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Celebrating Local and International Talent At The FascinAsian Film Festival

Cinema has seen a massive change over the past decade for Asian representation. At the 92nd Academy Awards, “Parasite” became the first South Korean film to receive Academy Award recognition and the first non-English film to receive Best Picture. “Shang-Chi” was the first Asian-led Marvel film. At the 95th Academy Awards, “Everything Everywhere All At Once” won 7 awards, with Ke Huy Quan awarded a Golden Globe Award and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Western films have a checkered past in their depiction of non-white communities. Mickey Rooney as Mr. Yunioshi in “Breakfast At Tiffany’s.” John Wayne as Genghis Kahn in the 1956 film “Conquerer” are blatant examples of white actors cast in non-white roles. More recent examples are Emma Stone, cast as a Chinese/Swedish/Hawaiian woman in “Aloha,” and Scarlett Johansson, cast as Motoko Kusanagi in the adaptation of the anime “Ghost in the Shell.” Things have come a long way, but they still have further to go.

To kick off Asian Heritage Month, Calgary and Winnipeg hold the FascinAsian Film Festival. The event is a celebration of Asian culture and the filmmakers and professionals of Asian heritage, all while uniting communities and enjoying what we all love most, movies. The Winnipeg festival starts with an Opening Night Red Carpet and their opening film Riceboy Sleeps, closing day one with a reception.

“You can expect it to be the best one yet,” says President Alan Wong. “We have a beautiful new venue for the first couple of days. It’s at the Inuit Arts Centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Qaumajuq. It’s beautiful and perfect for what we need it for. Saturday night, we have a new partnership and screening for a documentary called ‘Big Fight in Little China Town.”

Directed by Karen Cho, the film follows the devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and city redevelopment and how Chinatowns in New York City, Montreal and Vancouver are looking for innovative ways to ensure their communities continue to thrive. The film will be shown at the Winnipeg Chinese Cultural and Community Centre (WCCCC). Sunday, the festival will return to Cinematheque for the movie “Past Lives.”

The Winnipeg festival will also showcase a wide array of short films Saturday in the Slice of Life – Shorts Program. Hosted by FascinAsian programmer Karen Remoto, she presents seven short films selected from over 180 worldwide submissions. Films include “Pray,” “A Day, That Year,” “The Headhunter’s Daughter,” “MeiHouWang,” “Tiger Mom,” “I Hurt Myself,” and “Desi Standard Time Travel.”

“The first year was really only Calgary and Winnipeg, but some submissions from Toronto or Vancouver,” says Wong. “This year, we opened it internationally and were inundated with requests and submissions. We had 180 to go through, which is a lot of time and effort watching all these films. In the end, we ended up increasing our short film programming.”

Many of these films were created last year and share similar themes, says Wong. “Because of the pandemic, a lot of existential topics, a lot of topics about family, and a lot of films centred around identity.”

According to Wong, there continues to be so much potential in diverse films. He adds, as we continue to see the television and film industry develop in Manitoba, local talent will continue to grow alongside it.

The FascinAsian Film Festival started in Winnipeg on May 4 and ran until the 7. The Calgary Festival takes place May 11 to 14.

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

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