Oh The Places We’ve Been!
Although Reel Asian has rolled away the red carpet after our festival, we’re still always on the lookout for new film titles to bring to our Toronto audiences. Our staff and Programming Team travel to internationally-acclaimed film festivals throughout the year in search for the best in Asian cinema. Welcome to Reel Asian’s Travel Blog Series! Our staff and Programming Team travel to internationally-acclaimed film festivals throughout the year in search for the best in Asian cinema. Welcome to Reel Asian’s Travel Blog Series!
For our second Reel Asian’s Travel Blog Series post, we bring you: Chris’ journey to Berlinale International Film Festival’s 65th year, Aram’s visit to CAAMFest 2015 and Kristine’s travels at the 68th Cannes Film Festival. Read more below:
Thoughts: The Berlin International Film Festival, better known as the Berlinale, is one of the largest film markets/festivals in the world. The 65th edition took place this past February and I was accredited on behalf of Reel Asian. It was my first time going to the Berlinale and I have to say that it was all a bit overwhelming, so I’m grateful to Berlinale veterans like Jon Bunning (formerly a Reel Asian Marketing Committee advisor) to help show me the ropes while I was there.
The Berlinale is primarily centered around the Potsdamer Platz area, in what was once the no-man’s land split in two by the Berlin Wall. Today it is a commercial shopping district anchored around major cinema venues, and for a few weeks in February, dozens of screens are taken over by the Berlinale. The festival also has a presence in other districts across the city and everywhere I went, the locals recognized my badge with smiles of welcome.
In addition to the festival proper, the Berlinale also hosts the European Film Market, where hundreds of exhibitors from the global film industry take stands. The EFM takes over an entire multistory exhibition hall, the Martin-Gropius-Bau (formerly an applied arts museum), as well as most of the downtown Marriott Hotel. A lot of business takes place in the hallways of the EFM, so it’s always good to get Reel Asian’s name out there with the Asian distributors and sales agents. We will see many of these same industry representatives later in the year in Hong Kong, San Francisco, and Cannes – and the more often they see us, the better our chances of doing business with them.
Aram Siu Wai Collier, Director of Programming & Education
Where did you go? 33rd year of CAAMFest 2015 (San Francisco, U.S.)
Thoughts: CAAMFest is the (still) new name of the former San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival. Now in its 33rd year, this festival remains one of the most important film festivals for the Asian North American filmmaker. Community to the core but not without a little glam the festival is run out of the Center for Asian American Media by our good friends Stephen Gong, Masashi Niwano, and the rest of the CAAM team. It was a visit to this festival in the late 1990’s that inspired film producer Anita Lee to start a little Asian film festival in Toronto in 1997 called Reel Asian.
As a San Francisco native, I’ve been attending this festival since the mid 1990’s either as an audience member, a filmmaker, or a programmer for Reel Asian. It’s an annual celebration with a large presence in the city. As one of the opening night speakers noted- you never have to make plans with friends, because you know everybody going to be there at the film festival. This year’s festival was no exception to that rule as I ran into numerous filmmakers, many of whom had their films at Reel Asian (Grace Lee, Goh Nakamura, Debbie Lum, Lou Nakasako) as well as meeting new filmmaker friends. This year’s opening night gala film Seoul Searching got a standing ovation which for all my years I can’t remember an opening film receiving.
One of my favourite things to do is to take Canadian filmmakers (“Eh-sians” as our Chris Chin like to call) around town. In years past I’ve taken Deanna Wong and Tad Doyle on a drive to the ruins of Sutro Baths; and Arthur Yeung, Joyce Wong and Louanne Chan on an ill-fated In ‘N Out Burger run (do not get a protein buger!). This year we stepped it up a notch with Canadians Albert Shin and Betty Xie at CAAMFest. Notably, we challenged ourselves to a Mission Burrito crawl, where we would try to eat as many mission-style burritos as possible (we ate two amongst us before almost passing out). After that we visited Chinatown (where my favourite dan tat place was closed), and Fort Point (near where Kim Novak fell into the water in Vertigo).
CAAMFest has been and will continue to be an important point of inspiration for Reel Asian – where great films can be shared with our community and where we can connect with friends new and old.
Thoughts: The highlight of this year’s trip for me was checking out a restoration of Lino Brocka’s INSIANG on the big screen. Before the film started, producer Ruby Tiong Tan related to the audience how the film almost didn’t get seen- partly because the then First Lady Imelda Marcos did not want any film that depicted the slums of Manila to be seen by the outside world, and partly because the film was completed at the very last minute (apparently, Tiong Tan snuck the reels out in her luggage). It of course ended up being the first Filipino film ever to be shown in Cannes, and seeing it on the big screen made me feel like I was there in 1978, cheering Lino Brocka on.