventual lives of their children as they choose how to best deal with their "gifts." This is a truly beautiful story, and explores each of the characters in-depth over a long span of their family life. This is also, notably, my only must-see in the fest.
Cold Steel (Mandarin w/ English Subtitles)
This is the film with the most buzz at Reel Asian this year. From director David Wu, long-time collaborator of John Woo (Hard Target) and editor of the classic Hard Boiled, comes a Chinese war epic with action scenes that will melt your face off. There is no attempt to hide the racial insensitivity of the time in this film--which is why I'll warn that this movie is both action-packed, and not suitable for those who are especially sensitive to portrayals of racism. For hard-core John Woo fans expecting something like Hard Boiled or The Killer, you may be disappointed.
Tatsumi (Japanese w/English Subtitles)
This celebration of "one of Japan's most important visual artists" offers up an animated biography of artist Yoshihiro Tatsumi, a manga pioneer and inventor of gekiga (a dark style of mature-themed comics from post-war Japan). Tatsumi's comics reflected the daily troubles that ordinary people faced in a drastically-changing Japan, and elevated the style and content of manga (and comics in general).
Graceland (Tagalog w/ English Subtitles)
Holding down a meager day job as a chauffeur for a powerful politician, Marlon's world is quickly shattered when he becomes the accidental target of a kidnapping plot gone wrong against his boss, and his daughter is kidnapped instead. Having witnessed the crime, Marlon must face Manila's seedy underground to get his daughter back before she is killed. What will the everyman do, and what lengths will he go to when his family is put in danger? This film is a riveting and dramatic character study.
The festival runs from November 6-11, 2012, and you can purchase individual tickets or festival passes though Ticketweb, or at the venue for same-day purchases.
Lead photo from Floating City