The spotlight’s on Asian cinema this week in Toronto, as the Reel Asian International Film Festival launches 10 days of movies and industry events. While a relatively young festival–launched in 1997, less than 20 years ago–Reel Asian has only grown with time, providing Asian filmmakers a platform to share their stories with a wider audience.
Opening night at the Isabel Bader Theatre featured several directors, including Anucharan Murugaiyan (Kirumi), Won Suk Lee (The Royal Tailor), and Canadian filmmaker Elisa Paloschi, who directed the opening night documentary Driving with Selvi. I had a chance to speak with all three directors about their work, however briefly, as well as spending a few minutes chatting with Selvi about her experience as the subject of a documentary.
Lee noted that his shift to a historical epic from his previous work in comedy is reflective of an ambition he shares with many Korean filmmakers, paying tribute to their long history and the fascinating figures that have shaped that history. Murugaiyan was thrilled to be bringing Kirumi to a Canadian audience, his excitement palpable even as he expanded thoughtfully on the new frontiers of Tamil cinema, and how his own work aims to showcase those aspirations.
Elisa Paloschi described how she believed in Selvi’s story from the beginning, through ten years of filming. Both women learned from one another over those ten years, and clearly have a great deal of respect each other. Selvi was shy at first introduction–a completely understandable reaction given the atmosphere–but answered questions confidently and with a delightful sense of humour. When I asked what the brightest moments of her filming experience were, she said, “Elisa and I used to get into arguments, and those were the happiest moments, the funniest moments.” Her next challenge? Starting a travel agency to help other young women gain independence and agency.