Some of the year’s most acclaimed films will make their Toronto debuts at this year’s Reel Asian Film Festival. Reel Asian announced its line-up this week ahead of the November event. The programming includes the Toronto premiere of Kay Jayme’s The Grizzlie Truth. The film brings Jayme back to the fest after winning Best Canadian Film at the 2018 edition of Reel Asian for Finding Big Country. The Grizzlie Truth, like Finding Big Country, sees Jayme put her love for the ill-fated Vancouver Grizzlies under the microscope. The doc asks why cities like Toronto can sustain a pro basketball team while others like Vancouver are forced to cheer from afar. The film recently won the Audience Award for Special Presentations at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
Also making its Toronto debut is the critically lauded documentary All That Breathes, directed by Shaunak Sen. The film offers a portrait of a bird clinic in New Dehli where the fight to save the local population of kites echoes the political and religious divides in the community. The film is a dark horse in this year’s Oscar race and won the top prize at both Sundance and Cannes, becoming the first doc to do so.
Sundance hit Free Chol Soo Lee, meanwhile, makes its Canadian premiere at the festival. The film directed by Julie Ha and Eugene Yi examines the wrongful conviction of a young man charged for a shooting and the campaign to clear his name. Karen Cho’s Big Fight in Little Chinatown also has its Canadian premiere at Reel Asian. The film brings its study of the double displacement of Canada’s Chinatowns to Toronto following its debut in DOC NYC’s Voices of Canada programme. David Siev’s Bad Axe comes to Toronto after winning the Audience Award at SXSW. The film examines the waves of anti-Asian racism that rocked communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Having a Toronto encore is Ali Kazimi’s Beyond Extinction: Sinixt Resurgence, which follows the Indigenous tribe’s battle for land sovereignty. Making its North American premiere at Reel Asian, meanwhile is Quen Wong’s Some Women. The film is the director’s self-portrait of her experience as a transwoman in Singapore.
This year’s festival opens with Riceboy Sleeps, Anthony Shim’s acclaimed semi-autobiographical of a South Korean mother and son establishing a new life in Canada. Riceboy Sleeps previously won the Platform Prize at TIFF, Best Canadian Feature at VIFF, and audience awards at VIFF and Busan. The festival’s closing night selection is Topline from Filipino Canadian filmmaker Romeo Candido. Topline goes behind the glitz and glamour of song writing. Reel Asian also offers a local spotlight with Ethan Eng’s underground mockumentary/found footage film Therapy Dogs, which was shot on the sly at his Mississauga high school. The film by the 19-year-old director premiered at Slamdance earlier this year where Eng was the youngest filmmaker to make the competition.
Reel Asian runs November 9 to 20, 2022.