What’s on our radar at REEL ASIAN Film Fest 2016

We’ve enjoyed so many films and events during the annual Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival over the years. It’s provided film lovers in Toronto and Richmond Hill a chance to check out incredible films that may not have another opportunity to view this side of the globe. We’ve also had fun meeting with celebrities in the past, and learning more about what’s happening in the entertainment industry.

At this year’s 20th edition of the Toronto International Reel Asian Film Fest runs November 8 to 19, 2016. There are  77 films to choose from and 19 of them are features —  46 of the screenings are from North America and 21 films overall will be making world premieres. Impressive! We’ve got our eyes on several films to go and see…

SOUL MATE: Directed by Derek Tsang Kwok Cheung. Hong Kong.Toronto Premiere. Opening night Gala Presentation.

Tsang chronicles the story of model student Qiyue and free-spirited Ansheng who are the best of friends, forming their inseparable bond from the moment they met as children. Their loyalties are put to the test when a boy and the cruelties of youth lead them to embark on separate paths until one day, a web novella based on their lives surfaces uncovering a deep secret. Produced by notable Hong Kong filmmaker Peter Chan, SOUL MATE is a poignant, poetic look at the intimacy of female friendship.

TSUKIJI WONDERLAND: Directed by Naotaro Endo. Japan. Toronto Premiere. Cast includes Jiro Ono, Rene Redzepi and Theodore Bestor.

The Tsukiji Fish Market in central Tokyo is lauded as the world’s largest fish and seafood market. In an effort that never ceases, Tsukiji caters to the needs of demanding professionals, offering more than 400 types of seafood and ensuring customers the best quality fish. World- renowned chefs frequent Tsukiji, expecting hours-old product and relying heavily on vendors to guide them through “peak season” picks throughout the year. What results is an intricate, almost religious relationship between fishermen, vendors and restauranteurs.

Toronto International Reel Asian Film Festival 2016

BAD RAP: Directed by Salima Koroma. USA. Canadian Premiere.

Who do aspiring artists look up to in a culture that doesn’t represent them? Following several rappers, director Salima Koroma paints a portrait of what it means to be Asian in North America’s hip-hop culture. Facing stereotypes, rappers Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy, and Lyricks (to a name a few) are caught in the constant battle of who they are versus how the public sees them.“Visibility is 100% the most important thing for Asian Americans, for all minorities right now,” proclaims Awkwafina.

TYRUS: Directed by Pamela Tom. Japan. Canadian Premiere.

In 1920, a young Tyrus Wong and his father emigrated from China to California. Upon arriving in the USA, Wong was temporarily detained as a result of the Chinese Exclusion Act, a memory which would stay with the 9-year-old for years. Later in his 20s, at a time when most Chinese Americans were employed as restaurant or laundromat workers, Wong defied all barriers to become one of the few Asian Americans to be employed as a sketch artist at Disney, working in the movie industry for over three decades and ultimately inspiring the unique look and feel of Bambi. Throughout his 105 years of age, Wong’s life has proven to be as dynamic as his art— expressed through the Christmas cards he’s designed, the plates he’s painted, the movies he’s illustrated, and most recently, the kites he’s crafted. In the end, however, Tyrus Wong views his greatest achievement as his family.

THE LAST PRINCESS: Directed by Hur Jin-ho. South Korea. Toronto Premiere.

It is 1925 and 13-year-old Yi Deokhye is the last princess of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty. Under Japan’s colonial rule, the young princess is forced to relocate to Japan to finish her studies. Her desperate attempts to return home are continually thawrted by the pro-Japanese general Han Taek-soo. One day, she meets a friend from her past, Kim Jang-han, now an officer in the Japanese army. Kim, who is also part of the Korean independence movement, plans a secret operation to move Deokhye and her brother Yi Un to Shanghai, site of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea.This is a fictional story inspired by real historical figures.


MY EGG BOY: directed by Fu Tien-Yu. Taiwan. North American Premiere.

Even in modern-day Taipei, women feel the societal pressure to get married and have children before the clock runs out. Thankfully, there is a solution: freeze your eggs and prolong your fertility until the right one comes along! A comical tale on freezing time for the sake of prolonging the pursuit of love, this Taiwanese comedy showcases the “smallest” actors on the big screen: frozen spermatozoa and eggs.

My Egg Boy

MY DAD AND MR. ITO: Directed by Yuki Canada. Japan. North American Premiere.

In her latest film, director Yuki Tanada again examines the life of a woman struggling at the fringes of Japanese society. Aya is 34. She is bright and capable, but hobbled by an overarching passivity that robs her of control over her world. Life is something that happens to Aya, including her humble co-existence with the 54-year-old Mr. Ito in a cramped Tokyo apartment, tending to a small vegetable garden. Both work dead-end part-time jobs but enjoy a small, contented life together. Their world is turned upside down when Aya’s elderly widowed father suddenly appears at the door, suitcases in hand, after being kicked out of his son’s home. An intimate and quietly moving dramedy, My Dad and Mr. Ito boasts Tanada’s perceptive direction and three fine lead performances.

Reel Asian Film Festival showcases the best in contemporary Asian cinema and offers several great tie-in events and parties! For more information and tickets, visit  reelasian.com


Sonya is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of AZNmodern.com. She is also a well-established contributing lifestyle writer to other sites and magazines sharing her passion for arts & culture, fashion, beauty, travel and food. Sonya is based in Toronto, Canada. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @theculturepearl

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