Reel Asian update...

Spent the entire weekend at the Toronto Reel Asian Film Fest. Like last year the sheer breadth of the fest makes one giant review rather silly. A few capsule reviews of some of the films I saw.

The Adventure of Iron Pussy:
Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul is better known for his Cannes prize winner Tropical Malady. So this campy cult homage to popular Thai film genres (spy, action, musicals, romance, all make an appearance) seems like a radical turn. Add the fact that co-director Michael Shaowanasai is fighting, singing and dancing in drag as the titular character for most of the film makes this a one-in-a-million film. The film draws heavily on Thai film iconography and convention so at times it felt like we were missing out on the jokes and the subtlety but the energy, humour and sheer fun of the film makes this a moot point. I dare you to find a film this campy and this much fun.

July, Secondary School and Moving: Tammy Cheung is a Canadian documentary maker now living in Hong Kong and over the last few years she's turned her camera on some of the hidden aspects of Hong Kong society. In Secondary School, she took her cameras into two of Hong Kong's elite public schools and unearthed the boredom and rigidity that is sapping the creativity out of Hong Kong's youth. Moving takes us to the other extreme into a housing estate that houses many of Hong Kong's poorer seniors. Using the fly-on-the wall, cinema verite style popularized by Frederick Wiseman, Cheung forsakes voicovers, narration and many other storytelling devices preferring to weave her images carefully together and allows us to make up our own minds. The approach is challenging for the audience but well worth it. Interestingly Cheung doesn't see herself as a social activist, yet her films seem to deal (whether she wants to or not) with social issues (education, the poor, the elderly) and sometimes even overtly political events like in her film July about the massive democracy protests that rocked the city last summer. And after speaking to Cheung yesterday I found someone who is quite political, willing to speak her mind and has a real social justice bent to her philosophy. Does this make her an activist?

I also saw more short films than I can shake a stick at. Some of the highlights:

O. Nathapon's gorgeous Bicycles and Radios, a first film no less! Keep an eye for his name in the future. Doan La's Dragon of Love is only the second film I've seen that shows a black-asian relationship (the first was Greg Pak's film Robot Stories). This happens more often than films would like us to think. La's film examines this with a witty blend of humour but nonetheless serious undertone of representation and race. I also can't forget the moving films of Luo Li and Ho Tam's experimental and slightly discomforting In the Dark, about the SARS epidemic.

I'm planning on chasing a few stories that came out of talking to people at Reel Asian, stay tuned.

No comments :

Popular Posts