Sunday, May 21, 2006

CIAFF Festival wrap-up notes:

It is over, finally!! So was the festival worth is? Yes. When does one get a chance to build a film festival from ground up? And this festival was indeed started from nothing. Movie invites were sent to Asian movies all around the world. Plenty of responses were received and as expected many chose to not send their movies over. Money kept a lot of established movies out of reach (like Three Times) and on other occasions the smallness of the film festival kept a lot of distributors away. Some movies pulled out because they were selected for TIFF and wanted to have their Canadian premier there instead. But in the end, despite all the hurdles, the movie lineup was fantastic. Strong features included Red Doors, Kiều, Electric Shadows . The docs were powerful and eye-opening -- China Blue, Bombay Calling, Continuous Journey, In the Shadow of Gold Mountain, Slanted Screen . The shorts were carefully selected and put together in segments which complemented each other. For example, The Beyond Asia Selection was so named because it contained works which stretched the traditional Asian themes normally shown on screen -- Hiro, Wake, Shui Hen, System of Units, The Time is Now, Aunty Gs and Three Sisters of Moon Lake were all perfect selections. There was another short segment aimed towards Food and Memory themes with Grace Lee’s Best of Wurst being the pick of the lot.

But the biggest problem with starting a new film festival is getting the word out. And the crowds were very disappointing for some of the bigger features. The good weather, the theatre locations (hard to find parking) might have been other factors but the simple truth could have been is that people were just not interested. When the words ‘Asian Film Festival’ are mentioned, people might get an aversion to what is shown. The truth is that the festival covered movies from Pan Asian countries or movies from people of Pan Asian decent. This meant the pool to select movies from ran as deep from Iran to Japan, India to Indonesia and even included Canada, US and the UK. And as it turned out, the movies selected were quite diverse in their Asian themes – the films selected were either by Asian film-makers or North American film-makers of Asian decent or even movies which contained Asians in leading roles (and not stereo-typical 20 second roles that Hollywood offers). The cinematic showcased countries were Canada, US, Singapore, Germany, Scotland, UK, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, India, Japan, Korea and Philippines -- hardly an easy to label batch of films. But it is a learning experience and hopefully next year, better pre-planning would result in better turn-outs.

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