The 19th annual Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Reel Asian) is set to run from November 5 – 15, 2015 in Toronto and Richmond Hill. The festival highlights contemporary Asian cinema as well as work from the Asian Diaspora. Reel Asian also features a series of industry events in areas such as pitching and screenwriting to help guide and inspire creative minds.
After meticulously going over every synopsis, trailer, and bio that this year’s festival has to offer, I’ve put together a list of several can’t miss films at Reel Asian 2015.
During the 1980s, the Korean government instituted a policy which created summer camps aimed at enticing the country’s gyopo (foreign born) teenagers to visit their motherland. The plan seemed to be a win-win; parents could send their kids away on the Korean government’s dime, the kids would gain a first-hand cultural experience, and the country would strengthen ties with Korean emigrant’s children. It only took two years before the government scrapped the program because they couldn’t control the teenagers. Korean-American filmmaker Benson Lee draws upon his own camp experiences to deliver a stirring coming of age tale that will inspire laughter, tears, and a bit of getting one’s groove on to Seoul Searching’s killer 80s soundtrack.
TWO THUMBS UP
Two Thumbs Up is a corybantic Hong Kong action comedy that looks to be equal parts Ocean’s Eleven and The Great Muppet Caper. Fresh off doing a 16-year prison stint, Hong Kong gangster Lucifer (Francis Ng) reassembles his crew for one last heist. The problem with Lucifer’s plan is that another crew is attempting the same heist on the same night — needless to say, hijinks ensue. Two Thumbs Up’s trailer appears to show a grown man slapping the taste out of a child’s mouth, so it looks like nothing is off limits in this wild comedy. I also haven’t seen this much bowling featured in the trailer for a crime story since The Big Lebowski. Sign me up for this one.
Miss Hokusai is director Keiichi Hara’s anime adaptation of Hinako Sugiura’s historical manga series, Sarusuberi. Miss Hokusai eschews many familiar anime tropes in order to tell a grounded (by anime standards) tale about an early 19th century father/daughter tandem of artists. While the father, Tetsuzo (Yutaka Matsushige), would one day find acclaim as the renowned artist Katsushika Hokusai, the film posits that Tetsuzo’s daughter O-Ei (Anne Watanabe) is often the uncredited painter behind his work. Much like Sugiura’s manga series, the film abandons a traditional narrative format, instead choosing to explore several “episodes” throughout the character’s lives. Miss Hokusai looks to combine historical non-fiction with beautiful animation to offer a transfixing window into early 19th century Japan.
Full Strike, directed by Derek Kwok and Henri Wong, recently took home the award for best Asian film at Fantasia Film Festival. The film tells the tale of disgraced badminton champion, Ng Kau-sau (Josie Ho), as she crosses path with a trio of ex-cons. Determining that badminton is their only path to redemption, the group join forces to become a badminton super team. One brief glimpse of Full Strike’s trailer is enough to show off exactly how the film bristles with the kinetic energy of a Tasmanian Devil hopped up on Redbull; the trailer is scored with Tarantino-esque horns, features actors dropping c-bombs like they’re going out of style, and provides just as much fisticuffs as badminton action. Full Strike looks to be the perfect movie for fans of raunchy, offbeat comedy.