The “Escape or Reality” short programme at this year’s Reel Asian International Film Festival is a varied mix of films that deal with taking a break from reality in both big and small ways. The great thing about all of these films is that most people will be able to relate to the various scenarios depicted because we’ve all encountered a moment when escaping into a different world or shutting off your rational mind was preferable to facing what was in front of you.
A Happy Wish
A little girl escapes her very regimented life by tapping into her incredibly vivid imagination in this colourful and delightfully odd Taiwanese film by Jack Shih. One world of advice though: what with all of the you’ll-need-sunglasses bright colours and giant flying fish, don’t head into this film, um…intoxicated in any way or you’ll risk having your mind blown completely to pieces.
Gains + Losses
The evocative animation is the star in the very short 3-minute short from Canadian filmmaker Leslie Supnet. If only all moments of quiet contemplation about the big questions in life could look as beautiful as this…
Traces of Joy
Just try not to get teary during this beautifully rendered and very heartwrenching look at two children attempting to make sense of a senseless tragedy with the help of an invisible friend. Although it’s only 7-minutes long, Canadian directors Jeff Tran and Louis Yeum have perfectly encapsulated what these children have been through and the way they’re processing their grief through play and whimsy. This film was definitely the star of this programme for me.
Another contender for programme MVP, this 22-minute South Korean film by Kim Yong-sam is a slice-of-life story that’s both hilarious and melancholy. Sun-woo is a typical teenage boy who’s close with his Mum and Dad but also pretty happy when they leave him for the weekend to go and visit family. Does Sun-woo take the Hollywood Teen Sex comedy route and throw a giant bash wherein heartwarming misadventures will take place? Nope, he does what we all do when we’re home alone: he watches TV, sings along to the radio, tries his hand at breakdancing and hangs out with the dog. His complete and utter normalcy is riveting, as is his sweetly funny bickering with his parents before and after they leave.
This strange little short unfolds through the eyes of a little girl who’s just moved to Ontario from Japan and is trying to adjust by imagining a magical world for herself and encouraged by her Mom. This imaginary world is populated by cabinets and trunks that open to reveal mostly happy surprises and occasionally scary ones as the little girl is influenced by her Mom’s moods and craft projects meant to distract them both from their homesickness. Eri Asai’s film was not my favourite one of the programme but it’s got a lot of imagination and the little girl is extra super cute.
Making Noise in Silence
This is a fairly straight-forward mini doc about two Korean teens who have been uprooted from their home country to a school for the deaf in California. It’s a nice ender to the programme because it’s got its feet firmly planted in reality, with the teens very frankly discussing how difficult it is to be deaf in Korean culture and how torn they are between their old and new homes. This isn’t groundbreaking filmmaking in any way but Mina T. Son has offered a perspective on Korean culture that I’ve never seen before and that’s always worthwhile.
Is “Escape or Reality” Youth Shorts Programme Essential Reel Asian Viewing?
Sure – shorts programmes are always worth checking out at film festivals because you will rarely get a chance to see these films again. Plus, there are definitely a few gems in here that will both touch and delight you.
“Escape or Reality” Youth Shorts Programme Screening Time
MORE FROM TORONTO FILM SCENE
- Letter from the Editor: a journey through Asian cinema
- Spotlight On: Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival
- Reel Asian Review: Lung Neaw Visits His Neighbours