By: Dan Craig, Miki Sato

Joy Osmanski and Hiroshi Watanabe enjoy an awkward moment in White on Rice.

Joy Osmanski and Hiroshi Watanabe enjoy an awkward moment in White on Rice.

Now in its 13th year, the Reel

Asian Film Festival has gained

recognition as one of Toronto’s

major film festivals. Autumn

in the T-dot offers an array of

specialty cinema festivals, so

as you narrow down your list of

flicks to catch, why is Reel Asian

worth checking out?

Of the 49 Asian and Southeast

Asian films presented this year,

30 are homegrown Canadian titles.

Whether your preferences

lean towards political issues—A

Schoolgirl’s Diary follows the

life of a North Korean adolescent;

action—Overheard explores

the ethics of surveillance

in urban Hong Kong; or even

the erotic—The Ache is about

a heroine with magical beauty

and powers; with the array of

selection at the fest, you’re sure

to find at least one or two that

will catch your interest.

White on Rice 3.5/5

White on Rice is the follow-up to

27-year old American film director,

David Boyle’s Big Dreams

Little Tokyo (2006). The comedy

follows the trials and tribulations

of main character Jimmy

(Hiroshi Watanabe), as he tries

to adjust to American suburban

life following a divorce from his

wife in Japan. Living under his

sister’s roof, the 40-year old

bachelor, much to his brotherin-

law’s dismay, un-apologetically

squats without an end in

sight. Watanabe, known for his

comedic role in The Last Samurai,

undeniably carries the film

with his endearing, though at

times slightly annoying, demeanor.

With a fair amount

of laughs and a heartwarming

message, the film’s accurate

portrayal of the subtle nuances

in a Japanese-American family

is great for those who want to

see something light enough for

a date, but substantial enough

to remember. Emphasizing the

difficulties of cultural and emotional

transition, White on Rice

exhibits the earnest attempts of

a character trying to find love

and happiness despite of himself.

Overheard 3/5

Everyone has a secret in this

financial crime drama, and perhaps

the investigators who are

decked out with all the latest

surveillance equipment have the

most to hide. Set in Hong Kong,

Overheard was written and directed

by Alan Mak and Felix

Chong. You may know Chong’s

work, although indirectly, as he

also wrote The Departed before

Scorsese made a remake for

English tastes.

The film covers all sorts of

moral territory as the cops who

overhear the secrets of an insider

trading deal decide to cash in

on the black market information.

Their personal lives also

get mixed up with their work as

affairs, lies and secrets pile up.

While I found myself becoming

attached to the characters, I was

somewhat tired of caring by the

end as the post-climax pulled

a CSI-style “I told you so” with

the bad guy (who also, somewhat

predictably, was the only

person to use English in the

whole movie).

Fish Story 4/5

Music can save the world, or at

least save it indirectly according

to Japanese director Yoshihiro

Nakamura. A fictional punk

rock band that predates the Sex

Pistols by one year struggles to

get their music released without

compromise is only one facet of

the story of how the earth was

saved from an incoming comet.

One flaw this movie may have

is that it tries to be too many

things at once as it takes itself

seriously through rockumentary,

martial arts, horror and

comedic sequences. While these

more serious elements are quite

funny, I began to wonder what

it was that I was supposed to be

feeling. It wasn’t funny enough

to be an all-out laugh-fest, but

it didn’t take itself seriously

enough for me to be moved by

its drama.

Yang Gaw 2.5/5

Blantant sound editing problems

and poor decision making

in the second-half of the plot

overcame the few well-crafted

moments of terror in this film.

The story centres around a

rural Phillipino family whose

daughter, Amor, returns home

due to a mysterious illness.

Family loyalty and economic

troubles test the characters

during Amor’s slow transformation

into an aswang

monster. Take one part Blair

Witch, one part Exorcist, a bit

of hunger paradox from Interview

with a Vampire, and you

get Yang Gaw. The setting and

context of the rural Phillipines

makes the whole experience

feel fresh, but it wasn’t fresh

enough to make me ignore all

the potential plot outcomes

that could have been.

This article was originally published on our old website at https://thenewspaper.ca/the-arts/reel-asian-film-festival-gets-real/.