The fifth and final day of Reel Asian was full of fantastic films. Features, documentaries and shorts were all included for those of us who battled through the Santa Claus Parade and braved the cold where there to enjoy the cinematic delights. The last film of the festival, Sakuran, was preceded by the awards presentation. It was truly and amazing day, one of many surprizes.
Dir: Ian Kenji Barbour, Joshua Yuji Olson
Impressions: Very well received 'pseudo-documentary' film about Yasuki, Japanese student who comes to Canada being hosted by unprepared comedian/singer Skeena. Ultimately the film is a road trip film with an unlikely and mostly non-conversational duo. There were many humourous and touching moments, although we are often left to ponder what the characters are thinking when the started this crazy journey.
Reel Asian link to Homestay
As Long As You Stand - Shorts Programme
Canada, 18 min
Dir: Julia Kwan
Impressions: Delightful short by Julia Kwan, and fans of Eve and the Firehouse will definitely enjoy this tale of a family as they prepare for a free family portrait at Sears to send to family overseas. Wonderful and charming, it gives the audience a window into this quirky and recognizable moment into one families normal life.
Director Julia Kwan was in attendance of the screening and for a Q&A. She indicated that this film was one short story she wrote but didn't make it into the film Eve and the Firehorse. She currently traveling with the short Smile and is writing her next feature.
Reel Asian link to Smile
pictured: Heather Keung, Julia Kwan
The Last Chip
Dir: Heng Tang
Australia, 22 min
Impressions: The story one trip to the casino by three women, with various levels of interest and experience in gambling. Ultimately, my reaction was that it was an anti-gambling piece with stunning performances.
We Belong Together
Dir: Leah Glushien, Maiko Tanaka
Canada, 4 min
Impressions: This film is comprised of 4 lipsynched Youtube videos of Mariah Carey's "We Belong". Bizarre and captivating.
Co-director of We Belong Maiko Tanaka
Dir: Jang-Ho Lee
South Korea, 16 min
Impressions: A series of uncomfortable situations portrayed between a shy guy, his girlfriend and her Dad. Snowball effect after snowball effect, yet rarely do you see them coming. A little to tense for me, but it did have some great moments.
Dir: Kim Gok, Kim Sun
South Korea, 20 min
Impressions: I found this short quite hard to sit through as its focus is on the tormenting and bullying of a young boy by his classmates whom think he is gay. It does however, bring up some interesting questions on when, how or if ever people will act on such a situation. Formidable performances by the young cast.
Reel Asian Link - As Long As You Stand shorts program
And Thereafter II
Dir: Hosup Lee
USA, 56 min
Impressions: The second of Hosup Lee's trilogy on the lives of Korean women military bribes who live in the US, this documentary was a happy surprize to me. It's odd to use the term happy with such a scenario especially considering the subject, Ajuma, is a widow. A candid film from both the honesty of the director and his filmmaking process and choices as well as Ajuma's very frank recount of her experiences while being a prostitute. The film morphs from being straight interview format as we being to learn and see more about Ajuma as well as the director. One of the festival's best films.
Reel Asian Link to And Thereafter II
Love Conquers All
Dir. Tan Chui Mui - feature film debut
Impressions: This film has beautiful cinematography and interesting characters, however I felt that I didn't connect very much to the characters or the plot. Introduced as a film that has swept up awards and numerous previous festivals, I wondered if I was missing something. There is dual elusive element to the film but combined with a very frank foreshadowing that ultimately left me surprized and disappointed at the same time. The program akin's it to Breaking the Waves, and rightly so - I think if you enjoyed that or any of Lars von Trier's film you would get a great deal from Love Conquers All.
Reel Asian Link to Love Conquers All
Sakuran / さくらん
Dir. Mika Ninagawa
Closing Night Gala Presentation
Impressions: Lush, lavish and colourful this film was a vivid account of a rising courtesan. Power plays and group dynamics are present going from the extremes of the sly to out and out fighting between the girls and women in the house. In some ways it feels similar to reality television.. who is wanted the most this week? Those who get the most attention received the best rewards. However, instead of being 'off the island' if you lose you are bound and beaten. There is an inspiring story of rebellion and the pursuit of freedom but it is marched side by side by the allure of gaining attention and being 'the one'. How's a girl to choose?
Reel Asian Link to Sakuran
Pictured: The packed house at the Sakuran screening
The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival 2007 runs from November 14-18, 2007 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada