Asian Cinema at its Best

by Laura Dahmer

Asian cinema has been growing and expanding into different genres and techniques within the film industry. “What makes Asian filmmakers special is that they are not afraid to experiment, bending and combining multiple genres and media,” said Kristine Estorninos, Head of Programming for this year’s Reel Asian Film Festival. One of these multiple genre films is the Korean movie Mourning Grave by Oh In-chun, which is a blend of humour, romance and horror.

Trailer of Mourning Grave by Oh In-chun.

Screening 44 movies from 10 different countries, the Reel Asian Film Festival is the largest of its kind in Canada.  It features contemporary Asian cinema from countries like Cambodia, China, India, the Philippines and Canada. This year’s festival has recently been held in Toronto and Richmond Hill.

imageScene from KANO, a Taiwanese movie by Umin Boya. It is based on the true story about a Taiwanese High School baseball team.

“Asian cinema is not yet as accessible outside Asia as people think,” explained Estorninos. The Reel Asian Film Festival provides Asian filmmakers a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to screen their films to an international audience. By bringing more and more movies to North America each year, Estorninos is hoping to grow that opportunity for Asian filmmakers.

Films are selected based on two criteria: The have to 1) tell story about Asia itself or international Asian communities; and 2) be directed by a filmmaker of Asian descent.

During the past years, Estorninos and her team have focused on Asian-Canadian or Asian-American directors. “We want to encourage the conversation about what the term ‘Asian’ stands for when it comes to cinema,” she said. “Most people don’t really know what identifies as an Asian movie.”

imageGingger Shankar playing a double violin during the multi-media performance Himalaya Song at Reel Asian Film Festival.

Estorninos explained that the Reel Asian Film Festival is “a community-based event and community is the most important thing for us. We’re always looking for people to join us as a member and therefore be able to participate in all our events.” The film festival is one of many events they host year-round.

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