Reel Asian International Film Festival 2017 Preview

by Victor Stiff

Attention movie lovers! Tomorrow marks the launch of one of Toronto’s most exciting, accessible, and diverse film festivals: the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Reel Asian). The ten-day festival, now in its 21st year, runs from November 9th to the 18th and offers feature films, shorts, presentations, and industry sessions which highlight, “contemporary Asian cinema and work from the Asian diaspora.” Festivalgoers can expect to experience the work of “East, South and Southeast Asian artists in Canada, the U.S., Asia and all over the world.”

While discussing the upcoming festival, Reel Asian’s Interim Executive Director, Savine Wong, had this to say,

“We are extremely proud of the creators, panelists and media influencers whose films, events, exhibits and industry sessions make up this year’s festival. All of their work is sure to spark meaningful conversations on Asian representation in the arts.”

Like many festivals, Reel Asian is broken down into several programs, each one with its own distinct flavour. Whether you’re a fan of rom-coms, documentaries, or melodramatic wuxia flicks, Reel Asian likely has a couple films right up your alley.


Welcome the stars of the red carpet who are master storytellers that perfect the craft of story, design, acting, and adaptation. The Marquee programme includes the previously announced Opening (Dear Etranger) and Closing Night Galas (Stand Up Man), as well as the Centrepiece Presentation, In Your Dreams, a poignant love story between a 16-year-old who lives with his drunkard father, and a teacher living with her cheating husband. The film stars acclaimed Hong Kong actress Carina Lau and promising newcomer Ng Siu Hin.

‘Dear Etranger’


Look beyond the horizon, below the surface, outside the box. Dare to explore with filmmakers as they take you through their worlds of animation, fiction, and documentary, reflecting on connections with their community and their culture.


A festival programme that highlights film projects that stretch beyond the four walls of a cinema.


Wee Asian is back for its second year! Kids can explore the art of moviemaking and fuel their creativity through films, crafts, and dance from the next generation of media makers. Takes place November 11 and 12 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox Green Room. This event is free.

‘The Fox and the Whale’

PULSE (Shorts Programme)

Great things come in small packages. The eclectic short film programmes have something for everyone. Laugh, cry, sing, and shout with these powerful bursts of cinema.

This year’s Pulse programming includes: Been Here So Long (2017 marks the 150th year of the Confederation of Canada). With funding from the Ontario 150 program and in partnership with Vtape, Reel Asian asked various young artists to rework and reimagine archival footage and home videos based on and inspired by Asian Canadian histories within the province


Content creation is both an art and a business. Immerse in the community where creative and industry minds come together through panels and artist talks and look at what’s ahead for Asian cinema in Canada and around the world. The goal of the programme is to provide local emerging talent, visiting delegates, and established filmmakers a chance to connect with one another and explore multiple facets of Toronto’s entertainment industry. Reel Ideas is an extension of Reel Asian’s ongoing mandate to nourish the growth of Asians in the arts.

Reel Asian VR

‘Yumi and Boom’

One of the best parts of Reel Asian is the accessibility. I enjoy the face to face time with writers, actors, and directors at industry panels and So You Think You Can Pitch sessions. I can’t recommend enough how important it is for aspiring content creators to take advantage of the opportunities available at Reel Asian. Aside from the inexpensive industry talks, all films and programmes before 5PM are FREE to students and seniors. You can’t beat that.

I’m a big VR nerd, so I’m looking forward to checking out Lillian Chan’s episodic VR series, Yumi and Boom. The story is about a “girl named Yumi and her unlikely friendship with a creature named Boom.” I’m down for any installation that gives me access to a pair of VR goggles, so I’m an easy sell, but I’m also excited for Reel Asian X’s augmented reality exhibit, Everything In Place. If you make your way to Reel Asian, you can probably find me lost in VR at The Commons @ 401 Richmond (401 Richmond Street West).

The 21st annual Reel Asian International Film Festival runs from November 9 to 18, in Toronto and North York.

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