Featuring 35 full-length and short films from local and international Asian diaspora, organizing four vibrant after parties that brought together establish and emerging talents, and hosting filmmakers and special guests from across the Asia Pacific, the 22nd annual Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF) can be defined as nothing less than a success. As one of the largest festivals to date, Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas was packed from November 1-4, 2018 as moviegoers attended films that celebrated diversity and the Asian diaspora in film.
Under the guidance of Lynne Lee, VAFF Festival Director, the 22nd iteration of the festival, under the theme INFUSIAN, placed a spotlight upon the diverse artists, agitators, thinkers, and innovators who shape the living experience of contemporary Canadians and the array of influences that inform their work. The VAFF 2018 lineup presented 13 film programs plus 2 industry panels and 35 other feature-length and short films of all genres, with English language and/or English subtitles, from the local and international Asian diaspora.
The 2018 festival also included the public premiere of the “We Heart Canada + Japan 90” film project. A continuation of VAFF’s signature We Heart program begun in 2017, this year’s project featured the partnership of Japan Foundation Toronto and Consulate General of Japan in Vancouver in celebrating the 90th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Canada.
Day 1: Kicking off VAFF 2018
The start of VAFF 2018 began with a tremendous turnout and an incredible amount of energy from the film community in Vancouver with a screening of Director Cathy Yan’s Dead Pigs. Yan, who will also be the first Asian woman to direct a DC Comics Franchise movie with the upcoming Birds of Prey represented the important work being done by Asian North Americans in mainstream media.
The screening was then followed by an opening gala after party at D6 Bar & Lounge – Parq Vancouver, which was complemented by the presence of Taiwanese-Canadian Ed Hill, who acted as the emcee of the evening and a night of lively entertainment provided by Son of James, ERR DAY DJ’s and DJ Flawless.
VAFF was extremely humbled by the support of local Asian North American stars including the cast of Wu Assassins, an upcoming American action television series set to premiere on Netflix. Guest appearances from the cast included Celia Au, JuJu Chan, Lawrence Kao, Tzi Ma, Byron Mann and Lewis Tan.
Day 2: INFUSING Ideas from East to West
Riding on the momentum of the first day, the second day of VAFF became a jam-packed and exciting experience with our opening documentary feature series, Havana Divas, preceded by short film Nathan Jung v. Bruce Lee. Switching gears, audiences then enjoyed our Canadian spotlight film Stand Up Man, as well as our Vietnamese late night feature The Way Station.
In addition to our emcee Ritesh Matlani, the attendance of Aram Collier, Director of Stand Up Man, and Timothy Tau, Director of Nathan Jung v. Bruce Lee as well as the special guest appearances by Jacqueline and Joyce Robbins (more commonly known as the Robbins Twins) livened up the atmosphere. After all the screenings, attendees travelled to Yaletown where Bar None hosted the annual VAFF Industry Party in a musically entertaining and vibrant atmosphere.
Day 3: Bridging Film, Industry and Food
On day three of VAFF, the day started off with two of VAFF’s signature Industry Insight Panel series. In the first panel Diversity and Representation in Canadian Film and Television, panelists Kashif Pasta, John Wirth, Sonny Wong along with moderator Ritesh Matlani highlighted some of the key issues regarding representation both behind and in front of the camera. Meanwhile, our second panel on Asian Women in Film casted a spotlight on the works of five important women in the industry: Lien Yeung, Olivia Cheng, Alexandra Cuerdo and Mia Fiona Kut, as well as moderator Bessie Chow.
As these panel talks were in session, moviegoers had the opportunity to watch two our documentary features. Sport fans enjoyed the Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story while beauty pageant fanatics adored Badass Beauty Queen: The Story of Anastasia Lin, and its two preceding short films Good Girls Don’t and Jie Jie. In attendance at our screenings were Ana de Lara, Director of Good Girls Don’t, and Alexandra Cuerdo, Director of Ulam: Main Dish who passionately engaged with the audience.
As the day progressed, hungry movie goers were then treated to two delicious films, ULAM: Main Dish, preceded by the short film Pixar’s Bao, both of which were hosted by emcee Joella Cabalu, a local Filipino-Canadian Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker. VAFF goers then filled their hungry stomachs at our Masarap After Party at Bao Down Gastropub + Raw bar. Like the theme of INFUSIAN, Bao Down, a local pan Asian fusion restaurant, treated moviegoers to a wide selection of Filipino fusion foods that satisfied the stomachs of all in attendance. In between, our VAFF night owls trickled in after checking out our late night feature film Omotenashi, a Taiwan-Japan co-production by Jay Chern.
Day 4: Closing Night and Awards Gala
On the bittersweet last day of VAFF, the festival hosted an appreciation dim sum luncheon for our wonderful filmmakers at the International Arts Gallery.
After that, audiences attend the We Heart Canada + Japan 90 (WHCJ90) program, where our guests had the pleasure of experiencing a live taiko drums performance by Uzume Taiko. After participating in a “matchmaking” session earlier this year in July 2018, the WHCJ90 presentation showcased the work of local filmmakers Alejandro Yoshizawa, Lousia Phung, Mayumi Yoshida and Jonathan Chiang and their partnering non-profit organizations: Canada-Japan Council of British Columbia, Cosmos Seminar, Kyudo Association of BC and Nikkei Place Seniors. The WHCJ90 project could not have happened without support from both the Consulate General of Japan in Vancouver and The Japan Foundation, Toronto. In addition to our emcee Kevan Ohtsji, a local Vancouver actor, special guests included both Joel de la Fuente who plays the role of Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido in The Man in the High Castle and Japanese-American actress Tamlyn Tomita, most well known for her role as Waverly in The Joy Luck Club.
In our Canadian Shorts program, VAFF screened some local talent with the films: Sonder, Buy or Beware, Tokyo Lovers and Recall by Directors Mia Fiona Kut, Victoria Angell, Mayumi Yoshida and Nach Dudsdeemaytha and Andy Lin. And of course, the winners from our 10-day MAMM competition also had their films featured: Too Late, J’Adoube, Followers: Wifi-Interrupted, Evoked and Bunny Man by the talented Directors Christopher Cho and Simon Chin, Lee Shorten, Milton Ng, Kate Ely and Athena Han.
Following the Canadian shorts program was the last of our documentary features, Drawn Together: Comics, Diversity and Stereotypes directed by Harleen Singh, which was preceded by the sci-fi short Eve directed by Alex Shin.
Finally, audience goers gathered one last time for the closing night film For Izzy. In attendance was Director Alex Chu along with actress Jennifer Soo. Audiences engaged in a heartful Q&A session as themes of family, love and compassion touched movie goers.
The awards ceremony happened right after all films were screened. Catching up on some previously announced awards, winners from the September 2018 Mighty Asian Movie Making Marathon (MAMM) were called to the stage. This included the awards for:
- #MAMM13 Fan’s Choice Award for best overall performance: Followers: Wifi-Interrupted by Milton Ng
- #MAMM13 Fan’s Choice Award for best overall short/ultrashort: Bunny Man by Athena Han
The audience was then presented with the winners for the adjudicated categories presented for the VAFF 2018 awards. This included two adjudication panels that comprised of Paul Armstrong, Zalatina Pacheva, Alodie Yen and Nicolas Ayerbe Barona. The winners included:
- Best Canadian Feature Award (BCFA) 2018: For Izzy by Alex Chu
- Best Canadian Short Award (BCSA) 2018: Bao by Domee Shi
Finally, the audience was given a chance to vote for their fan-favourites as VAFF presented the London Drugs People’s Choice Awards. Congratulations to our 2018 winners:
- Best Overall Short: Evoked by Kate Ely
- Best Overall Feature: Late Life: The Chien-Ming Wang Story by Frank W. Chen
- Best Overall Performance: Mayumi Yoshida and Jerome Yoo in Tokyo Lovers.
Ending the festival on a high note, attendees then proceeded to Railway Stage and Beer Café for a night of food and singing, which left everlasting impressions on the audience. VAFF 2018 would like to thank all of the sponsors, community partners as well as the endless support of the executive team and over 100+ volunteers who made the festival a success. We hope to see you again next year!
For a full list of VAFF 2018 media, sponsors and community partners, visit our festival sponsors page.
Justin Kwan is a Digital Content Editor at the Vancouver Asian Film Festival. A Torontonian turned Vancouverite, Justin graduated with degrees in the areas of political science and Asian studies and frequently writes on contemporary Asian politics, culture and current affairs. In his role at VAFF, Justin explores a variety of digital tools and communication strategies to further promote the festival and its message of diversity in film.
This article is part of a series of INFUSIAN News Spotlight Articles: vlog posts, interviews, and articles exploring VAFF’s 2018 season theme of INFUSIAN, which features individuals and organizations who are pushing the boundaries, creating not only film, but art, culture, and change by infusing their work with a diverse mix of traditional and contemporary influences. Over the course of 2018, we’ll be profiling artists, filmmakers, musicians, thinkers, and agitators are changing the world in which we live by bringing a unique perspective based on their lived and cultural experiences. It is through this act of enrichment that they are renewing society with fresh and interesting ideas, and new and unexpected takes on ancient traditions. We encourage you to stay tuned and join us on this fantastic journey!