TORONTO REEL ASIAN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL at the Bloor Cinema (506 Bloor West) and Innis Town Hall (2 Sussex) from Wednesday (November 27) to December 1. Festival pass $45, opening-night film and party $12.50, book of five tickets $30, single tickets $8. 416-703-9333. www.reelasian.com. Rating: NNNN
if this city's racing down the road of post-identity, then Reel Asian is first past the post.With new executive director Sally Lee and a pair of smart artistic directors in Jane Kim and Nobu Adilman, this year's festival goes beyond pan-Asian pride and beyond diaspoor-me-isms to the lip of a new frontier.
They've got the Thai saviour of meta-meta art cinema, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. They've hauled home Mary Stephen, the Hong Kong immigrant who invented Asian-Canadian cinema, escaped to France and now edits Eric Rohmer's films.
And they've planned a post-screening rock concert called Lock 'N' Loll at Lee's Palace (Thursday, November 28), a tag that spins in so many directions it's dizzying.
The whole show opens with Lolo's Child (Wednesday, November 27, 7 pm, Bloor Cinema). Toronto's Romeo Candido writes, directs and co-stars in a movie with the familiar theme of growing out of an immigrant family. But Candido pumps his big phat Pilipino story with underground hiphop flavour, cutting and mixing picture and sound to serve up the ripples of domestic abuse in layer after layer. Some scenes drag, but this film nails the joys and frustrations of home life when home is still a question.
Down the other end of the dial, Jon Moritsugu's Scumrock (Friday, November 29, 9 pm, Innis Town Hall) cranks its story from the diffident, skronky lives of a clutch of DIY lay-abouts. There's a band, an indie film shoot and lots of scrappy dialogue recited like the beer menu at Sneaky Dee's.
Moritsugu (Mod Fuck Explosion, Terminal) gets full marks for attitude, though. He shot Scumrock on recently obsolete analog video and edited it on cheap VHS machines.
Meanwhile, across the Pacific, movie rebellion is named Weerasethakul. His fractured Thai tales have turned festival heads all over the world. Mysterious Object At Noon (Sunday, December 1, 7 pm, Bloor) is a bewildering round of a movie.
Weerasethakul travels from Bangkok out through the countryside, asking people to build on an ongoing story about a boy and his teacher. But he intercuts the various fictions with villagers creating fictions. It's like being trapped in a John Barth novel, if Barth used Thai pop mythology.
From South Korea, Flower Island is a more straightforward mystery (Sunday, December 1, 9 pm, Bloor). Three women with much to put behind them hit the road for an island off the south coast of the peninsula. It's a place where you forget all sorrow. Of course, the story lies in the trip, and director Ilgon Song gives this film the dry-eyed lyricism of the best Iranian cinema, though with sudden stabs of ache that could only be Korean.
If there's common ground between this festival's Asian movies and its North American films, it comes in the retrospective mounted to honour Mary Stephen, whose work is a bridge. Stephen was born in Hong Kong and educated in Montreal, where she began making films. She was likely the first Asian-Canadian woman to make a feature film.
It's even more surprising that that 1977 film, Ombres De Soie (Saturday, November 30, 4 pm, Innis), is a nuanced love story between two women. Set in Shanghai in the 1930s, filmed in both Mandarin and French, it's all rooms in twilight, second thoughts of romance, soft indulgence and a rush of sad music.
Before the wave of personal, reflective indie films that sprouted in the 90s, Stephen was finding words and images for what it meant to live diasporic Asian. Just on the strength of Ombres De Soie, she's the missing link between Marguerite Duras and Wong Kar-Wai. firstname.lastname@example.org