Cake Ache

I’ve had a little time to digest the blue icing, so just before the festival lights up the projector bulb in Richmond Hill, here’s the last slice of happenings from Day Six at the festival downtown.

Sunday’s are normally reserved for quilty hibernation & a bit of brunch but not during Reel Asian.  It’s always a battle to blast out a blog as the festival really shifts in to another gear with the weekend.  The final day is very much a jam packed last hurrah and my favourite.

The morning air was filled with a little more than wind chill, joined by the jangled nerves of the contenders for the Live “So You Think You Can Pitch?”contest, who did more than shoot the breeze, hoping their presentations could win some funding for their fledgling projects.

Four emerging & two established film makers made their case at the Royal with six minutes of pitching  followed by four more for further questions and answers with the adjudicating team.  Returning host Keith Cole & judges – Lila Karim, Nobu Adilman & Eileen Arandiga, soon made themselves at home in the new venue with lots of witty repartee between Keith & Nobu as well as some tough budgeting questions for those in the firing line.

Yung Men by Jason Karman was the first to pitch wanting to tell the story of resentment & family secrets when returning to the family home for Christmas.  Family nostalgia & feuds with a multi character docudrama tone presented a strong visually impacting presentation.  The second of the established to take the stage was Keith Lock.  With Magic Eight Ball in hand he weaved a serendipitous script of mystic mushrooms in The Magic Charm.  This China town set local rom-com included an added game of chance with the small cast & crew relying on the prop to predict the outcome of the tale.

To find about the four emerging pitcher pictures check out Henry’s post that includes the winners and a  behind the scenes read of what it was like to actually host the event & the challenges the upgrade from the Innis Town Hall.

Having seen Goh Nakamura perform an electric set earlier in the week his starring role in Surrogate Valentine was the first of the last movies for me.  Reel Asian also marked the end of the movie’s eight month festival tour.  After watching it in Hawaii it was good to be reunited for a second time on the screen.  There’s so many little touches that it truely deserved an encore in my eyes.  Goh plays himself a musician with a film maker friend who convinces him to train the actor lead in her film to play the guitar.  As the actor, Danny, tries to go “method” in learning his role, their friendship develops out of an annoyed bemused tolerance.  With the script increasingly matching Goh’s plagiarized life it helps him reflect on a missed opportunity with a past friendship that could have been more.  Chadd Stoops as Danny is fantastic as the hapless actor who makes your realise everyone needs a wingman or winglady.

The next film truly was a rare gem, Pearls of the Far East, which must make the theatre a giant oyster shell.  This was the busiest screening I attended this year.  There was almost another Toilet incident but by luck I managed to get a ticket.  Told across many different landscapes & narratives each piece of the Pearl was a different story told about love with very little dialogue, relying on the actors, vistas & score.  My favourite from the seven sections was the lush tropical paradise of forbidden love (the main still being used to promote the screening) where in a perfect island life, living off the land something is standing between romance.  The many dresses of an unsuccessful bride as well as a photographer’s romance presented two different versions of love to empower maturing women.  If you’ve even been taken on a flight of fancy while becoming immersed in a museum’s artifacts, you might want to be careful which relics you take a shine to & vice versa.  At the end of the world premiere it was great to hear the director speak & welcome the Canadian component of his crew to the stage, with the director of photography being ackowledged for capturing the locations exquisitely matched by the supporting original music.  If you missed it, you’re in luck there’s another screening outside of the festival happening Sunday 20th November.

The festival really has felt like climbing a mountain with the views similarly rewarding for scaling the near week of festivities.  The final movie was preceded with the award ceremony presented by Kris Reyes from Global Toronto’s The Morning Show.  The biggest prize of all is to have the film screened to a new audience, but in addition to this the movies in selection were also given accolades.  You can read about all the results here, I was especially happy to see The Sugar Bowl find yet another sweet spot taking home the best female GTA artist WIFT-T award, though I was really rooting for Insert Credit to win something as well.

As a good prelude to the final movie, Buddha Mountain won the Fasken Martineau Best Feature Film award.  The main actor, Chen Po Lin, in attendance was also the secret surprise that had more squeals from the star struck audience than Jump Ashin! & In A Pig’s Eye combined.  He plays Ding Bo a typical teenager that chain smokes and drinks with his two friends with no real direction other than getting drunk and thursting some anger at his father’s imminent remarriage.  When his flat is up for demolishing, the friends start looking for a new place to rent.  Fatso (which seems a bit of a mean yet accurate descriptive nickname) Nanfeng & Ding Bo find an apartment, shared with a retired Chinese Opera singer. It seems quite unusual that three teens would flat share with a stuffy older lady, yet this style of living under senior house rule was also in Saigon Electric.  A home is a home when the money is right I guess.  The troublesome trio really shake up Madam Chang’s life as they rebel against her strict regime, replacing her morning routine vocal warm up CD with something more exotic as well as crossing areas of personal space.  When the unpredictable & slightly unhinged Nanfeng accidentally lands her megaphone in the crotch of a patron during her singing set she’s faced with a huge fine for medical expenses.  Searching for a solution Ding Bo stumbles upon the the cash needed to pay this off while exploring the out of bound bedroom of his landlady.  With their hearts in the right place they repay the unbeknown debt by taking on extra work.  There’s an underlying somber bitterness that Chang harbours.  While the clowning children breakdown some of her frosty exterior there’s a story more complex than the notes she bellows.  Buddha Mountain finds a delicate balance of using the setting of the earthquake aftermath that hit China in 2008 for the bonding area & rehabilitation of the characters.

The peaceful contemplative final act was short lived as the post screening question and answer session with Chen Po Lin shattered the calm with eager swooning.  The following line for photos & autographs was also more intense than anything I witness at TIFF.

Bar Italia was the unlikely host for a fifteen year old’s birthday.  Pin the tail on the donkey became more of an exteme sport as mules mixed with alcohol.  A giant card, cake and chorus of happy birthday ended the night.  Here’s to an even Sweeter Sixteen galloping up in 2012!