Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival 2009

Each year, the Reel Asian festival’s lineup gets stronger and stronger, and this year looks particularly good to me. Now in its 13th year, this annual festival of cinema from East and Southeast Asia will bring 49 films from 14 different countries to Toronto audiences from November 11-15. Here are a number of films I’m particularly excited about:

When The Full Moon Rises (Malaysia, Director: Mamat Khalid): A mashup of film styles including film noir, horror, slapstick and musical make this hard to resist. Disgraced journalist Saleh blows a tire out in the countryside and soon finds himself in a very strange village filled with gangsters, spies and cabaret singers. A string of disappearances keep him in town to write the story he knows will get his career back on track. That is, if he can survive to tell the tale.

White on Rice (USA, Director: Dave Boyle): Reel Asian always seems to have at least one zany comedy scheduled each year (Finishing the Game, Ping Pong Playa) and White on Rice seems to take the same delight in playing with Asian stereotypes as those other films did. Jimmy is a 40-year-old Japanese man who comes to the US to live with his sister’s family after a painful divorce. Sharing a room with his 10-year-old nephew doesn’t seem to bother him, though, as Jimmy’s a bit of a child himself.

Breathless (Korea, Director: Yang Ik-Joon): Described as both incredibly brutal and incredibly moving, this story of a violent man who meets his match in a schoolgirl has been scooping awards all over the place, most recently winning the award for Best Feature Film at Montreal’s Fantasia Fest. If I know anything about Korean dramas, there won’t be a dry eye in the house by the end.

Fish Story (Japan, Director: Yoshihiro Nakamura): I count on festivals like Reel Asian and Toronto After Dark to bring me some of the stuff from the fringes of Asian cinema, too. While Asia produces a huge number of accomplished “art” films, it also produces some stuff that’s just plain weird. Japan is a particular source of strange cinema, and Fish Story seems a perfect example. In 2012, a giant comet is set to destroy the earth, but all is not lost. A forgotten punk band’s obscure song will save us. Somehow. I’m a sucker for Japanese films that feature bands, so whether this makes any sense at all isn’t really that important to me.

Those are just a few of my picks so far, but I’m sure there will be a few surprises as well. Tickets and passes are on sale now. See you at Reel Asian!

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