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Image Courtesy of Reel Asian

By David Baldwin

Today is the last day of the 25th Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. You are likely SOL by the time you read this if you wanted to see the encore theatrical screening of the award winning Opening Night film Islands, but it is still available to view on the Digital portal.

That film centres on Joshua (Rogelio Balagtas). He is about to turn 50, still lives with his parents and works as a janitor in Toronto despite being a dentist in the Philippines. He has never really taken care of himself, and prays nightly for God to bless him with a wife and children. When his mother dies suddenly, Joshua must start taking care of his ailing father alongside his visiting cousin Marisol (Sheila Lotuaco), and begin to learn how to survive on his own. While that certainly does not sound like a wonderfully uplifting romp, Writer/Director Martin Edralin influses Islands with a raw emotional core that feels deeply personal and authentic. The film is paced slowly yet methodically, which allows for Edralin to hone in on the wonderful, naturalistic performances from Balagtas and Lotuaco — who you would never guess are both first-time actors! There are laughs, there is tragedy, and there is a whole lot of humanity coursing through Islands veins. It is moving and beautiful, and while you may not be on board initially, you will definitely come around to it all as the film progresses. Just watch out for Esteban Comilang as Joshua’s father Reynaldo. His very physical, very lived-in work is utterly devastating.

If that does not sound your speed, here are two more recommendations to watch before the festival ends:

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Image Courtesy of Reel Asian

By David Baldwin

The 25th annual Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival kicks off today and runs until November 19. This year’s festival offers a diverse slate of 19 feature films, short films, conferences, panels and more. All are available digitally, alongside an in-person screening of tonight’s Opening Night Film Islands at the Hot Docs Cinema. This is my first year being accredited for the festival, and what a banner year to be a part of. There are so many great titles from other festivals appearing here, many available to Toronto audiences for the first time. Here are just a few of the films you should be keeping on your radar.

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