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Down a Dark Stairwell: Opening Night Screening and Live Panel

USA202083 minEnglish, Cantonese, Mandarin with English SubtitlesDocumentary, Reel Asian Award Winner, Women Filmmakers

ONLY AVAILABLE IN ONTARIO

Down a Dark Stairwell takes a nuanced and careful look at the events following the 2014 case where Akai Gurley was shot and killed in the stairwell of an apartment building by Chinese-American NYPD officer Peter Liang.

Director Ursula Liang (no relation to Peter) and her crew follow the Black Lives Matter protests rallying around Gurley’s family to support a conviction, while also following various predominantly Asian American communities’ protest responses to what they deem an unfair trial.

In our current context of urgent calls for accountability around excessive police violence, Down A Dark Stairwell’s raw and honest witness to the ways racial politics fissure and divide us feels timely and necessary. In documenting multiple communities’ response to every new development from the event, the film contends with how fraught and limited notions of justice can be, and the devastating violence that the policing system inflicts on Black communities.

- Jasmine Gui

Recognitions

OFFICIAL SELECTIONS
True/False Film Festival, 2020
Visions du Réel, 2020
Blackstar Film Festival, 2020

AWARDS
Best Documentary, Ashland Independent Film Festival 2020
The Truth to Power Award, Reel Asian 2020

Director Bio

Ursula Liang

Ursula Liang is a journalist-turned-filmmaker. After working in print (ESPN The Magazine, T: The New York Times Magazine), she directed two critically-acclaimed feature documentaries, 9-Man and Down a Dark Stairwell. Ursula lives in the Bronx, N.Y.

12 Nov, 2020 7:00 pm

to 13 Nov, 2020 7:00 pm

Content warning: Events surrounding killing by police

Live Panel Discussion, November 12 at 8:45PM
Contact Active Listener (November 12, 8:30-11:30PM)

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With Support From

ASL Interpretation provided at live panel by
Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Service

Live panel discussion with special guests

Accompanying our opening night screening presentation of Down a Dark Stairwell is a live online discussion with special guests.

ASL interpretation supported and made available by Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Services. Active listener available from 8:30PM – 11:30PM.

Click here to contact the Active Listener. Contact and communication is confidential.

November 12, 2020 at 9 PM

Nataleah Hunter-Young, Writer and Film Curator
Moderator

Nataleah Hunter-Young is a writer, film curator, and PhD candidate researching Black aesthetic practice and representations of mediated police brutality in contemporary art. She has supported festival programming for TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa.

Syrus Marcus Ware, Activist and Artist
Panelist

Syrus Marcus Ware is a Vanier scholar, visual artist, activist, curator and educator. Syrus uses painting, installation and performance to explore social justice frameworks and black activist culture. He is part of the Performance Disability Art Collective and a core-team member of Black Lives Matter – Toronto. 

Ursula Liang, Director of Down A Dark Stairwell
Panelist

Ursula Liang is a journalist-turned-filmmaker. After working in print (ESPN The Magazine, T: The New York Times Magazine), she directed two critically-acclaimed feature documentaries, 9-Man and Down a Dark Stairwell. Ursula lives in the Bronx, N.Y.

J.M. Harper, Co-writer and Editor of Down a Dark Stairwell
Panelist

J.M. Harper is a documentarian. Down A Dark Stairwell is his third documentary feature as editor. He’s currently editing a feature documentary about Kanye West. His work has been featured on AdWeek, Vimeo Staff Picks, FADER and the Guggenheim.

Michelle Chang, Co-writer and Editor of Down a Dark Stairwell
Panelist

Michelle Chang is a Brooklyn-based editor of documentary features as well as short form projects. Feature credits include When Claude Got Shot, Harbor From the Holocaust, 9-MAN, Like Any Other Kid, (A)Sexual, American Promise (Additional Editor for POV Broadcast, Emmy nomination). Before becoming an editor, Michelle was an associate producer for ABC News “20/20” and “Primetime.”

Director note:

This case captured the attention of national media and highlighted what we in our respective communities have known for a long time: we are not united. In fact, in low whispers with problematic language, we often talk about one another. But what we are not talking about is the many reasons why this space between us exists: bubbles created by social media filters and propaganda, white supremacy, structural oppression, social inequality and isolation.

I want to learn from these conversations. To look at how the complexities of this case reflect the complexities of our fight for humanity, agency and respect. To talk about whether the battles we fight bring us power or dissipate it. And to examine who really benefits when marginalized groups are divided.

- Ursula Liang

Extra Resources

This is a non-exhaustive community resource list to complement the discussion around Down a Dark Stairwell (2020).

Purpose

This short resource guide makes clear the importance of human engagement with the politics of living in the world around us. As a pan-Asian-centered festival, we have human relations with the world around us behind the screen and view our programming as an important public-facing conversation that moves us towards deep thinking and the work of repair.

Books:

Video/Zine:

News Articles:

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Community Partner

ASL Interpretation provided at live Q&A by
Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Service

Live online Q&A with special guests

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Now available on Reel Asian’s YouTube channel

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12 Nov, 2020 10:00 am

to 19 Nov, 2020 11:59 pm

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ASL Interpretation provided at live Q&A by
Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Service

Live online Q&A with special guests

Join us in conversation with directors and special guests in attendance! ASL interpretation will be made available thanks to Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Services. Ticket holders can watch on the CineSend Reel Asian portal.

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12 Nov. 10:00 am - 19 Nov. 11:59 pm

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12 Nov, 2020 10:00 am

to 19 Nov, 2020 11:59 pm

BUY TICKET
BUY STUDENT • SENIOR • ARTS WORKER • UN(DER)WAGED TICKETS

With Support from

ASL Interpretation provided at live Q&A by
Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Service

Live online Q&A with Unsung Voices directors

ASL interpretation will be made available thanks to Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Services. Ticket holders can watch on the CineSend Reel Asian portal.

November 14, 2020 at 9PM

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November 14, 2020 at 1PM

Arrow Link

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12 Nov. 10:00 am - 19 Nov. 11:59 pm

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12 Nov. 10:00 am - 19 Nov. 11:59 pm

Shorts
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Reviving The Roost

Vivek Shraya Profile Image

Canada2019 6 minEnglishAnimation, Experimental, LQBTQ+ Filmmakers, Women Filmmakers

Rated PG

With pulsating neon-light animation, Reviving the Roost is about community complexity and longing—an elegy to a lost space as much as it is director Vivek Shraya’s ode to a closed popular Edmonton gay bar.

Director Bio

Vivek Shraya

Vivek Shraya is an artist whose body of work crosses the boundaries of music, literature, visual art, theatre, and film. She is also the founder of the publishing imprint VS. Books.

Bind

Emory Chao Johnson Profile Image

USA2019 3 minEnglish and Mandarin with English subtitlesInternational Premiere Drama, Family, LQBTQ+ Filmmakers, Non-binary Filmmakers

Rated PG

Though brief and contained, Bind provides an extensive glimpse into the trans Asian diaspora when Jules is confronted by a surprise visit from their mother with their chest binder.

Cast

Hua Chai
Kate Chang

Recognitions

OFFICIAL SELECTIONS
Frameline, 2020
NewFilmmakers LA, 2020
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, 2020

Directors Bio

Emory Chao Johnson

Emory Chao Johnson is a MFA film student at the University of California. They were a Trans Filmmaking Fellow on director Sam Feder’s Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen in 2018 and an intern on director Lisa Leeman’s Trans*Formed in 2019.

Gay as in Happy: A Queer Anti-Tragedy

Jordana Valerie Allen-Shim Profile Image

Canada20203 minEnglishDocumentary, Experimental, LQBTQ+ Filmmakers, Women Filmmakers

Rated PG-13

An unapologetic statement about queer joy, resistance, and resilience in the face of abuse, trauma, and transphobia.

Recognitions

OFFICIAL SELECTIONS
Fairy Tales Queer Film Festival, 2020
Social Justice Film Festival, 2020
Asian American International Film Festival, 2020

Directors Bio

Jordana Valerie Allen-Shim

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is my favorite movie. Fight me.” Jordana Valerie Allen-Shim is a Toronto-born, U.S.-raised filmmaker, dog mom, and aspiring graphic novelist passionate about empowering marginalized communities through art.

Super Zee

Nathalie Younglai Profile Image

Canada20187 minEnglishAction, Comedy, Women Filmmakers

Rated PG-13

This action-comedy short features Sedina Fiati as Super Zee, a kickbutt queer Black superhero who swoops in to save her crush from the microaggressions at the office.

Cast

Sedina Fiati
Christina Song
Kevan Kase

Recognitions

OFFICIAL SELECTIONS
Outfest Fusion, 2020
Caribbean Tales International Film Festival, 2020
Women’s International Film & Arts Festival, 2019

Directors Bio

Nathalie Younglai

TV writer and director, Trini Chinese provocateur, and founder of BIPOC TV & Film, Nathalie Younglai hauled her parents to the Daytime Emmys after being nominated for her writing on “Dino Dana.” She supports Black Lives Matter.

Safe Among Stars
安全在星中

Jess X. Snow Profile Image

USA20199 minEnglish and Mandarin with English subtitlesDrama, Experimental, Family, Fantasy, LQBTQ+ Filmmakers, Non-binary Filmmakers, Reel Asian Award Winner, Sci-fi

Rated 14A

Filled with evocative imagery, this queer futuristic short follows Jia, who develops the ability to teleport when she dissociates and must learn how to control her powers.

Cast

Poppy Liu
Lea Cai
Vera Lam

Recognitions

OFFICIAL SELECTIONS
Blackstar Film Festival, 2020
Outfest Fusion, 2020
CAAMfest, 2020
LA Asian Pacific Film Festival, 2020

AWARD
National Film Board of Canada Best Canadian Short Film Award, Reel Asian 2020

Directors Bio

Jess X. Snow

Jess X. Snow is a director, artist, poet and community arts educator creating queer Asian immigrant stories that transcend borders, binaries, and time. They are currently a guest on the unceded traditional land of the Lenape people (Lenapehoking/Brooklyn, NY).

God’s Daughter Dances
신의 딸은 춤을 춘다

Sungbin Byun 변성빈 Profile Image

South Korea202025 minKorean with English subtitlesNorth American PremiereDance, Drama, LQBTQ+ Filmmakers, Open Captions, Reel Asian Award Winner

Rated 14A
CW: Transphobic comments

Shin-mi, a dancer, bravely faces forward with grace and style as she takes the physical examination at the Military Manpower Administration.

Cast

Choi Haejun
Kim Wookyum
Lim Hojun

Recognitions

OFFICIAL SELECTION
Mise-en-scène Short Film Festival, 2020

AWARDS
Change Connect Award, Reel Asian 2020 

Directors Bio

Sungbin Byun 변성빈

Born in 1991, Sungbin Byun studied film, TV & multimedia and eastern philosophy at Sungkyunkwan University. His films Horn (2014), The Chicken of Wuzuh (2015), and Hands and Wings (2018) have screened at festivals internationally.

12 Nov, 2020 10:00 am

to 19 Nov, 2020 11:59 pm

BUY TICKET
BUY STUDENT • SENIOR • ARTS WORKER • UN(DER)WAGED TICKETS
Community Supporter
BIPOC TV & Film
SHER Vancouver
ASL Interpretation provided at live Q&A by
Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Service

Live online Q&A with special guests

Join us in conversation with directors and special guests in attendance! ASL interpretation will be made available thanks to Toronto Sign Language Interpreter Services. Ticket holders can watch on the CineSend Reel Asian portal.

November 13, 2020 at 8PM

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Director Bio

Jess X. Snow

Jess X. Snow is a director, artist, poet and community arts educator creating queer Asian immigrant stories that transcend borders, binaries, and time. They are currently a guest on the unceded traditional land of the Lenape people (Lenapehoking/Brooklyn, NY).

12 Nov, 2020 10:00 am

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