11/11/11 only comes once on a calendar which was a reminder to Seize the Moment with the presentation of the same name. This round of shorts were the best Asian Canadian selection.
Starting with a PRESS START and 1 player mode was Insert Credit the 8bit narrative. The Side scrolling Nintendo-esque beat-em up tackled growing up from boy to manhood. This is my favourite film of the festival so far. Maybe the medium is tapping in to the buttons I tapped growing up on a controller. This is the perfect primer before going in to a viewing of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. If that was a love letter to Toronto this must be a low res LOL at Vancouver with Whales spraying hockey sticks through their blow holes and Maple leaf lasering death rays.
Much like the season it start to get dark early in the presentation. The next short was also animated with a retro, in the sense of traditional hand crafted, style by last year’s Master Class maker Koji Kamamura. 2010 saw him show Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor informed by the director’s misadventure to Prague. 2011 presented his take on another historical figure, Eadweard Muybridge the pioneering motion photographer. Various beasts take their footsteps triggering a camera capture with a tale told about the process and life of the man which included a true tale of his wife taking a secret lover which Muybridge shot as well as the paternity questions over a child. Mixed with surreal beauty the strings of life are indeed very tangled
Introducing the selection in perhaps the funniest video memory testimonial, Randall Okita’s No Contract was even more amazing on the screen of the Royal with the venue feeling like an extension of minimal set. A twisted Houdini seemingly invites friends to witness his combustion (which sounds like the plot from a old classic horror no?. .I could imagine envelopes arriving at the household of each person). What connections they have is only known by the director. The eerie sound design and glimpse cuts make the mystry even more uncomforting before a beautiful ballet of flames dance from each side.
Plants Out of The Sunlight was the work of the poster boy for this year proving that the funny man is more than a cinephile with a penchant for taking balloons on a date to the flicks. The serious issues of Mia a mother in Toronto finding isolation in her home as her son is out and unwilling to help let alone communicate the events of his day. Work is tough with a language and cultural cuisine understanding missing from the attitude of her boss.
Left-Behind Woman and A Winter Song closed the screening. The penultimate visited China where men are leaving the family home to seek work that is well paid leading their wives to work the land and take on other more labour intensive jobs. There’s a war like resonance where these task are undertaken in their absence. While the traditional head of the family is gone what impact this has remains to be seen. A Winter Song felt like the right conclusion with the medical worries of a store owner during the Christmas season in Montreal. More hard work and long hours are complicated by the potential of returning ailment hidden from family members. Was it the right choice to come to Canada for a better life?
Saigon Electric pumped a little extra body heat & sweat in to the crisp air outside as my main feature of the evening. The Vietnamese dance movie set on the bustling streets of Saigon lets us arrive to the big city with Mai a young Ribbon dancer, leaving her countryside life to try out for dance school. Her neon pink ribbon twirling is looked down upon at the interview but her endearing qualities are accepted by Kim a hip hop dancer who befriends her and introduces her to the urban environment with the help of her troupe Saigon Fresh. Much like the open scene of dueling roosters in a spray painted ally the dance demeanor of Kim is bold & boisterous which is contrasted by the gentle fabric rotations of Mai. As Kim lets her guard down to the advances of a rich guy who’s never ending attempts to woe her finally work she leaves her friends in the lead up to the big Samsung sponsored dance off. Things are also in jeopardy as the practice venue is threatened by redevelopment. The fancy footwork and other body parts popping to the beat were undoubtedly the highlights punctuating the character journeys beyond the initial desire to make it to the big time with traditions showing them that team work and community are more important.
Proving that after a year I still don’t know the city well without WiFi I finally made it to the music night to see Goh Nakamura perform ahead of his movie Surrogate Valentine (screening Sunday). Providing something outside of simply film is such a great way to diversify the festival content and allowing free entry with a ticket stub from any movie really makes Reel Asian special and accessible.