It’s a wrap on the 26th edition of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival! Opting for a hybrid model this year, Reel Asian welcomed film lovers back to the cinema to celebrate all the Asian talent in Canada and beyond.
The festival was book-ended by Canadians coast to coast this year with Vancouver’s Anthony Shim opening Reel Asian with Riceboy Sleeps and Newfoundland-born Romeo Candido closing out the show with his new series, Topline. Notably, there were a lot of great documentaries in the line-up, covering a wide range of topics from the Vancouver Grizzlies to transgender issues in Singapore to the continuing effects of the Cambodian Civil War. Not to be outdone, feature films ran the gamut on emotions, tugging on our heart strings with stories about fatherhood and identity, made us laugh with experimental coming-of-age high school stories, and thrilled us with murder mysteries.
#ReelAsian26 also has a special place in The Asian Cut history now: it’s the first film festival we covered on the site, and we couldn’t have picked a better one to begin our journey.
Have a read of our team’s favourite movies from this year’s Reel Asian!
David Siev's Bad Axe was such a captivating documentary that excels on a technical and emotional level. I was drawn into the Siev family through its thoughtful approach. I felt like I could share in both their ups and downs, their joys and sorrows in equal measure. Their courage to speak up on matters concerning the Asian diaspora in the past, present, and future is truly inspiring.
— Calvin Law
It's almost radical the way director Quen Wong chooses tenderness and vulnerability to uncover a fragment of the too-hidden history of Singapore's trans women community. Even braver is how she employs this very softness when tackling her own past and shame. I was truly struck by how triumphant a debut Some Women was for Wong, a reminder of how far love and compassion can really go, both towards others and yourself, and, above all, a testament to the power of owning your story.
— Jericho Tadeo
Stay the Night
My extremely subjective take on Stay the Night is based on the similarity between myself and the main character played by Andrea Bang. A socially awkward but well-dressed Asian-Canadian millennial? Am I just an Aritzia mannequin? Director and writer Renuka Jeyapalan crafts two fully realized and relatable characters who come together so organically and build each other up so tenderly in their preciously short time together that it’s true movie magic. Add in the Toronto setting and it’s personally my favourite of the Before Sunrise-inspired films (including Before Sunrise itself).
— Rose Ho
I love watching first features from new directors. It’s exciting to see what a new crop of filmmakers are creating and how they’re executing their ideas. This is especially true for young creatives who have been molded by a world very different to the one I came of age in. Seeing the world through a fresh set of eyes using a fresh set of technology can be invigorating. Ethan Eng’s Therapy Dogs was filmed under the guise of a graduating class video in 2019 when Eng himself was leaving high school. A capsule in time, Therapy Dogs is a thoughtful and wild ride from adolescence to early adulthood.
— Rachel Ho
TAC’s Festival Pick: Riceboy Sleeps
Anthony Shim’s latest film, Riceboy Sleeps has won multiple accolades across numerous film festivals this year, including TIFF’s coveted Platform Prize. Shim has also been recognized by the Directors Guild of Canada with the Jean-Marc Vallée DGC Discover Award. So it’s no wonder when it landed at Reel Asian, Riceboy Sleeps would claim the Best Canadian Feature Film Award. Shim shows off his technical prowess with a deft directional eye, creating rich visuals full of texture and awe-inspiring landscapes. A film about identity, home, and belonging, Shim’s moving story about a mother and son’s journey from South Korea to Canada struck a chord with many, including us here at The Asian Cut.