(TORONTO – November 20, 2018) The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Reel Asian) closed its 22nd edition on Friday, November 16 following a successful 9 day run in downtown Toronto and North York. As Canada’s largest pan-Asian film festival, Reel Asian continues to celebrate Asian representation in film and media and fuel the growing appreciation for Asian cinema in Canada. This year, the festival took place from November 8 to 16 with 62 titles from 17 regions, over 50% of which directed by women. Reel Asian announced the award winners for the juried features and shorts prizes, the So You Think You Can Pitch? live competition, and the Menkes Audience Award.
Feature films honoured include the dark comedy Dead Pigs, the debut feature from Cathy Yan which won the Fasken Martineau Best Feature Film Award; Ashley Duong’s insightful documentary A Time To Swim received the National Bank Best First Feature Film Award; Kathleen S. Jayme’s personal documentary Finding Big Country was honoured with the Channel Zero Best Canadian Film or Video Award; and Shinichiro Ueda satirical zombie movie from Japan, One Cut of the Dead, won the Menkes Audience Award.
The annual So You Think You Can Pitch? live competition featured 5 teams competing for cash and industry prizes in front of a live audience. Rahul Chaturvedi and Qais Pasha were awarded the Silver Prize Award for their film Namaste, Santa and Kristina Wong won the Gold Prize Award for her film Song Hee. As Reel Asian becomes the hub for Asian filmmakers to make connections and exchange ideas, the festival will continue to provide essential industry development opportunities both at the festival and year-round.
Highlights at this year’s festival included a sold out screening of Dear Ex, with co-director Mag Hsu and star Roy Chiu in attendance, which was the first time a Taiwanese film opened the festival; American comedian, writer and podcaster, Hari Kondabolu participated in the Festival’s first ever keynote event; an impactful new interactive VR Homestay created by Paisley Smith; a retrospective of this year’s Reel Asian Canadian Spotlight Artist Min Sook Lee’s award-winning documentary Hogtown: The Politics of Policing; and the closing night gala Wish You Were Here which screened to a full theatre with director Kenneth Bi in attendance.
2018 Reel Asian Award Winners:
Menkes Audience Award:
ONE CUT OF THE DEAD (Dir. Shinichiro Ueda, Japan)
All feature films are eligible for this prize. $5000 cash prize.
“Menkes is proud to sponsor the Audience Choice Award for the fifth year in a row,” said Mimi Ng, Director of Sales and Marketing at Menkes. “Toronto is such a multicultural city and we are pleased to continue our involvement with such a diverse festival and what we think is a worthy cause. We’re so happy we can share in the best Asian cinema has to offer.”
Fasken Martineau Best Feature Film Award:
DEAD PIGS (Dir. Cathy Yan, China)
All feature films are eligible for this prize. $4000 cash prize.
Jury statement: With its acerbic tone, whimsical characters and a politically charged storyline that never devolves into polemical simplicity, this Altmanesque tale of a pig farmer, salon owner, restaurant worker and his haughty love interest weaves its charms throughout, this is a bristling look at the changing world where nostalgia collides with modernity, and where the simulation of Western opulence drips with inauthenticity in a tumultuous modern China.
National Bank Best First Feature Film Award:
A TIME TO SWIM (Dir. Ashley Duong, Canada/Malaysia)
All first feature films are eligible for this prize. $4000 cash prize.
Jury statement: At a time that calls for the courage to defend our planet’s ecology even when the odds seem insurmountable, this film brings together moving human stories, lush cinematography, and the local specificity of a small tropical village that nonetheless evokes broader issues of indigeneity and environmental destruction highly relevant to Canada and indeed the world.
FAMILY IN THE BUBBLE (Dir. Minji Ma, Finland/South Korea)
Jury statement: For painting a complex family portrait, shaped by the forces of love, economics and real estate, and for telling a story of loss and hope that is set in Korea today but has the power to resonate around the world, this first time filmmaker demonstrates a burgeoning ability to tease out strong narratives and make poignant connections between our personal lives and the world we inhabit.
Channel Zero Best Canadian Film or Video Award:
FINDING BIG COUNTRY (Dir. Kathleen S. Jayme, Canada)
All Canadian works are eligible for this prize. $1000 cash prize.
Jury statement: For its effervescent charms, its personal yet universal look at fan culture, and the joys of watching a truly tenacious filmmaker delve into her childhood fascination and making us all wish we could slip into the giant shoes of our own heroes.
WEEKENDS (Dir. Trevor Jimenez, Canada)
All animated films and videos are eligible for this prize. $500 cash prize.
Jury statement: Told with utmost care, this film won us over with its stunning imagery and expert storytelling, giving us a heartfelt glimpse into the bittersweet memories of a young boy’s fragmented childhood. It’s deceptively simple story addresses the complexities of divorce, while still finding space for tender, intimate, and often humorous moments in between.
Air Canada Short Film or Video Award:
All Canadian short films and videos are eligible for this prize which provides an opportunity to broadcast on Air Canada’s inflight entertainment screens on international flights.
For the 2018 Air Canada Award, the Shorts Jury honours eight films, each one a cogent reflection on humanity’s desire for acceptance, and each in turn displaying a remarkable capacity to expose the extraordinary in the everyday.
The Air Canada Award recipients are:
- $30 TO ANTARCTICA by Joey Chu
- EDUCATE OUR DAUGHTERS by Belmaya Nepali
- JOURNEYS, DEAR DAD by Syafiq Jaafar
- MA by Andrew Chung
- NEWBORN by Ray Savaya
- NIGHTCALLER by Alex Humilde
- PAGG by Nardeep Khurmi
- RICE BALL by Yusuke Oishi
Jury statement: All of these films employ a deft hand at cinematic storytelling, often despite budgetary restrictions. Their common ground is a desire to portray ordinary individuals fighting the good fight – that is, struggling to come into their own, to become their best selves on their own terms. Whether our protagonists are finding new ways to thrive within conventional contexts or whether they are striving to sustain familial heritages within a greater global reality, these individuals remain undaunted, and it is a privilege to pay tribute them.
DGC Ontario & WIFT-T Film Award:
TUNDRA (Dir. Carol Nguyen, Canada)
All films made by female Ontario-based artists are eligible for this prize. $1,000 cash prize and a $1200 programming pass and one-year membership from WIFT-T.
Jury statement: The WIFT-T award goes to a film that invites us to witness a mother's grief over her missing child. Shot in a tundraic landscape, the film is beautifully shot and is anchored by a compelling lead performance. The icy winter appears unbearable and yet, in this cold, we are left believing that there is something reparative in letting go.
UNDRESSED (Dir. Alexandra Tse, Canada)
Independent juries comprised of distinguished members of the media arts community selected this year’s award winners.
- The Features Jury: Jason Gorber, Jason McGrath and Ananya Ohri
- The Shorts Jury: Casey Mecija, Lillian Chan and Barbara Goslawski
So You Think You Can Pitch? Awards:
The annual So You Think You Can Pitch? live competition featured 5 teams competing for cash and industry prizes in front of a live audience. This year’s 13th annual Pitch Competition took place on Sunday, November 11. A launching pad for emerging Asian Canadian talent, finalists competed for amazing prize packages that will help them kick-start and/or finish their short film. The two prize packages of cash and in-kind services will help the winners cover Digital Cinema production and post services, artist’s fees and more.
The So You Think You Can Pitch? jury included Carolynne Hew, Teresa M. Ho, Aliya Pabani.
Silver Prize Award:
This award has a $2,800 value (in-kind).
NAMASTE, SANTA by Rahul Chaturvedi and Qais Pasha
Gold Prize Award:
This award has a $8,250 value (cash and in-kind).
SONG HEE by Kristina Wong
The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival presented by National Bank gratefully acknowledges the support of government funders the Government of Canada, Canada Council for the Arts, Telefilm Canada, Government of Ontario, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Ontario Arts Council, Celebrate Ontario, Ontario150, Ontario Media Development Corporation, Toronto Arts Council and the Business for the Arts.