Reel Asian Film Festival: Passion Pick Flicks To Hold a Birthday Candle To

You know you’re in for a good time when a birthday is involved and the same applies to a film festival.   Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival will be celebrating it’s 15th anniversary starting tonight.  Unlike a human teenage counterpart it’s us that will be spoiled rotten over the course of not just one day but spread across six.

Being as lucky as a waving cat I’ve been able to tear a whole in the movie gift wrapping about to be dished out in the downtown core.  Here are my top picks from talent near and afar.

Not even an image can keep this fellow static and still!  Bashing out a silent beat above is Mr. Kwon.  You might not remember him with his now silver locks but jump back in the YouTube time machine with the dial set back a few millions views & tune in to the 1970’s on TV in Toronto to jog your memory.

The city’s very own viral sensation know as the Korean Drummer famed for stealing the show has his very own short film, A Drummer’s Passion in the Trailblazers selection which is a show case for supercharged seniors.  While it’s easy to smile at the head banging, teeth beaming performance style it’s great to hear the gentleman tell his story of how he came to clash the symbols.  From humble beginnings helping his family and moving to Oh Canada.  Even when the drumsticks are down it’ll tap a little beat on your heart.  Setting the trail ablaze with the opening film is an equally meme-able Totte Mitsu, Let’s go to Russia which is a spontaneous film full of playful energy & the slightly terrifying Pink Paper Bag Man.  Proving documentaries are sexy, Grandpa’s Wet Dream shows another side of retirement.  Secret porn star at 75 can’t be a bad thing as an old Japanese man too embarrassed to buy a DVD from his closest retailer gets more than he bargained for after he visit the companies head quarters.  Granny’s Rock in both ways of reading it, none more than Miya Yumemi.  Making awesome ink portraits for people she meets she’s how I imagine my friends in the UK will end up.  Being dragged cardboard in a shopping centre on a night out.  Old and eccentric is what it’s all about.  The climax of the section, The Sugar Bowl was last year’s winner in the So You Think You Can Pitch contest.  It’s fast becoming my favourite production house as last year’s A Dragged Out Affair also won the award.  The Negros Island in the Philippines has a sweet story of success providing sugar from the cane plantations until the industry crashed.  The extravagant lifestyles during the heyday are recounted by the flamboyant caretaker who’s home is now a museum to his former life, threatening to return as a naked ghost should the artifacts get moved on it’s clear that his elaborate stories are worth preserving in vivid detail along with the sumptuous visuals captured on screen.

Tickets to Trailblazers are currently rush line – Wednesday, Nov 09, 8:45pm while supplies last at the venue 1 hr before the show.

Another more mellow musical highlight from the festival will come from Goh Nakamura in both feature film and live performance.  Read my review of Surrogate Valentine (the perfect follow on from a chilled Sunday Brunch – 3pm November 13th The Royal click for tickets) from a few weeks back. The Rancho Relaxo gig is 10pm 11/11/11 FREE with any Reel Asian ticket stub or two toonies & a loonie for the non movie watchers among us.

Seize the Moment is the title for the Canadian short series.  My fave favourite before even setting foot near a carpet, let alone opening night’s red at the Isabel Bader Theatre.  Insert Credit, which is assumed to be a menu glitch on the screener disc was actually an 8bit opus to growing up told in a video game cut screen & level played progression.  Classic side scrolling awesomeness made me what to fumble for loose change.  This would be a perfect partner to Scot Pilgrim Vs. The World.  In contrast to the pixels Koji Yamamura returns to the festival with Muybridge Strings (Les Cordes De Muybridge) via the NFB.  Surreal streaks of animated baffling beauty capture the famous animal motion photography.

No Contract was the most tense showman sensation with an air of foreboding dread creeping from a dreamlike corner.  Almost like a personal Houdini horror show, the haunting hints hit you from all sides.  I can’t wait to experience this again on a full size.

Plants out of the Sunlight from this year’s poster boy for the festival & funny man from Asiansploitation takes a more serious approach with the topic of his film making.  Mia a factory worker in Toronto struggles to keep connected with her teenage son, while working long hours and encountering prejudice in the work place.

The damage in shifting tides of work & the demands it makes on families were perfectly matched in Left-Behind Woman where the salaries of men move them to far away locations in China, leaving the children and mothers behind while A Winter Song (Une Chanson D’Hiver) based on the true story of an ill corner shop worker in Montreal show the other side of movie for a better future but still struggling to secure a life far removed from the accolade & skills once known.  A dinner table scene is particularly touching while heightening your empathy to consider the past lives of people you might encounter everyday and their motivations behind work.

Seize the Moment – Shorts Presentation plays 6:15pm  Friday 11th November at the Royal with tickets available here

Read my blog from last year’s event & tune it to this year’s coverage.


  1. AWE!!!!!!!!! So flattered that you have GIFs that were from the behind the scenes when The Korean Drummer was on! I’m sharing this right now with Nat & Everyone.
    Thanks for including us in the post. Mr Kwon is charming and his spirit is totally infectious, we're so happy that he's earned yet another resurgence.

    Great post, thanks for sharing.


  1. […] I’d previously watched these alone so was craving to see these super charged seniors dashed across the big screen with extra audience involvement.  It was definitely an added experience sharing the movies en masse.  Grandpa’s Wet Dream provided the most laughter as a 76 year old is documented on his secret accident life as a mature star of a niche adult porn film industry.  The juxtaposition of his collected vintage movie posters with his own catalogue of X-rated accomplishments were an interesting legacy to be left behind.  Another less secret legacy came up in A Drummer’s Passion.  Mr. Kwon is the name of the Korean Drummer who set a beat to over a million views on YouTube.  While it was easy to smile and share the clip, this was the time to hear about the reason behind his style and his life before the internet shone a spotlight on him.  Stealing the show is what he does best as a personal warmth transcended the screen.  Granny’s Rock reminded me of a real life Harold & Maude with a true bond between young and old generation.  With an outsider art style of capturing portraits Miya Yumemi is the streaking legend who’s work can be found worn on people’s t-shirts & scattered all over bars in her area.  Satoru Yasuda befriends her and joins her drinking & art antics making his film in to a gallery of  her work and personality.  The Sugar Bowl was the most anticipated section of the series for me.  Having seen their winning pitch in 2010′s So You Think You Can Pitch contest it was very satisfying to have seen the start of the journey come to conclusion in the same event space.  The Negros Island, provider of the sugar supply to America is a prince to pauper story on a grand scale effecting everyone of the inhabitants.  The lavish lifestyles that accompanied the plantation abruptly ended as Government and sweet alternatives sunk the price of sugar like a dissolving cube in a cuppa.  The industrial elements remain on the lush green island as rebuilding and hope returns.  A once decadent dwelling is now a museum and the occupier now the tour guide advanced in years that provided the eccentric fit in to the overall presentation. […]

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