The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Reel Asian), presented by National Bank, celebrates its 18th annual edition from November 6 to 16, 2014 with high-profile guests from around the world, new venues and three special projects focused on themes of memory and archive. This year, Reel Asian will present 44 films from 10 regions including Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Canada and the United States. Here are the titles that will be screening at this year’s festival:
THE MIDNIGHT AFTER (director Fruit Chan, actor TBC in attendance, Hong Kong 2014, Toronto Premiere)
This Berlinale gala film begins with a midnight bus ride to Taipo. When the bus arrives at its destination, its passengers discover they are the sole survivors of a strange pandemic. This genre-bending, action-packed film brings together well-known stars of Hong Kong cinema including Simon Yam, Kara Hui and Lam Suet, as well as top talents from the next generation of Hong Kong actors including Cherry Ngan, Wong You-nam, Janice Man and Chui Tien-you.
Opening Night Gala: Thu Nov 6, 7:00 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre
AWESOME ASIAN BAD GUYS (directors Patrick Epino and Stephen Dypiangco, actor Aaron Takahashi in attendance, USA 2014, Canadian Premiere)
Based on the immensely popular Youtube series, this film features the Asian “bad guys” of our favourite childhood action movies in an action comedy that pays homage to the actors who played iconic yet nameless Asian villains on the silver screen. Featuring Tamlyn Tomita, Dante Basco, and Al Leong.
Feature Presentation: Fri Nov 7, 7:00 PM, The Royal
9-MAN (director Ursula Liang, USA 2014, International Premiere)
9-Man documents this uniquely Chinese-American sport, and presents an entertaining, funny, and sharp conversation about contemporary Asian America, as players not only battle for a championship but fight to preserve a sport that holds so much of their Chinese heritage.
Feature Presentation: Fri Nov 7, 8:45 PM, The Royal
HUNTER x HUNTER: THE LAST MISSION (director Keiichiro Kawaguchi, Japan 2013, Toronto Premiere)
A film adaptation of the best-selling manga series, The Last Mission introduces surprising character twists as Hunters Gon and Killua battle against rogue Hunters who dabbled with the dark power “On.”
Feature Presentation: Fri Nov 7, 10:45 PM, The Royal
BEYOND BEAUTY: TAIWAN FROM ABOVE (director Chi Po-lin, Taiwan 2013, Canadian Premiere)
The first film documenting Taiwan from an aerial perspective, this documentary describes both the “beauty and sorrow” of Taiwan by juxtaposing awe-inspiring views of its rich biodiversity with images of industrial devastation wrought by human development.
Feature Presentation: Sat Nov 8, 1:30 PM, The Royal
DON’T THINK I’VE FORGOTTEN: CAMBODIA’S LOST ROCK AND ROLL (director John Pirozzi in attendance, USA / Cambodia 2014, Canadian Premiere)
Combining interviews of Cambodian musicians with rare archival material and songs, Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten tracks the twists and turns of Cambodian music as it morphs into rock and roll, blossoms, and is nearly destroyed along with the rest of the country.
Feature Presentation: Sat Nov 8, 4:00 PM, The Royal
THE CONTINENT (director Han Han, China 2014, Canadian Premiere)
Novelist-blogger Han Han makes his directorial debut with a road trip film focused on the dreams and confusion of modern Chinese youth. Featuring notable stars Chen Bolin and Feng Shaofeng.
Feature Presentation: Sat Nov 8, 6:45 PM, The Royal
MOURNING GRAVE (director Oh In-chun in attendance, South Korea 2014, International Premiere)
In-su has the power to see ghosts. He returns to his hometown for a normal life, and ends up bonding with an unusual girl. When a mysterious ghost starts to hunt down and kill his classmates one by one, In-su is forced to reveal his supernatural sixth sense to save his classmates. Is there any time left for his burgeoning love life? Starring Kim So-eun from the Boys Over Flowers K-drama.
Feature Presentation: Sat Nov 8, 9:45 PM, The Royal
BLUE BUSTAMANTE (director Miko Livelo, Philippines 2014, Canadian Premiere)
It starts out as a typical Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) story from the 90s, where George leaves his wife and son in the Philippines in search of a higher-paying career in Japan. Unfortunately, he only finds work as a stunt double in the famous TV series, Force Five. As the masked Blue Force, George can battle giant robots and lizards on screen without having to learn Japanese. It’s not the greener grass that he’s hoped for, but back home, his son has unwittingly chosen Blue Force as his all-time hero…
Feature Presentation: Sun Nov 9, 2:00 PM, The Royal
A DAY IN A LIFE
This selection of short films feature the struggles of daily life—from young teens learning responsibility, adults overcoming poverty, and all ages in-between falling in and out of love. Includes works by Chen Ho-Yu, Zhou Quan, Gloria Kim, Timothy Yeung, Su-An Ng, and Francois Yang.
Shorts Presentation: Sun Nov 9, 4:00 PM, The Royal
KANO (director Umin Boya in attendance, Taiwan 2014, Canadian Premiere)
“What does race have to do with baseball?” Based on a true story, KANO depicts a multiethnic squad of rural Taiwan-based highschoolers who made it to the national championships in Japan in 1931. KANO is the directorial debut for Boya, most well-known for his leading role in Seediq Bale (Warriors of the Rainbow 2011).
Centrepiece Presentation: Sun Nov 9, 7:00 PM, The Royal
REWIND, PAUSE, PLAY
An assortment of shorts featuring those with a flair for nostalgia – and the step forward after looking back. Includes works by Vladimir Leschiov, Ivy Yukiko Oldford, Cindy Mochizuki, Emma Hendrix, Elisha Lim, Alisi Telengut, Betty Xie, Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen, and Minha Park.
Shorts Presentation: Mon Nov 10, 1:00 PM, AGO Jackman Hall
UNSUNG VOICES 3
Six fearless first-time filmmakers embarked on an intensive six-week video production workshop this summer and show off their chops in this year’s presentation of Unsung Voices. Introducing works by Helen Shen, Christina Paik, Leanne Wang, Meryl Romo, Nathaniel Wong, and Siam Yu.
Youth Shorts Presentation: Mon Nov 10, 6:30 PM, AGO Jackman Hall
MANSHIN: TEN THOUSAND SPIRITS (director Park Chan-kyong, South Korea 2013, Canadian Premiere)
A thought-provoking, sensory documentary from Park Chan-kyong (Day Trip and Night Fishing), the younger brother of Old Boy director Park Chan-wook, Manshin provides an in-depth look at the indigenous religious belief of shamanism in South Korea, told through the famed shaman Kim Keum-hwa’s life story. “Manshin” is a respectful term for a shaman, and in the documentary the audience is given access to rare footage of the rituals that Shaman Kim has performed throughout her spiritual life. Although class distinction was almost gone in Korea by the 20th century, shamans remained in low social status and were shunned and oppressed by society. Viewers are transported through past and present, with notable reenactments by actors Moon So-ri, Kim Sae-ron, and Ryoo Hun-kyung.
Feature Presentation: Mon Nov 10, 8:15 PM, AGO Jackman Hall
THE MAKING OF AN ARCHIVE
Tue Nov 11, 2:00 PM – AGO Jackman Hall
Wed Nov 12, 2:00 PM – Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre
Thu Nov 13, 2:00 PM – Aga Khan Museum
Frustrated by the scarcity of institutional records of Canadian immigrants and inspired by her father’s photo collection, Nguyen initiated The Making of an Archive, a project that seeks to collect images of everyday life photographed by Canadian immigrants. Nguyen invites newcomers to Canada and their families to digitize their photographic documents and share their personal stories, to preserve the memories of the immigrants that make up Canada’s unique population, and ensure that they will not be forgotten.
Canadian Artist Spotlight: Jacqueline Hoang Nguyen
MEMORIES TO LIGHT (Curator and narrator Stephen Gong in attendance, performer Casey Mecija in attendnce, USA 2014, Canadian Premiere)
Memories to Light is an ode to the inexplicable power of the pre-digital, pre-video home movie. Moreover, seeing Asian Americans and Asian Canadians in these films serves as a crucial document for remembering our experiences and history in North America. Highlights from this presentation include family films from San Francisco’s 1930s Japanese American community after internment, a Chinese family’s relocation to newly integrated neighbourhoods in the 1950s, and a family trip to the legendary Expo ’67 in Montreal.
Special Presentation: Tue Nov 11, 6:30 PM, AGO Jackman Hall
FANDRY (director Nagraj Manjule, producer Vivek Kajaria in attendance, India 2013, Canadian Premiere)
While Jabya’s parents are resigned to their station in life, Jabya wants to break free by living the life any teenager should be able to have, including being able to express his feelings for his classmate Shalu. Marathi poet and director Nagraj Manjule draws upon his own experiences growing up in a rural, lower caste upbringing, where he struggled against the caste system in order to gain opportunities for higher education. On the surface, Fandry is a heartbreaking coming-of-age story; but what emerges is a searing indictment of India’s caste system that culminates in a climatic ending that is guaranteed to have you talking after the final frame. Fandry won the Grand Jury Prize at the Mumbai International Film Festival and has gained international much praise from several Bollywood actors including Aamir Khan.
Feature Presentation: Tue Nov 11, 8:30 PM, AGO Jackman Hall
REACHING BEYOND THE 38TH PARALLEL
Reaching Beyond the 38th Parallel tells hopeful stories of resilience, affirmation, and healing, through three stories of families separated by the border between North and South Korea. Includes works by Daniel Yong, Kim Jung-in, Deann Borshay Liem and Ramsay Liem.
Shorts Presentation: Wed Nov 12, 1:00 PM, AGO Jackman Hall
FUKU-CHAN OF FUKUFUKU FLATS (Director Yôsuke Fujita, Japan 2014, Toronto Premiere)
Female comedian Miyuki Oshima plays the male lead role of Fuku-chan, a well-liked denizen of the apartment complex Fukufuku Flats. Fuku-chan is kind, generous, and well-liked by everyone around him, but impossibly shy around women. When one day Fuku-chan’s first love (Asami Mizukawa) turns up in Fukufuku Flats, he is forced to confront the one person responsible for his paralyzing fear of women.
Feature Presentation: Wed Nov 12, 7:00 PM, Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, Kobayashi Hall
HIMALAYA SONG (director Mridu Chandra and performers Gingger Shankar and Dave Liang in attendance, USA 2012, Toronto Premiere)
The Aga Khan Museum and Reel Asian co-present the Toronto premiere of Himalaya Song by Gingger Shankar (vocals/double violin), David Liang (piano/electronics), and Mridu Chandra (video and narration). Heralded by Rolling Stones magazine as one of the “10 Best Music Films at Sundance”, this dynamic multimedia performance uses music, storytelling, and video to examine the Himalayas as they undergo major environmental and ecological change.
Live Presentation Film & Music: Thu Nov 13, 8:00 PM, The Aga Khan Museum
MONSOON SHOOTOUT (director Amit Kumar in attendance, India 2013, Toronto Premiere)
Featured in the Cannes Midnight program, Monsoon Shootout is an innovative and gritty cop drama with choose-your-own-adventure style twists that keep you guessing. The film features the familiar faces of Tannishtha Chatterjee (Siddarth 2013), Geetanjali Thapa, and Nawazzudin Siddiqui (Bombay Talkies 2013) as the brooding axe-wielding hit man.
Closing Night Gala: Fri Nov 14, 7:00 PM, The Royal
MANNY (director Ryan Moore in attendance, USA / Philippines 2014, Canadian Premiere)
The life of internationally renowned Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao is a fantastic rags-to-riches story. Almost two decades after his first low-key boxing match, his country of 100 million people comes to a complete standstill to watch him fight. Narrated by Liam Neeson and co-directed by Academy Award winner Leon Gast (When We Were Kings).
Richmond Hill Opening Gala: Fri Nov 15, 7:00 PM, Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts
OVERHEARD 3 (directors Felix Chong and Alan Mak, Hong Kong 2014, Canadian Premiere)
Lau Ching Wan, Louis Koo and Daniel Wu return for the final installment in the Overheard series of thrillers. This third film delves into the corruption and controversy surrounding the real-estate development of Hong Kong’s New Territories.
Feature Presentation: Sat Nov 16, 4:30 PM, SilverCity Richmond Hill
BRAHMIN BULLS (director Mahesh Pailoor, USA 2013, Canadian Premiere)
Starring Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes), Roshan Seth, Academy Award winner Mary Steenburgen, Justin Bartha, and Academy Award nominated Michael Lerner, Brahmin Bulls is a story of a long overdue reunion between father and son, as they learn the truth about each other for the first time as adults.
Richmond Hill Closing: Sat Nov 16, 7:00 PM, SilverCity Richmond Hill
Ticket information and venues can be found at the Reel Asian website.