Preview: Korean Films at Reel Asian 2015

It’s fall and that means that the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival (Reel Asian) is just around the corner. Last night was their press launch and we want you to know all about the Korean films that will be screening at their 19th annual festival. But before we tell you about the films, let’s tell you a little about the festival and why you should definitely attend!

Reel Asian is Canada’s largest Asian film festival and a great place to see Asian films and films from the Asian diaspora. The festival happens in downtown Toronto and also in Richmond Hill (a suburb north of Toronto). Not only is it a place to see great Asian films but it always showcases several Asian-Canadian films and shorts, supporting local talent.

As I’ve said before, I have a soft spot in my heart for Reel Asian but regardless, even if I didn’t, I’d still attend because they always have an interesting line-up of films and this year is no different. While there may only be one Korean film, there are three Korean-American films/documentaries and several Korean, Korean-Canadian and Korean-American shorts. Plus all the other great films!

Want to know what Korean, Korean-American and Korean-Canadian films are coming to Reel Asian this year? Keep reading!

Feature Films and Documentaries

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

The Royal Tailor (상의원)

  • Director: Lee Won-Suk (이원석) (in attendance)
  • South Korea, 2014
  • 127 minutes, Rated: 14A, Korean with English subtitles
  • Toronto Premiere
  • Friday, November 6 @ 9:15 pm at AGO Jackson Hall (317 Dundas Street West)

A royal tailor’s promotion is threatened when a young designer earns the queen’s favour with his refreshing take on traditional garb. Stitch by stitch, on the surface the two tailors duel for the ultimate masterpiece. But beyond the clothing, a larger war is being waged between the two women in the king’s life.

My Thoughts: I really like director Lee Won-Suk’s first film, How to Use Guys With Secret Tips (남자사용설명서), so I’m looking forward to this one.

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

Seoul Searching

  • Director: Benson Lee (in attendance)
  • USA, 2015
  • 105 minutes, Rated: 14A, English and Korean with English subtitles
  • Toronto Premiere
  • Friday, November 13 @ 8:00 pm at Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West)

In the 1980s, the Korean government began a summer camp for gyopo (foreign-born) teenagers to visit the motherland. The camp would help the government re-establish ties with the diaspora, parents would get a sponsored trip, and teenagers would learn about Korean culture. What could possibly go wrong?

My Thoughts: I’ve been wanting to see this film since I first heard about it and not just because I love music from the 80s (which I do). Interestingly, I first heard of it because one of the stars, Esteban Ahn, is a musician (under the name SanchoBeatz) that I follow. How could I not want to watch the film?!

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

Changing Season: On The Masumoto Family Farm

  • Director: Jim Choi
  • USA, 2015
  • 57 minutes, Rated: G, English
  • International Premiere
  • Saturday, November 7 @ 2:00 pm at AGO Jackson Hall (317 Dundas Street West)

“How many harvests do you have in you?” Changing Season chronicles a transitional year in the life of famed farmer and slow food advocate David “Mas” Masumoto and his compelling relationship with daughter Nikiko, who returns to the Masumoto family peach farm to continue in her father’s footsteps.

My Thoughts: Documentaries are often interesting, documentaries about family relationships, doubly so; at least in my opinion.

Image courtesy of Reel Asian
Image courtesy of Reel Asian

Off The Menu

  • Director: Grace Lee
  • USA, 2015
  • 55 minutes, Rated: PG, English
  • International Premiere
  • Tuesday, November 10 @ 7:00 pm at AGO Jackson Hall (317 Dundas Street West)

What does it mean to ”eat local”? How does ”hometown” taste? We follow award-winning Korean American filmmaker Grace Lee as she savours courses coast to coast, from Texan tofu tamales to the octopus hunt and Hawaiian grill. On her tour of mind-melting fusions, farms, and kitchens, Lee meets a diverse slate of Asian Americans who devote some part of their lives to cuisine.

My Thoughts: I like food and I like documentaries so this one intrigues me.

Shorts Presentations

There are three shorts presentations that include shorts by Korean, Korean-Canadian or Korean-American directors. But of course, lots more to see as well.

The World’s A Stage

  • Monday, November 9 at 1:00 pm – AGO Jackman Hall
  • All films rated PG

A delightful mix of short films that see life as it is—a giant stage with a final curtain call. Featuring works by Boyoung Kim and Gloria Ui Young Kim, among others.

Hungry Heart

  • Wednesday, November 11 at 6:45 PM – AGO Jackman Hall
  • All films rated 14A

Incisive short films that have the effect of acupuncture: pin-pointing invisible tensions and different weights of gravity on powerful characters and relationships. Featuring works Eui Yong Zong and Dahee Jeong, among others.

My Thoughts: I have to admit that I’m looking forward to seeing Eui Yong Zong’s short, Sun, as I know him and have enjoyed his other shorts. I spoke with him briefly at the press conference and here’s what he had to say about his short:

So, it’s a short film about a woman who’s kind of down on her luck and living at a hair salon. She’s been secretly in love with one of her customers, a man, and one day when the man comes to visit the shop, she realizes at the last moment that this is the last time she’ll spend time with him. So it’s just about a moment in time in a day of a woman.

Born to Run

  • Sunday, November 8 at 5:30 pm – AGO Jackman Hall
  • All films rated G

What’s the first thing you throw in your suitcase? Spanning continents and genres, this buffet of stories is a smiling wink and a knowing nod to cities, cultures, and creatures on the move. Featuring short films by Lynn Kim, among others.

Final Thoughts

Reel Asian is one of my favourite film festivals as they always have a great roster of films so you know I’m excited about the films they’ll be screening this year. Of course, I concentrate on the Korean films, shorts and documentaries and those that feature Korean-Canadian or Korean-American directors, but you know there’s a lot more to the festival so be sure to check out Reel Asian’s website or social media for more details on all the films you can watch this year. Tickets are on sale now so don’t miss your chance to see some great films, docs and shorts!

Want to know where to find them? You know we have you covered!

We hope to see you there! Tickets are on sale now!

Editor’s Note: The film synopses are courtesy of Reel Asian.

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday – this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it’s taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I’m the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

We want to hear what you think!

%d bloggers like this: