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Celebrating Our Diversity: The Reel Asian Film Festival Kicks Off This Week With Award Winning Films
November 4, 2012
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One of the things we love to celebrate in Canada is our cultural diversity, because essentially the entire world lives in this country.

A great example of that diversity is The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. Now in its 16th year, the festival brings the best in Asian cinema to Canada.

This year's festival is showcasing 60 films and videos from 14 countries, including Canada, China, France, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kashmir, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States.

It opens on Tueday and runs until November 11 in Toronto and Richmond Hill (just north of Toronto) from November 16-17.

Some of the films to watch for include...

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'First Time' - a youthful love story from China/Hong Kong directed by Han Yan. It stars one of Hong Kong's fastest rising stars Angelababy and Taiwanese-Canadian actor Mark Chao. It will make its Canadian premiere at the opening gala.

'Prison Dancer' from Canada and directed by Romeo Candido. It's a mockumentary based on real viral videos of Filipino prisoners dancing in their cells. It will be featured in the Centrepiece Presentation.

'Architecture 101' - a romantic drama that did big business in South Korea. It will make its Canadian premiere at the Toronto closing gala.

And for the first time, a South Asian feature film - 'Valley of Saints' - is part of the festival lineup. Filmed in Kashmir, it's about a young boatman and his fight to save his community and way of life from extreme pollution.

Directed by Musa Sayeed, it was well-received at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won an audience award and the Alfred P. Sloan Film Prize (which goes to a film that has science as a theme).

"Since there is so much to see, we hope that each of these films has something you haven't seen before," program director Aram Siu Wai Collier told the Toronto Star.

"There's such a diverse audience here in Toronto, from the general public to film fans to the more experimental crowd."

There's also a documentary called 'Jake Shimahukuro: Life On Four Strings.' Shimahukuro is a ukulele virtuoso from Hawaii. The films follows him on tour from Los Angeles to New York to Japan, as he deals with loneliness and newfound fame.

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Another doc to watch for is called 'Seeking Asian Female' - about a middle-aged white man looking for a "sweet, subservient" Asian bride.

As well, Reel Asian is screening its first 3D feature called 'A Fish' directed by Park Hong-min of South Korea.

It's about a philosophy professor who finds out his missing wife is on an island training to be a shaman and contact the spirit world. He drops everything to try to find her. You can see the trailer below.

And there's 'Cold Steel', a fun thriller that is a throwback to the classic Hong Kong action films of the 1980s.

It's directed by David Wu, who is originally from Hong Kong but is now based in Vancouver. He is a long-time collaborator with the legendary director John Woo. Check out the trailer.

Another film worth noting is 'People's Park.'

It consists of one, single 78-minute-long uninterrupted shot that takes the viewer through a busy park in the Chinese city of Chengdu.

And Montreal filmmaker Yung Chang ('Up the Yangtze', 'China Heavyweight') has a new foodie documentary in the festival.

It's called 'The Fruit Hunters' and is about people who have a passion and obsession with fruit. It's narrated by Bill Pullman ('Independence Day', 'Lost Highway').

It's described as a "cinematic odyssey that takes viewers from the dawn of humanity to the cutting of edge of modern agriculture - a film that will change not just the way we look at we eat, but what it means to be human."

Here's Yung Chang in the red chair talking about another of his docs 'China Heavyweight' and meeting Mike Tyson in China.

You can see the full interview here.


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