The 19th annual Reel Asian International Film Festival takes place November 5 to 15, 2015. It’s been great to see this film festival flourish over the years with the stellar line up of films and events. International, as well as local, filmmakers, screen stars, and industry people make this one of the best film festivals in Toronto. We love this festival as it brings many opportunities to check out some films that we may not otherwise have the chance to see. Some of the titles make it big in Asian countries but may not see wide-release in North America. So, with that thought our team took a look at this year’s roster of 72 films from over 10 regions including China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Indonesia, India, Afghanistan, United States and Canada.
Full schedule of films, events and workshops and tickets are now available online through reelasian.com
Here is what we’re adding to our list of what to see …
OUR TIMES: Directed by Frankie Chen, Taiwan 2015. North American Premiere
It’s Taiwan in the 1990s, and high school student Truly Lin is a plain, clumsy girl who spends her days goofing around with friends and fawning over the most popular boy in school. An unfortunate incident leads Lin to become an errand girl for the school’s notorious troublemaker Taiyu. The pair soon forms an unlikely friendship forged with a similar goal: break up the school’s “perfect couple” so that Truly and Taiyu can win them over!
OFF THE MENU: ASIAN AMERICA: Directed by Grace Lee. USA, 2015. Canadian Premiere (this film is also part of the Food On Film Tasting program)
“I can’t speak the language, but I know the flavour,” declares Chinese-American star chef Jonathan Wu, a sentiment echoed throughout this fascinating documentary on the tastes and textures of Asian American food and identity. What does it mean to ‘eat local’? How does ‘hometown’ taste? How can the growing and sharing of food ensure the evolution of a culture and the future of a people? We follow award-winning Korean-American filmmaker Grace Lee as she savours courses, coast to coast: from Texan tofu tamales to octopus hunt-and-grill, the Hawaiian way. On her tour of mind-melting fusions, farms, and kitchens, Lee meets a diverse slate of Asian Americans who devote some aspect of their lives to cuisine, and explores how authenticity, assimilation, and cultural memory surface and blend in the melting pot of contemporary American society.
I AM SOMEBODY: Directed by Derek Yee. China, Hong Kong, 2015. North American Premiere
Originally a small town in Zhejiang Province, Hengdian has become the biggest dream factory in China as countless films and drama serials have been shot here in recent years. Numerous young men and women have been lured to the place for pursuing the dream of starhood. Starting with being extras as on-job training, they earn a living with odd jobs, hoping for the starlet they would become.
INITIATION LOVE: Directed by Tsutsumi Yukihiko. Japan, 2015. Canadian Premiere
Set in Shizuoka City in the 80s, Initiation Love tells the story of awkward and overweight Yuki Suzuki. Invited as a filler on a konpa group date, he meets the pretty and disarmingly forthright Mayu (Maeda Atsuko). After Mayu gifts him a pair of Nikes, Yuki promises to take up running and get in shape. The newly fit and confident Yuki — who now goes by Takkun — is transferred to Tokyo, where he soon finds his allegiance to Mayu seriously tested by sophisticated coworker Miyako (Kimura Fumiko). Takkun becomes torn between the woman who made him who he is and the woman his new self wants.
PORT OF CALL: Directed by Philip Yung. Hong Kong, 2015. Toronto Premiere
Filmmaker Philip Yung says a true story of the murder of a young woman set him on the path to writing and directing this film. The girl was only 16 years old. Her dream was to become a model and she started to look for work but ended up with work in the sex trade. How did this happen and why? This film that is loosely based on the real murder case and set on the streets of Hong Kong.
ZINNIA FLOWER: Directed by Tom Lin Shu-yu. Taiwan, 2015. Toronto Premiere
On the same day, in the same accident, Wei loses his pregnant wife and Ming her fiancé. In Buddhism, one is given 100 days to mourn for the dead. Like two mice lost in a labyrinth, Wei runs around in circles while Ming calmly creeps down a determined path. But the pain and sorrow linger on. With the 100th day approaching, they wonder if they’ll ever be able to say goodbye.
TWO THUMBS UP: Directed by Lau Ho Leung. Hong Kong, 2015. Canadian Premiere
After a sixteen year stretch in a Malaysian prison, a group of criminals return to Hong Kong who masquerade as cops to pull off a heist only to encounter a rival gang of thugs who have the same idea. Both gangs have fake police vans and get in each other’s way.
FULL STRIKE: Directed by Derek Kwok, Henri Wong. Hong Kong 2015. Toronto Premiere
This film is a badminton themed comedy drama about a team of has-been champions and ex-cons and misfits who surprisingly work their way to the Full Strike grand prix of tournaments. Are they as indestructible as they think? Lots of actor cameos and humour.
SEOUL SEARCHING: Directed by Benson Lee. USA, 2015. Toronto Premiere
In the 1980s, the Korean government began a summer camp for gyopo (foreign-born) teenagers to visit the motherland. Parents of the the teens would get a sponsored trips so their kids can learn about Korean culture. What could go wrong? While the intentions of the program were honourable, the activities of the teens were not. The film is based on a true story of one of the summer camps that took place in 1986.
THE ROYAL TAILOR: Directed by Lee Won-Suk, South Korea, 2014. Toronto Premiere
A young designer has earned the queen’s favour with his refreshing take on traditional garb, and the existing royal tailor feels threatened for his long-awaited promotion. Stitch by stich, the two tailors duel for the ultimate masterpiece. But beyond the clothing, a larger war is also brewing between the two women in the king’s life.
CHANGING SEASONS: ON THE MASUMOTO FAMILY FARM: Directed by Jim Choi. USA, 2015. International Premiere
“How many harvests do you have in you?” is the perennial echo that reverberates across the Masumoto Family peach farm. CHANGING SEASON chronicles a transitional year-in-the-life of famed farmer, slow food advocate, and sansei, David “Mas” Masumoto, and his compelling relationship with daughter Nikiko, who returns to the family farm with the intention of stepping into her father’s work boots. Mas’ hopes and hesitations for the future are shored up with his daughter’s return, as the family must navigate the implications of Mas’ 60th birthday and triple bypass surgery. The film is interspliced with moments of Nikiko’s razor sharp meditations on her family’s internment during WWII and her role as a queer, progressive farmer in the Central Valley.
SITI: Directed by Eddie Cahyono. Indonesia, 2014. Toronto Premiere
Siti, a young and beautiful woman, has to find means to care for her son, her paralyzed husband and her mother-in-law. By day, she sells snacks on the beach; by night, she sells herself in an illegal karaoke bar. Her encounter with a policeman, who falls in love with her, makes her life even more complicated.