Reel Asian film fest kicks off with kung fu homage
A scene from comedic martial arts film 'Gallants,' which will kick off the 2010 Reel Asian Film Festival in Toronto. (Focus Films)
Family dysfunction, identity issues and an undying love for kung fu are just a few of the themes driving the 2010 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Nov. 9 to 15).
Celebrating its 14th anniversary, Canada's largest and longest running showcase of Asian films will screen more than 50 movies and videos from 12 countries, including China, Hong Kong, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, and the United States.
This edition also boasts an impressive roster of directors, including Canada's Clement Sze-Kit Cheng ("Gallants"), Vietnam's Dang Di Phan ("Bi, Don't be Afraid!"), and Japan's Naoko Ogigami ("Toilet").
"We've added two extra days to this year's festival. That says volumes about Reel Asian's popularity," said Heather Keung, the festival's artistic director.
"This festival has always been devoted to breaking down barriers and we've come a long way," Keung told CTV.ca.
"Just look at the way Canadian and Asian filmmakers are joining forces on international co-productions, now more than ever."
Canadian-Asian filmmakers make strong showing
Reel Asian opens with "Gallants," a hilarious homage to the kung-fu movies of the 1970s from directors Clement Sze-Kit Cheng and Hong Kong's Derek Chi-kin Kwok.
It closes with "Au Revoir Taipei," a romantic comedy by Chinese-American filmmaker Arvin Chen.
In between cinephiles will find many strong entries that celebrate Asia's new place in today's movie industry.
"IP Man 2," from Hong Kong director Wilson Yip Wai-Shun, tops 2010's must-see picks.
Set in 1949 Hong Kong, this rousing film follows wushu and wing chun master Ip Man as he struggles to start a new school and combat the corrupt British authorities who stand in his way.
"IP Man 2" is based on the true-life story of Bruce Lee's mentor.
South Korean director Zhang Lu makes a strong showing with his film, "Dooman River."
The story centres on two boys who live on opposite sides of the Dooman River, which divides China from North Korea. Despite the dangers they face, these children build an unforgettable bond.
Sexual desire and repression in modern-day Vietnam drive Dang Di Phan's "Bi, Don't Be Afraid!"
Canadian entries also make a strong showing.
The Japanese-Canadian comedy "Toilet" earns big laughs as a nerdy engineer, a pianist and an air guitarist struggle to relate to their estranged grandmother after their mom dies.
The film was shot in Toronto and features a Canadian cast.
"When I first read this script I saw a very simple yet very complex portrait of a family trying to grieve," said "Toilet" producer Sean Buckley.
Director Naoko Ogigami layers plenty of humour and emotion onto this English-speaking production.
"That is why it plays well to any audience, regardless of ethnicity," says Buckley.
Reel Asian's special presentation of "Suite Suite Chinatown" is another Canadian highlight.
"What is your Chinatown?" is the theme of this community-film project shot by GTA directors Lesley Loksi Chan, Lillian Chan, Aram Siu Wai Collier, Heather Keung, Serena Lee, Howie Shia, and Joyce Wong.
"This idea definitely sparked a lot of debate among us," said Lesley Loksi Chan.
"Chinatown is not just a place where you can buy cheap stuff. These immigrant ghettos have history. That is what we wanted people to see," she said.
That message is expressed in very unique ways. But that is Reel Asian's strength, said Keung.
"Every Asian filmmaker has his own voice and his own view of humanity," she said. "The Reel Asian festival opens up that dialogue to the rest of the world."