Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival: Capsule Reviews, Part 1

The 15th Anniversary of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival opens its doors this coming Tuesday, November 8th to 12th in downtown Toronto, followed by 4 special screenings in Richmond Hill November 18th to 19th.

Voted one of Toronto’s Best Little film festival, Reel Asian has grown leaps and bounds from its humble independent roster, to screen world premieres of International Asian films. Check out my reviews for Lover’s Discourse, Saigon Electric, Piercing, I, and Jump Ashin after the jump.

(Hong Kong)

Reel Asian’s Opening Night Film LOVER’S DISCOURSE weaves four stories about the multiple faces, good and ugly, of love in Hong Kong. Directed by Canadian-bred Derek Tsang, the film starts with Eason Chan and Canadian actress Karena Lam who play former lovers enjoying a rare evening together catching up on old times. A girl working at a laundromat fantasizes about one of her customers, but is far too shy to even strike up a conversation. A student becomes obsessed with his friend’s mom and the last part tracks the collateral damage when two people follow the other’s lover to confirm their cheating.

What starts off strong, gets somewhat clumsily pieced together by the end. The performances by its ensemble cast save and forgive where the film lacks making it an enjoyable viewing. Recommended (because the writer has a bias towards Karena Lam.)


(USA/ Vietnam)

Think of every dance film Hollywood has ever put out, set it in Vietnam and you’ve got SAIGON ELECTRIC. And perhaps that is what makes this film great, for all the wrong reasons.

A country girl moves to the big city to audition for the dance school. But her ribbon gets tangled throughout her performance and fails the audition. Unable to go back home, she gets a job waitressing where she is befriended by the dishwasher who dances with a crew at the community centre. Her friend, having a bit of a temper, gets disrespected by a rival crew in an informal street dance battle and quits the crew in a huff. At the same time, the community centre has been bought by developers and will be levelled to build a new hotel unless the crew can win the Championship dance battle and save their dance space.

There is a part of me that feels bad liking this film for the wrong reasons. Apart from its gorgeously colourful cinematic landscape, everything else is rather middle of the road and passable. It is everything one can imagine a dance film to be, and yet my indie art film heart is actually moved by its characters struggles and passion to do what they love to do. – Recommended, (if you like films like Step Up or Honey.)

*SAIGON ELECTRIC enjoys a special afternoon screening in Richmond Hill Sat., Nov. 18th.


Big business corruption against the angst and struggle of disaffected youth in China sets the stage for the unraveling of characters in a small factory town in the satirically dark animation film, PIERCING, I.

Accused of stealing from a supermarket, Zhang, educated and unemployed, on the persuasion of his friend, attempts to go after the supermarket’s owner, a wealthy businessman. His goal, a few more dollars for emotional damages on top of his already paid medical expenses from injuries incurred by the supermarket’s security guard. What starts as a feeble attempt at squeezing a few more dollars from a rich and powerful man, results in them unwittingly becoming intertwined with him and his competitors.

What’s most striking is that despite the film being set in 2008 during the financial crisis, it is still relevant today, perhaps more so. Zhang, ultimately is a good person, who wants to do the right thing, but is surrounded by people who do the exact opposite in order to survive – he is the only one barely getting by.

Intriguing and thought-provoking, Zhang nightmare-life is a frustrating look at what modern-day China has become for its youth. – Recommended


Based on a true story, JUMP ASHIN! is about the fall and rise of the young gymnast. After a life revolving around gymnastics training and preparation, Ashin’s mother’s doubt pulls him off the team to concentrate on the family business in their small town. Disheartened, Ashin (Canadian actor Eddie Peng) and his friend Pickle (Lawrence Ko) start getting into gang fights, which eventually escalates forcing them to leave town and hide out in the big city. Another tragedy brings him back home to resume his gymnastics training despite all obstacles and conditions put on him.

Gripping and intense – Recommended.

*JUMP ASHIN! will also be screened in Richmond Hill Sat., Nov 18th.

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About Xxxtine

The main Canuck here I (sometimes) give a different perspective. I used to be 'read only' but you can actually hear me via POP 88 on 8Asians podcasting sister site Always trying to find that right balance between fluff and substance, I tend to focus my interests in discovering different perspectives. Look forward to hearing (and perhaps seeing) things you wouldn't anywhere else. Current vice and embarrassingly obsessed with: Kpop group AFTER SCHOOL
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