ReelWorld Film Festival

5 films to watch at the 2013 ReelWorld Film Festival

The annual ReelWorld Film Festival, now in its 13th year, will screen dramatic features, shorts, documentaries, and music videos from April 10-14 at Canada Square. The festival is one of the largest of its kind in Canada, showcasing racially and culturally diverse filmmaking from around the globe, while boasting a lineup of 50-70 percent Canadian content.

At a recent press conference to announce the official selections, festival founder Tonya Lee Williams said "Racially diverse artists are carving out a place for themselves in front of and behind the camera; but we still have a lot to do." This year, nearly 70 percent of the filmmakers are Canadians from South Asian, Aboriginal, black, Latino, Middle Eastern, Asian, and other racially diverse backgrounds. Williams has created place to celebrate "Canadian films being supported by Canadian audiences - what a concept."

ReelWorld also welcomes progressiveness in the art form itself, and is showing three musical films Hoodrush, Mongolian Bling, and Orisha Suite that are using rap to bring around change. It is the first festival to recognize music videos as a form of filmmaking, and has included a program — on Friday, April 12 at 9 PM — to recognize some visually spectacular music videos that might not get playing time on MuchMusic.

I caught up with the head of Canadian programming, Bobby Del Rio, and he gave us his top five must-see Canadian films in the festival this year:

Goodness in Rwanda
At turns a study on travel, theatre, culture, and genocide, this documentary screens like a home video that captured something truly magical. The Toronto-based company Volcano Theatre took their internationally-acclaimed play about genocide, Goodness, and performed it in Rwanda. One of the play's actors, Gord Rand, decided to document the experience on film. In it, we see all the trials of bringing any performance piece before an audience, only here the players are a group of mostly white, Canadian actors, and the audience is made up of Rwandans who have survived unthinkable violence. First-hand accounts of the 1994 genocide are unforgettable, and the scenery is magnificent.
This is director Gord Rand's first feature documentary, and is co-directed by John Westheuser.

Fondi '91
An Indian-Canadian teenager goes to Italy for a soccer tournament, and some boys-will-be-boys adventure leads to him witnessing a horrible crime. The journey that ensues is one of cultural politics, moral struggle, and sexual suspense. Though the story can be hard to follow at times, Fondi '91 is a cinematographic joy and will capture any movie-goer with a fondness for Canadian art-house cinema. This is the first feature by Toronto-born director Dev Khanna, whose last two short films premiered at TIFF.

AKP Job 27
In AKP Job 27, a Japanese hitman falls in love with a prostitute and searches everywhere for her. The memory of her burns in his mind, much like the enduring cigarette actor Tyce P. Phangsoa is seen smoking in every shot. Influenced by Asian gangster movies, this modern noir film has the difficult task of sustaining an audience through 114 minutes with absolutely no dialogue. But writer/director Michael L. Suan has created a stylish and experimental hitman odyssey, as brutal as it is poetic. Suan was born in China but raised mostly in Canada, inspired by the stoic and minimalist filmmaking of the likes of Kim Ki-duk and Takeshi Kitano, and his films set out to create a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures.

Lost Lagoon
This quirky comedy is basically Lost in Translation in reverse: a Korean girl moves to North America, and must navigate her way through an unfamiliar urban landscape. Set in Vancouver, the film has moments of loneliness, goofiness, and contains some seriously hilarious dialogue. In director Rob Leickner's third feature, you can see the influence of Wes Anderson with its slow-blink humour and dramatic irony. The unfolding of the narrative can be sluggish, but bear with it and you will come out on the other end of a delightful film.

Actra YEAA Shorts
This year, the film festival has teamed up with the Young Emerging Actor's Assembly, a collective of hungry, young ACTRA performers working to create a thriving Toronto film industry, much like that in Quebec. Nine short, original films were selected specifically to showcase the directorial work of young Toronto actors. The films are an exploration of our city's unique culture of youth and diversity. It is definitely worth a look to see the origins of these future filmmakers and attend the Q&A after the screening.

For more information, check out the festival website.

Writing by Imogen Whittaker-Cumming

Still from Lost Lagoon

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