Reel Asian is a festival that, we must admit, we’ve never made it out to before. Along with a couple of the other fall festivals (imagineNATIVE, Planet in Focus), we make a point of browsing the lineup for something worth making an appointment to see and then, whether we find something or not, inevitably forget about it. Hopefully, this time will be different. It has to be. Reel Asian, entering its twelfth year, has now reached the level of institutional maturity at which it possesses the resources to branch out and appeal to people outside of its traditional constituency.
CinemAsia brings the festival into U of T’s established film milieu in partnership with its Asian Institute, with two features selected by Cinema Studies professor Eric Cazdyn and Free Friday Film (and Toronto After Dark) programmer Peter Kuplowsky. Monday (2000) and The Blessing Bell (2002) are works by Japanese director Sabu, whom Kuplowsky tells us is pretty similar to cult icon Takashi Miike, only undiscovered in this part of the world, perhaps because of his relatively sparse output. Of a similar genre-y flavour is a Korean horror adaptation of Hansel and Gretel.
Already running at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery at Hart House is the exhibition “Empty Orchestra,” which examines and deconstructs the concept and practise of karaoke (the word of which the show’s title is a literal translation). An installation by South Africa-born, Berlin-based artist Candice Breitz, for example, is described by the program as “10 television monitors, 10 karaoke singers (whose first language is not English) sing slightly off-key versions” of “Killing Me Softly.” Presuming there’s an ample degree of sincerity in both the performances and the project itself, this has the potential to be heartbreaking. The “Empty Orchestra” exhibit is complemented by Empty Orchestra Live! on Friday, November 14, at the Rivoli, in which “local karaoke superstars” croon along to videos commissioned by the festival from top Canadian video artists including Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay (who over the last decade has been responsible for several brilliant musical shorts, the best known of which is probably 2002’s I Am a Boyband). The EOL! show will be followed by RAMeN, the Reel Asian Music Night.
The festival runs November 12–16, and advance tickets are on sale now, online and at the festival’s 401 Richmond office. And even if you can’t get your act together enough to attend a screening or event, be sure to at least walk by Innis College, onto the wall of which will be projected a looped video mashing up Jackie Chan and Super Mario Bros.
Still from Monday courtesy of Reel Asian.