Reel Asian Film Festival
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Reel Asian Film Festival

The Bloor Cinema is heavy with festivals so shortly after the celebration of its 100th birthday, with The One-Minute Film and Video Festival starting tonight,as blogged below, and last night’s opening night gala of the Reel Asian Film Festival, The Motel.
Michael Kang’s debut is a strange little indie film set in the depths of the nowhere, USA that most Americans know – endless freeways linking motels and other road side ‘attractions’, with the story of a lonely, alienated 13 year old Asian American, Earnest, stuck with school work he hates and the responsibility of cleaning the rooms of the sleazy hourly rate motel his bitter, unloving mother runs. Unlike most films featuring the coming of age struggle, this takes most conventions, such as difficulties with parents (both missing and present), the mysterious stranger that blows into town with promise of adventure and personal development, and the desperate longing for the close female friend, and gives them none of the wish fulfilment that you might expect, instead remaining with the grim reality of how much it sucks to be thirteen, but played with a wonderful degree of understanding and some genuinely funny moments. At the post screening Q&A the director reavealed that its expected to be given a limited run in Toronto early next year, and Torontoist highly recommends that you check it out.
Despite the opening night featuring a film from the United States, the festival spotlight this year is on Malaysia, and while the last Malaysia related film Torontoist saw was Malaysian born (but Taiwan based) Tsai Ming-Liang’s utterly boring The Wayward Cloud, the Reel Asia festival features a remarkable range of films demonstrating the ethnic diversity of Malaysia – such as The Beautiful Washing Machine, the Kuala Lumpur set black comedy about the lives of Chinese Malaysians, Amir Muhammad’s The Big Durian, and Deepak Kumaran Menon’s The Gravel Road, one of the few films to discuss the Tamil minority that lives in Malaysia. The national spotlight is also rounded out with a ‘deluxe platter’ of shorts of all kinds, but the festival itself doesn’t constrain itself so tightly to the national theme, with a a further range of international shorts and features showing throughout the festival. The Reel Asian Film Festival runs until November 27th, and the full schedule is available on their website. It’s particularly worth going just to see the hilarious ‘Faux Asian’ trailers, featuring such hilarity as bad naked sushi and some supremely lazy tai chi.
Afterwards Torontoist made a brief showing at the opening night party on Revival (at College/Shaw) which sadly didn’t have a free bar (most festivals, of course, are on a budget) but, unusually for most film festival parties, there were cases of spontaneous dancing breaking out rather that the usual endless schmoozing and small talk (perhaps due to the volume of DJ San Fran’s set). Torontoist did, however, bump into Adam Lopez, director of the After Dark Film Festival, a new genre film festival set to run in autumn 2006 at the Bloor Cinema, so it looks like the old girl will be running strong well into her 101st year.