Following two event-filled weekends, March 1-4 and 9-11, the third edition of the AmérAsia Film Festival has come to a close. This year the festival featured about 50 Asian and Asian-Canadian films including Cannes and Academy Award-winning productions from China, Kyroskistan, India, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam, as well a number of Quebec-origin films. Over 100 invited guests from as far as Japan and South Korea were in attendance at five different venues across Montreal, mixing with homegrown filmmakers and academics. Sound On Sight contributor Edgar Chaput was present for the majority of the event, providing some excellent coverage. Here is a quick break down of some of his reviews:
Pearls of the Far East
Directed by Cuong Ngo
Written by Minh Ngoc Nguyen and Matt Guerin
Any young director is faced with a steep challenge when shifting his or her focus from the realm of short films to that of the feature length. Suddenly, the economy required in the storytelling takes on an entirely different facet, with the director now having to let his characters breath a little more. Vietnamese director Cuong Ngo arrives on the international stage with his first ever feature-length movie following two shorts, The Golden Pin and The Hitchhiker Project, which both saw the light of day in 2009 and each an exercise within familiar genres, not to mention that they utilized some Canadian talent. The result of his efforts for this latest endeavor, Pearls of the East, is unquestionably skewered towards a different audience. Curiously enough, even though the movie is 103 minutes long, has actually made an anthology film, hence remaining in his comfort zone… (read the full review)
Directed by Kim Ki-duk
Written by Kim Ki-duk
South Korea, 2011
What is curious about the film is how it fluctuates between fact and fiction. The picture is, in many respects, a very true documentary in how it functions as a prolonged, unhinged one-sided interview. Kim helps the audience along by clearly stating what it is he is about to talk about, one example being when he paraphrases the question so many people have supposedly been asking him the past few years ‘Why haven’t I made a movie since Dream?’ He will subsequently proceed to describe as best he can what caused him to retreat into public obscurity in the 3 years since. Only, his confessions seem to be ‘acted out’, for lack of a better term, at random moments. There are most definitely specific scenes in which director Kim speaks from the heart, such as when coming to terms with the memories of an accident which nearly caused a fatality on the set of his previous film. On separate occasions the viewer cannot help but guess that Kim is embellishing his frustrations towards certain people, like when admitting (if he even is actually doing that) his disdain for actors who become famous for villains, a role the director believes is the easiest to play. One need only ham up the performance and get wryly, which is precisely what he does as he vents his frustrations. It is tongue in cheek to a degree, an element which destabilizes some of the honesty found in other scenes. Kim continuously plays with the documentary genre, at times adhering as closely as possible to its traditionally objective perspective, only to forgo that technique and play act moments later… (read the full review)
Yona Yona Penguin
Directed by Rintaro
Screenplay by Tomoko Konparu
Yona Yona Penguin does not strive for too much, but nor should it. It exists to have fun and offer an amusing 87 minutes to the kids who will watch it. On that level, the film succeeds. Of course, animation buffs looking for the next greatest film to emerge out of Japan will have to concern themselves with other options… (read the full review)
Directed by Lee Chang-dong
Written by Lee Chang-dong
South Korea, 2010
There is something very special about South Korean cinema which sets it a apart from the cinematic accomplishments of so many other countries. There is never a fear of meshing multiple genres together into one film. In fact, it sometimes feels as if South Korean cinema even embraces such freedom, accepting the challenge wholeheartedly and letting their mature creative wings spread. In a funny sense, Poetry feels like the sort of movie a director like Pedro Almodovar would make, only that in the hands of Lee Chang-dong, the resulting product somehow demonstrates a wide array of emotions in the most austere manner possible, preferring silence and simplicity in its moments of revelation rather than melodrama… (read the full review)
Here is the press release from AmérAsia:
The festival held seminars and workshops relating to the Asian Diaspora on Screen, Asian animation and grant writing for culturally diverse artists. AmérAsia went an extra step this year in recognizing, discovering and rediscovering great Asian films as well as Asian-Canadian talents in film, media and other cultural fields. At the Closing Gala, large numbers of artists from culturally diverse communities celebrated the festival’s success and outreach efforts.
AmérAsia’s opening film, Leafie: A Hen into Wild, a children’s story written by Hwang Sunmi, will be released this summer across Canada. Pearls of the Far East, a series of captivating personal portraits by Vietnamese director Cuong Ngo, sold out its 165-seat Quebec premiere last weekend, March 3, with an overflow crowd at the NFB. An encore screening this past weekend, March 11, was added by AmérAsia, coinciding with its sell-out premiere screening in Vietnam.
EyeSteelFilm takes top award
The festival is proud to have been able to honour Montreal film production and distribution entity EyeSteelFilm with the esteemed AmérAsia Sublime! Outstanding Contribution to Asian-Canadian Cinema Award. EyeSteelFilm co-founder and documentary filmmaker Daniel Cross (president of EyeSteelFilm and Assistant Professor in Film Production at Concordia University) accepted the award on behalf of the company, thanking fellow co-founder, documentary filmmaker and EyeSteelFilm vice-president Mila Aung-Thwin. Cross also took time to recognize the contributions of students at Concordia.
EyeSteelFilm has brought a series of films chronicling modern life in China to Canadian cinemas, including Up the Yangtze, Last Train Home, Bone, Chairman George, Vanishing Springlight and, most recently, director Yung Chang’s China Heavyweight.
And the Smartphone Film Challenge grand prize goes to…
The winners of the inaugural Smartphone Film Challenge, which saw participants spend 72 hours during the festival making a four-minute film entirely on a smartphone, were announced by Challenge mentor and filmmaker Christos Sourligas after 10 videos were screened at the SAT on March 9.
First prize, consisting of $1,000 from Ciné-Asie to put towards the next production, $1,500 worth of post-production funds from Vidéographe and a worldwide distribution deal, was awarded to Manuel Roumer for Tom’s Land. A second prize award of $1,000 video production at Vidéographe was given to Radu Juster for Monkey on a Spoon, while Felipe Correa Gallardo’s Amutuan took home $1,000 in sound production services, courtesy of Premium Sound, for his next project. All smartphone films will be hosted on the Radio Canada International website this year. Prize winners can be contacted for comment at the following: Roumer (email@example.com), Juster (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Correa Gallardo (email@example.com).
The festival would like to thank the Smartphone Film Challenge jury members Christos, new technology blogger Bob Benedetti and Montreal filmmaker Zhi-Min Hu. Boris Chassagne, Producer-coordinator for RCI Vision, AmérAsia’s media sponsor, said: “The AmérAsia Film Festival and its Smartphone Film Challenge illustrate just how imaginative filmmakers are today. The diversity of content, mediums and genres showcased in this third edition were truly astonishing.”
National Video Portrait Competition winners announced
The fourth annual National Video Portrait Competition, which took place at La SAT on March 9, invited participants to explore the unique relationship between Canada and Asia by creating video portraits (the theme this year was “family”).
Peter Rist – Offscreen.com writer, international film authority, and Professor of Film Studies at Concordia University – announced the winners at the AmérAsia Closing Gala held at the NFB on March 11. The $1,500 first prize Vidéographe award, to be used in the funding of future film projects, was given to Vincent Toi for Paperwings. Second prize winner Paul Tom received the $1,000 Premium Sound production award for Que je vive en paix, while the third place Hotel Zero 1 prize went to Pascal Huynh for Courir dans les escaliers. Rist gave Bonnie Chau an honourable mention for Under One Roof. In addition to Rist, the festival thanks his fellow jurists, documentary filmmaker Karen Cho and Fugues writer Denis Vaillancourt.
Remarkable talents in attendance
AmérAsia would like to thank all of its guest attendees at the festival, with Academy Award nominee Marc Smolowitz and Nicolas Rossi presenting The Power of Two. Also composers Alex Pauk and Alexina Louie, and actor Thai Hoa Le and producer Jean Mercier, all from Pearls of the Far East, as well as AmérAsia’s Spotlight on Animation curator Joon Yang Kim, and the festival’s Master of Ceremonies, actress Sora Olah.
AmérAsia would also like to thank animation seminar and workshop speakers Jonathan Ng, Karen Cho, Masoud Raouf and Alison Loader, as well as Shuni Tsou and Paul Thinel from the Canada Council for the Arts, and Janet Lumb, director at Accés Asie, who provided wider insight on Asian cinema in Canada.
Filmmakers presenting their work included Mingu Kim with A Drummer’s Passion; Nicole Rogers, Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson with The Sugar Bowl; Eisha Marjara with House for Sale; Igor Simmonet with Asuko’s Legend; Vincent Toi with Our Subject is Hair and finally Tashi Wengyal, director of An Endangered Culture.
The KPop fashion and dance show lit a spark on Saturday, March 10, for an exciting, fun-filled final soirée featuring brilliant designs from Samuel Dong, and art and beauty direction courtesy of Fang Fang. Hosted by YouTube sensation Daniel Shim, it featured sets from Huayun Phoenix Art Dance Troupe, Irratik, Inho Kim & the Comrades, Funky Kids and ended with Beats from the East DJ Mike Vee bringing the best of KPop and Asian music.