Entering its milestone 15th anniversary, the Toronto based Reel Asian Film Festival runs from November 8 to 19. In addition to programming within the city proper (with screenings at Innis Town Hall, The NFB, The Royal, and Isabel Bader Theatre), the festival expands this year with a weekend’s worth of showings in Richmond Hill. The festival, which prides itself on showcasing the best in Eastern and Southeast Asian films and filmmakers from around the world, returns this year with a heavy hitting line-up of 55 films from 12 different countries.
This year’s festival opens with the gala presentation of Lover’s Discourse (November 8, Isabel Bader, 7 p.m.), a four part Hong Kong set anthology of interconnected stories about people experiencing the various joys and pains associated with being in love. The film marks the directorial debuts of filmmakers Derek Tsang Kwok Cheung and Jimmy Wan.
The centrepiece presentation of the festival belongs to director Lin Yu-hsien’s Jump Ashin! (November 12, The Royal, 7 p.m,), a tale of one young man’s desire to excel at gymnastics despite an unsupportive family. After falling in with some undesirables, running afoul of the mob, and watching his friend’s descent into drug addiction, the young man (Eddie Peng) is forced to climb his way out of the hole he has created for himself and get back to the top of the sport he once adored.
The closing night gala of the festival (before shifting to Richmond Hill) is Li Yu’s Buddha Mountain (November 13, The Royal, 8 p.m.). This was the first film to be shot in the city of Chengdu following the 2008 earthquake that devastated the Sichuan province of China. Better known as a documentary filmmaker, Yu this time turns to the fictional story of Ding Bo (Chen Po Lin), a hard partying slacker who moves in with a bunch of his friends and a depressed former opera singer (Sylvia Chang, in her first onscreen appearance in four years). Following the real life tragedy that affected an entire nation, they all band together to travel to the titular mountain in hopes of rebuilding a fallen temple.
Other highlights of the festival include the next entry in the cult favourite anime saga Fullmetal Alchemist titled The Scared Star of Milos (November 11, The Royal 11 p.m.), the documentary Fortune Teller (November 10, Innis Town Hall, 8:45 p.m.) about a psychic who caters to the needs of the criminally marginalized, the Vietnamese dance film Saigon Electric (November 11, The Royal, 8:45 p.m.), and the South Korean high school drama Bleak Night (November 12, The Royal, 2:45 p.m.).
On November 18, the action moves to the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts (10268 Yonge Street) for a weekend of screenings. In addition to repeat screenings on November 19 of Saigon Electric (1:30 p.m.), Bleak Night (4 p.m.), and Jump Ashin! (7 p.m.), Richmond Hill will be the only place to catch the debut of Overheard 2 (November 18, 8 p.m.), the sequel to Reel Asian’s 2009 smash from some of the creative minds behind Initial D and the Infernal Affairs trilogy.
Much like other city festivals, Reel Asian isn’t just about the feature films. There are also numerous exhibits, after parties, a family programme, and numerous shorts. For more details and for ticketing info, please visit reelasian.com.