Festival highlights work of film & video alum Simon Chung

The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival has been making waves across the Asian diaspora ever since it was founded in 1997. At the ninth annual festival, held from Nov. 23 to 27 at several downtown Toronto cinemas, York film students and alumni made some big splashes of their own.

Right: Scene from Innocent by Simon Chung

Film alumnus Simon Chung had the distinction of being this year’s featured director. Originally from Hong Kong, Chung is considered a pioneer of queer Asian film. Since graduating with a BFA in 1990, Chung has received international recognition for his short films. Life is Elsewhere (1996) received the Distinguished Award at the Hong Kong Independent Film and Video Awards and the Award of Excellence at the Image Forum Festival in Japan. Following this success, Stanley Beloved (1997) and First Love & Other Pains (1999) received critical acclaim at film festivals across the globe.

At the Reel Asian Festival, Chung’s films were featured in the series entitled Canadian Artist Spotlight. On Nov. 24 at Innis Town Hall, Chung’s feature-length film debut Innocent (2005) had its Canadian premiere. Set in Toronto, the production tackles issues relating to social isolation and sexual identity. During the festival’s closing night awards ceremony, Chung was honoured once again, this time with the $2,000 National Film Board Best Independent Canadian Film & Video Award for Innocent. To round off the series, Of Love and Minorities: Short Films by Simon Chung (1996, 1997, 1999) was screened following a panel discussion on the globalization of independent cinema at Innis Town Hall on Nov. 27 in which Chung participated as a panellist.

True to York’s reputation for innovation, other film students and alumni represented in the festival demonstrated their ability to push the boundaries of their art. Three productions by Yorkies were featured in the Reel Shorts program No Chemistry Sets Allowed, a showcase for experimental film.

Graduate student Larissa Fan presented her 2005 video Coming and Going, a three-minute snapshot of urban life. Like many York film students, Fan has been busy on the film fest circuit – her Self-Portrait with Pig’s Heart was screened at Toronto’s aluCine festival this past April (see the May 2 issue of YFile).

Left: Scene from Ornithology by Luo Li

Ornithology (2005), a bold six-minute short set to a jazz score, is alumnus Luo Li’s latest contribution to the Reel Asian Festival. Last year, he had two films on screen: Stills and Birds. Li (BFA ’05) has been making a name for himself in the world of alternative film world, picking up awards at the 2005 Images and Media City festivals, as well as the prize for excellence in alternative film at York’s own Cinesiege screening earlier this fall (see story in the Nov. 28 issue of YFile).

Film alumnus Keith Lock (MFA ’81) received the @Wallace Local Artists Award for his six-minute autobiographical world premiere, The Dreaming House. (Luo Li captured the same award at last year’s Reel Asian festival.) A seasoned film veteran, Lock has directed over 20 films and has worked as cinematographer for the iconic Canadian artist and filmmaker Michael Snow.

This article was submitted to YFile by Sarah Curry in the Faculty of Fine Arts.