Reel Asian International Film Festival Showcases York Region Directors

By: Scarlett Liu, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,  Economist & Sun
The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival is taking place starting from Nov. 10 to 19. The works of local filmmakers from York are showing at the festival.
This year’s festival lineup consists of 81 films from all over the world. Newmarket-raised director Albert Shin has been invited to the festival with his moving short film, “Together.”
The film is about two strangers who meet online and decide to meet in real life at a seaside motel for a suicide pact.
Shin is known for his previous films “In Her Place” and “Disappearance at Clifton Hill.” The former received seven Canadian Screen Award nominations including Best Picture Director and Original Screenplay.
While he was working on “In Her Place,” Shin had learned that Korea has one of the highest suicide rates out of all developed countries. He wanted to dig deeper into this issue, and that’s where the film “Together” came from.
Born and raised in a Korean Canadian family, Shin’s parents were busy running a restaurant. He spent a lot of time at the video store next door and developed a keen interest in movies at an early age.
“In the ’80s and ’90s, there weren’t many kids look like me; I grew up in a kind of white universe. In a lot ways, I tried to fit in, but inside my home is pretty much a Korean household,” Shin said, noting it felt like he was living in two different worlds. Without question, his Korean heritage has greatly influenced his films.
“My point of view could be an interesting multination of my Korean heritage and Canadian background and hopefully bring good stories to the world.”
This is also what the Reel Asian film festival is striving for. “Representation has always been at the forefront of our festival’s mandate,” stated Deanna Wong, executive director of Reel Asian. “How do we tell our stories? What is our connection to other communities? It’s not enough to put faces on the screen. We want to facilitate discussion and an understanding of the importance of storytelling.”
Unsung Voices is a program featuring four fearless emerging filmmakers. This year marks the 10th edition of the filmmaking program. Ganesh Thave’s “The Orchid and the Tree” is included in this year’s Shorts programming.
The story explores the relationship, the awkwardness and silence between an immigrant father and daughter after the mother passed away a long time ago.
Thava is a Tamil Canadian writer and director, of the second generation of immigrants from Sri Lanka. His early childhood was tough because of language barriers. When he first moved to Markham, the only thing he could say in English was his name.
“I used to be quiet and shy until I applied for a school play in high school. Even though it was a small role, I got up on the stage and everyone was listening to me, which was very exciting, and I knew I wanted to do acting after that moment.”
However, a career in the entertainment industry didn’t sound like a smart choice to Thave’s parents. He had to majored marketing at Ryerson University and then worked in the advertising industry after graduation.
In 2018, he started to take writing and acting courses and self-taught everything to chase his dream. “The Orchid and the Tree,” his very first film, is showcasing at the film festival.
“It is nice that the Reel Asian film festival is featuring BIPOC films. I’m really appreciative that they are providing the space,” he said, adding that he feels very grateful, nervous and vulnerable, “because every aspect of the film was crafted and decided by me, which means what people are seeing is truly me — that’s scary.”