This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, showcasing contemporary Asian cinema and work from the Asian diaspora around the world. Over the years, alumni of York University’s Film Department have had a strong presence in the fest, and the 2011 edition continued the trend.
Recent York graduate Cuong Ngo (BFA ‘09) returned to Reel Asian with the world premiere of his debut feature film, Pearls of the Far East, which he directed, co-produced and co-edited. Based on stories by award-winning Vietnamese author Nguyen Thi Minh Ngog, the film explores the themes of forbidden desire and true love through several generations of women. (The same themes are prevalent in Ngo’s graduation production The Golden Pin, which won Best Canadian Short at the 2009 Toronto Inside Out LGBT Film and Video Festival and went on to screen at over 40 international film festivals.)
Ngo assembled an impressive cast comprising some of Vietnam’s biggest movie stars for Pearls of the Far East, which was shot in Vietnam over a six-month period. Ngo Thanh Van, Truong Ngoc Anh, Nhu Quynh, Hong Anh and Kieu Chinh make up the stellar list of actors.
Ngo enlisted his former York U classmate Mikhail Petrenko (BFA ‘09) to serve as cinematographer. Petrenko, who garnered a nomination at the 2009 Canadian Society of Cinematographers Awards for the 2008 York U CineSiege festival winner Morning Will Come, has been very busy lensing several short films and the documentary Fork in the Road for OMNI Television. He has received numerous international awards including Most Promising Cinematographer at the 2010 Buffalo Niagara Film Festival and the World Cinema Cinematography Award at the 2010 Amsterdam Film Festival.
Pearls of the Far East is set to an original, evocative score composed by Alexina Louie and Alex Pauk, two leading lights of the Canadian new music scene. The Juno Award-winning Louie, a daughter of second-generation Canadians of Chinese descent, and Pauk, recipient of the 2007 Canada Council Molson Prize for the Arts, have composed film scores for some of Canada’s top directors including Jeremy Podeswa, Don McKellar and York alumni Larry Weinstein and Barbara Willis Sweete.
Read Cuong Ngo’s interview with TO Live with Culture about the making of Pearls of the Far East.
Read a blog entry by Reel Asian on an early preview screening of the film.
With files from Reel Asian International Film Festival 2011