It’s far too often on this side of the Pacific that we associate Asian film with the action-packed fare of Hong Kong-bred directors like John Woo, Corey Yuen, and Wong Jing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but there’s more happening in the East than just martial arts moves, blazing guns and a lot of tough talk.
In recent years, directors like South Korea’s Im Kwon-taek, and China’s Wong Kar-Wai have made their presence known on the international film festival circuit, showcasing historic tales (Im’s Chihwaseon, based on the life of Korean painter “Ohwon” Jang Seung-up) or understated tales of passion and repression (Wong’s In the Mood For Love). This bodes well for the promotion of more dramatic Asian fare on these shores.
Then there are the festivals, such as Toronto’s Reel Asian Film Festival, that promote the real independent fare, showcasing short films and indie productions that offer a whole new perspective on Asian life and art. The festival, which is the largest independent showcase for Southeast and East Asian-themed film in Canada, is in its sixth year of existence. This year, it takes place between November 27 to December 1 in downtown Toronto, close to the same venues that host the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival.
While a number of shorts and features from Japan, China, Korea, Canada and the U.S. are included in this year’s festival, the focus will be on Thailand. A number of Thai shorts will be featured in the fest’s spotlight on Thursday, November 28. The weekend brings two Thai features: “I-San Special,” director Mingmongkol Sonakul’s surreal take on a routine bus trip in northeast Thailand, and “Mysterious Object at Noon,” Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s equally surreal study of storytelling.
Other notable features include “Scumrock,” a balls-to-the-wall rock’n’roll epic from San Francisco indie director Jon Moritsugu, and “Lolo’s Child,” a film from Canadian director Romeo Candido that festival organizers describe as “an experimental musical-dramedy.” The latter opens the festival. Its closer is “Flower Island,” a feature from South Korea’s Ilgon Song. The film tells the tale of three women on a healing journey to the mythical Flower Island, just off the southern coast of Korea.
There are plenty of nightly parties, featuring DJs Shingo, Serious & Kola, as well as Toronto electroclash act I am Robot and Proud. NYC’s The Pacific Ocean, featuring ex-members of Versus and Containe, will play the festival’s “Lock’N’Loll” night on Thursday, November 28. Toronto bands The Flashing Lights and The Bicycles are also on that bill.
Remember that this is Canada, where your great American greenback goes even further. Toronto, otherwise known as “T-Dot” or “Hollywood North,” is an especially popular spot for film productions and celebrities because it offers all the amenities, diversity (and for film crews, the appearance) of a major American city. So, if you’re in the mood to catch some cutting edge Asian cinema, book a flight to the Great White North this week.
For more information, visit the Reel Asian Film Festival website.