Stories make a comeback at Reel Asian fest

Documentaries, once the hot genre for the Toronto festival, take a back seat this year to comedies and dramas, starting with Justin Lin's spoof Finishing the Game: The Search for a New Bruce Lee

‘Everyone loves a good story,’ says Heather Keung, programming manager of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. ‘We’ve got a real mix of screenings this year, and we’ve noticed people are expanding to a more fictional-narrative direction. In the past there was a lot of documentary work when it came to telling of the Asian experience,’ says Keung.

The festival returns to Toronto on Wednesday, screening 77 titles across five days, running the gamut from comedic to spooky. It opens with Finishing the Game: The Search for a New Bruce Lee, a U.S. mockumentary directed by Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift) that lampoons the crass opportunism of those who tried to profit from the death of the martial arts legend.

‘We had a fairly diverse selection process that worked through solicited works, pieces entered in our call for submissions — of which we had 360 from all over the world — and our own scouting,’ says Keung.

At the second annual Hear Me! See Me! Pitch Me! competition, filmmakers get six minutes to pitch their story to a panel of judges and a live audience, competing for prizes of production and post services worth $18,000 and 10,000, in the professional and emerging categories, respectively.

Director Mika Ninagawa’s (Cheap Trick) first full-length feature, Sakuran, closes the festival on Sunday. The drama, which obliterates the stereotype of the reserved geisha in a swirl of blaring rock music and stunning visuals, is an adaptation of the manga comic books by Anno Moyoco.