Reel Asian Spring Showcase celebrates Asian Heritage Month at York

York University has collaborated with the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival and Asian Heritage Month – the Canadian Foundation for Asian Culture (Central Ontario) Inc. – to present the Reel Asian Spring Showcase. Seven screenings of original films will take place at the Keele campus starting tomorrow evening and running until the evening of Sunday, May 25.

The showcase offers a diverse array of films and videos by East Asian and South Asian artists from Canada, the United States and Asia, and is part of Toronto’s celebration of Asian Heritage Month. (For the full story, see the May 9 issue of YFile.) It presents work by, from and about people from Hong Kong, China, Canada, India, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the United States, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Organized by Faculty of Fine Arts Professors Suzie Young and Wendy Wong in conjunction with the Reel Asian organizing committee and with assistance from the York Centre for Asian Research, the showcase promises to deliver an eclectic assortment of film and video presentations.

Admission to all events is free, however tickets are required. For a guide to the showcase, including film summaries, ticket information, screening times and locations, visit the Reel Asian Web site, or contact Reel Asian at 416-703-9333 or e-mail The Box Office opens 45 minutes before the screenings.

The showcase kicks off tomorrow with acclaimed Hong Kong filmmaker Jacob Cheung Chi-Leung’s A Battle of Wits (2006). Presented by the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office, the screening begins at 6:30pm in the Price Family Cinema, 102 Accolade East on York’s Keele campus. A reception follows at 9pm in the CIBC Lobby, Accolade East.

Left: The Reel Asian Showcase begins with a premiere of Jacob Cheung Chi-Leung’s A Battle of Wits, which tells the story of the harrowing era of warlords in China

One of Asia’s biggest hits of 2006, the spectacular war epic brings the harrowing era of China’s warlords vividly to life in an epic re-creation of the popular comic series BOKKO.

The small city-state of Liang appears defenceless against the terrifying hordes of the Zhao nation until a mysterious stranger named Ge Li (played by Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau) appears on the scene, raising both hope and apprehension among the citizens of Liang. Armed only with his wits, Ge Li begins to fight back the armies of Zhao, but will he ultimately betray the very people he seeks to protect?

The closing night’s presentation on Sunday, May 25 at 7pm, features Kieu (2006) by filmmaker Vù T. Thu Hà. The film is inspired by the epic 19th-century Vietnamese poem "Tale of Kieu". In this famous folktale, a virtuous young woman endures endless degradation with courage and perseverance. Kieu will be screened in the Nat Taylor Cinema, 102 Ross Building on York’s Keele campus.

Hà’s film, which is making its Toronto premiere at York University, is set in present-day San Francisco. The central character Kieu (played by American actress Kathy Uyên) is a Vietnamese refugee condemned to work in a massage parlour to help redeem her family’s debt. She is admired by her local grocery clerk, but she is hesitant to risk experiencing any joy or love. Her daily life is fragmented by images of kindred spirits, sad memories of her past and thoughts of her long-distant family whom she supports back home.

Right: The Reel Asian Showcase will close with the retelling of a 19th-century Vietnamese poem

A unique collaboration between female filmmakers, Kieu is a thoughtful and poetic film, delicately portraying dignity and grace in the face of political and economic suffering. In the making of this film, Hà enlisted real massage parlour workers from San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. By serving as script consultants and actors, many of these women were given an opportunity for the first time to tell their own stories to the world.

Other highlights of the showcase include Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Three Times (2005); the Toronto premiere of The Other Half (2006); internationally acclaimed Canadian filmmaker and York film Professor Ali Kazimi’s Continuous Journey (2004); and Canadian filmmaker Cheuk Kwan’s Chinese Restaurants: Latin Passions (2005). The showcase also includes a presentation of film shorts with works by filmmakers Howie Shia, Wayne Yung, Naoko Kumagai, Khanhthuan Tran, Joyce Wong, Jane Kim, Gloria Kim and Tak Koyama.

A special panel discussion featuring Canadian filmmaker Cheuk Kwan and guests will focus on his films. It will take place at 2pm in the Nick Mirkopoulos Screening Room, 004, Accolade East Building, on York’s Keele campus.

Reel Asian is Canada’s longest-running showcase of contemporary Asian cinema and work from the Asian diaspora. The showcase fosters the exchange of cultural and artistic ideals between East and West, provides a public forum for homegrown Asian media artists and their work, and fuels the growing appreciation for Asian cinema in Canada.

The spring showcase is sponsored by the Department of Canadian Heritage, with additional support from the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office (Canada).