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TIFF Focuses on Asian Cinema

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Hur Jin-ho’s “Dangerous Liaisons”

Asian films are a huge part of TIFF this year since many of them have ended up in Gala and prestige slots, competing against Hollywood and other major players in the industry. North Americans love Asian cinema — and flicks like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Host, 13 Assassins, and The Raidhave proven so by becoming both critical and commercial successes.

Because of that co-productions between North America and East Asia are becoming more and more common nowadays. North American studios are eager to access the exploding Asian market by working with local firms and talents to imbue American films with the flair of Asian cinema. For instance, the science fiction action thriller Looper, which premiered at TIFF this year on September 6, is a co-production between the U.S. and China — and it has already garnered critical acclaim. Over the course of the past decade, the film industry has truly gone global — because it is not just the U.S. (aka Hollywood) that is pumping out movies for worldwide audiences, but also counties like Canada, England, Australia, New Zealand, India, China, and so on. Everyone pitches in so-to-speak.

After noticing the shift toward global film production, Cameron Bailey, the artistic director at TIFF, realized that the festival could be used as a means to bridge the gap between the East and the West. That is why Asian films and co-productions have become such a huge part of the movie-going experience at TIFF. In fact, Hur Jin-ho’s Dangerous Liaisons, Korean adaptation of the 18th century French literary classic and Thermae Romae, Hideki Takeuchi’s Japanese adaptation of a manga comic, are some of the biggest TIFF releases this year.

“I saw the radical changes that are happening in the global film industry, in the sense that it is becoming more truly international,” said Bailey in a recent interview with CBC News. “Toronto is uniquely placed to be a part of the conversation about that change because of our population, our audience here, and how outward-looking we are. Being a city of immigrants, being a festival that shows films from so many different countries each year, [drawing] audiences that are familiar with movies from the West and the East, I thought this was the perfect place to do it.”

Jackie Chan – bridging the gap between the East and the West at TIFF.

Bailey and his team have spent a great deal of time building connections between the industry leaders and talents from both sides of the globe — and the result is TIFF’s first Asian Film Summit, an event intended to bring together filmmakers, financiers, and distributors from all over the world.

It ran all day on September 10 at Shangri-La Hotel in Toronto with action star Jackie Chan appearing as the guest of honour. “We wanted to have one high profile actor to be a kind of ambassador and show, through the work they’ve done, what’s possible in terms of building bridges,” Bailey told Variety.

The goal is to create a platform for people to talk about the changes in the film industry and how to find business opportunities around the world. For instance, Bailey concern that most industry professionals from the West focus only on China, ignoring countries like South Korea and Japan — where the film industry is also booming. So, forming a discussion around that would be part of the summit.

“There’s an opportunity to really bring together people from all different parts of the world during the festival — who are already here doing business and showing their films and having premieres — to talk about… what are the next steps for all of us, so that we can understand how we need to grow,” said Bailey.

One can spot film fans of various ethnicities and nationalities at TIFF, which means that the festival is already serving the purpose Bailey hopes it should — to bring people together.


By: Taras Trofimov


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