5 films to watch at the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival
The Reel Asian Film Festival is fourteen years old and as fabulous as ever. Mark your calendars (November 9th to November 15th) because this year's lineup is gonna take ticket holders to scenes all over Asia and back, from a snowed-over Chinese bordertown, to the bustling streets of Taipei, to Toronto's west end.
It's been one of those "I'm staying in again tonight" weeks where I got to preview a pile of screeners to see what's on offer at this year's festival... and I'm delighted to say I haven't seen a bad film yet from the Reel Asian 2010 mix.
It may be a parody, an homage, or simply a return to old school martial arts moviemaking, but one thing's for sure, Gallants kicks off the festival (quite literally) with fun action-packed antics. The plot involves a nerdy real estate clerk out on an assignment, where he stumbles into a teahouse run by former kung fu pros. Before long, everyone is in training for the final standoff against the bad guys, who happen to be the guys our awkward clerk came to do business with. Gallants definitely has its hokey moments, but that's not always such a bad thing, is it?
Let's admit it, romantic comedies can be hurl-inspiring. So, I'm gonna look past the cookie-cutter formula storyline of Au Revoir Taipei and enjoy the great action, characters, and scenes the movie does offer. It goes something like boy meets girl and is much too hung up on another girl far away in Paris to notice just how great (and smitten) this new girl is, while they spend the night on the run from thugs and cops zipping through the streets of Taipei.
An unexpected gem, Jeff Chiba Stearns' 48-minute doc on the high percentage of interracial marriage in the Japanese-Canadian community speaks volumes about Canada's makeup today. Stearns takes a very matter-of-fact approach to interviewing four generations of his family members from Kelowna, BC, hoping to uncover the root of this trend towards assimilation, without digging for tears or trauma.
The world as seen trough the eyes of a bratty six-year-old in this film is, at times, harsh and uncomfortable. Not a whole lot happens in Bi, Don't Be Afraid!, where the focus is instead on the relationships and characters that make up Bi's family (his mother, alcoholic father, ailing grandfather, and "spinster" aunt), all living in close quarters in downtown Hanoi, Vietnam. Most fascinating is probably the aunt: pretty, seemingly conservative, and sexually obsessed with one of her teenage students.
A heavily guarded Dooman river divides North Korea and China, and on the Chinese side, a small village sees a lot of defectors passing through. Vast snowy landscapes, racism, theft, and escalating violence are the (beautifully shot) backdrop for a story about a friendship between two twelve-year-old boys from each side.
In addition to the great lineup, an $80 all-access festival pass is a bargain for getting into Reel Asian industry sessions, with topics like Revivals and Revisions of Hong Kong Martial Arts (with Gallants co-director Clement Cheng and TIFF Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes, of course), on advertising work, and a Master Class with animator Koji Yamamura.
And did I mention the Karaoke Party?
Reel Asian screens contemporary Asian cinema from Tuesday, November 9th to an encore presentation of Au Revoir Taipei on Monday, November 15th. Tickets $10/$12 are available online or at T.O. Tix (Yonge-Dundas Square).
Still from Au Revoir Taipei courtesy of Reel Asian.
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