The 18th annual edition of the Reel Asian International Film Festival begins this evening and runs until November 16. Taking place in both Toronto and Richmond HIll, this year’s edition of Reel Asian will consist of 44 films from 10 regions including Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, Canada and the United States. This will be my second year providing coverage of the festival and I hope to see most of the feature films screening, including the films that will be screening as part of the Richmond Hill weekend. Here is a quick rundown of some of the highlights of this year’s festival.
Opening Night Gala: Thu Nov 6, 7:00 PM, Isabel Bader Theatre
THE MIDNIGHT AFTER (director Fruit Chan, actor TBC in attendance, Hong Kong 2014, Toronto Premiere)
This Berlinale gala film begins with a midnight bus ride to Taipo. When the bus arrives at its destination, its passengers discover they are the sole survivors of a strange pandemic. This genre-bending, action-packed film brings together well-known stars of Hong Kong cinema including Simon Yam, Kara Hui and Lam Suet, as well as top talents from the next generation of Hong Kong actors including Cherry Ngan, Wong You-nam, Janice Man and Chui Tien-you.
Thoughts: Even though I haven’t seen any of his previous films, I am definitely familiar with Hong Kong director Fruit Chan and I think this will be a great film to kick off the festival with.
Feature Presentation: Fri Nov 7, 7:00 PM, The Royal
AWESOME ASIAN BAD GUYS (directors Patrick Epino and Stephen Dypiangco, actor Aaron Takahashi in attendance, USA 2014, Canadian Premiere)
This film features the Asian “bad guys” of our favourite childhood action movies in an action comedy that pays homage to the actors who played iconic yet nameless Asian villains on the silver screen. Featuring Tamlyn Tomita, Dante Basco, and Al Leong.
Thoughts: This is a film that I am excited to see, just based on the title alone.
Feature Presentation: Fri Nov 7, 8:45 PM, The Royal
9-MAN (director Ursula Liang, USA 2014, International Premiere)
9-Man documents this uniquely Chinese-American sport, and presents an entertaining, funny, and sharp conversation about contemporary Asian America, as players not only battle for a championship but fight to preserve a sport that holds so much of their Chinese heritage.
Thoughts: Not really familiar with this variation on volleyball, though I still think this will be an interesting documentary.
Feature Presentation: Fri Nov 7, 10:45 PM, The Royal
HUNTER x HUNTER: THE LAST MISSION (director Keiichiro Kawaguchi, Japan 2013, Toronto Premiere)
A film adaptation of the best-selling manga series, The Last Mission introduces surprising character twists as Hunters Gon and Killua battle against rogue Hunters who dabbled with the dark power “On.”
Thoughts: As I learned last year, anime films can be incredibly hit or miss, however I’m still willing to give them a try.
Feature Presentation: Sat Nov 8, 9:45 PM, The Royal
MOURNING GRAVE (director Oh In-chun in attendance, South Korea 2014, International Premiere)
In-su has the power to see ghosts. He returns to his hometown for a normal life, and ends up bonding with an unusual girl. When a mysterious ghost starts to hunt down and kill his classmates one by one, In-su is forced to reveal his supernatural sixth sense to save his classmates. Is there any time left for his burgeoning love life? Starring Kim So-eun from the Boys Over Flowers K-drama.
Thoughts: This ghost story seems right up my alley
Centrepiece Presentation: Sun Nov 9, 7:00 PM, The Royal
CENTERPIECE PRESENTATION: KANO (director Umin Boya in attendance, Taiwan 2014, Canadian Premiere)
“What does race have to do with baseball?” Based on a true story, KANO depicts a multiethnic squad of rural Taiwan-based highschoolers who made it to the national championships in Japan in 1931. KANO is the directorial debut for Boya, most well-known for his leading role in Seediq Bale (Warriors of the Rainbow 2011).
Thoughts: This three hour long baseball movie will be either incredibly awesome or very tedious to watch. I’m hoping for the former.
Closing Night Gala: Fri Nov 14, 7:00 PM, The Royal
MONSOON SHOOTOUT (director Amit Kumar in attendance, India 2013, Toronto Premiere)
Featured in the Cannes Midnight program, Monsoon Shootout is an innovative and gritty cop drama with choose-your-own-adventure style twists that keep you guessing. The film features the familiar faces of Tannishtha Chatterjee (Siddarth 2013), Geetanjali Thapa, and Nawazzudin Siddiqui (Bombay Talkies 2013) as the brooding axe-wielding hit man.
Toronto: This action film should be a great way to finish off the Toronto programme.
Richmond Hill Opening Gala: Fri Nov 15, 7:00 PM, Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts
MANNY (director Ryan Moore in attendance, USA / Philippines 2014, Canadian Premiere)
The life of internationally renowned Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao is a fantastic rags-to-riches story. Almost two decades after his first low-key boxing match,his country of 100 million people comes to a complete standstill to watch him fight. Narrated by Liam Neeson and co-directed by Academy Award winner Leon Gast (When We Were Kings)
Thoughts: I think both the fact that it’s about boxing and narrated by Liam Neeson should make this one a winner.
Richmond Hill Closing: Sat Nov 16, 7:00 PM, SilverCity Richmond Hill
BRAHMIN BULLS (director Mahesh Pailoor, USA 2013, Canadian Premiere)
Starring Sendhil Ramamurthy (Heroes), Roshan Seth, Academy Award winner Mary Steenburgen, Justin Bartha, and Academy Award nominated Michael Lerner,Brahmin Bulls is a story of a long overdue reunion between father and son, as they learn the truth about each other for the first time as adults.
Thoughts: A quite well known cast headlines this drama, which will close off the festival.
Well, those are my highlights of Reel Asian. Stay tuned throughout the festival, as I provide my thoughts on these films and more.