Your Kontinent festival goes global

The goal of next week’s Your Kontinent festival is captured perfectly in its opening-night film, Toilet. Made and set in Toronto by Japanese director, Naoko Ogigami, the delightful and slightly off-kilter movie follows three eccentric siblings in the aftermath of their mother’s death and their new relationship with their uncommunicative Japanese grandmother.

Your Kontinent’s executive director, Ying Wang, tells the Straight by phone that Toilet—which screens Thursday (July 21)—embodies what she calls the festival’s “intercultural communication” mandate. “The New Asian Film Festival was focused on Asia, and we only programmed films on Asia and anything related to Asia,” Wang says of the festival—otherwise known, rather grandly, as the Richmond International Film and Media Arts Festival—that preceded Your Kontinent. “Your Kontinent means more than that. It’s an expansion from one particular culture and focus to something more inclusive. We wanted to bring a global perspective into this.”

To that end, Wang and her programming partners in the Cinevolution Media Arts Society have drummed up a diverse and impressive schedule of films, many of them getting their Canadian premiere. Included in these is Christopher Woon’s Among B-Boys (July 21), an American documentary that looks at the break-dancing offspring of Hmong refugees in California’s Central Valley. “They’re Asian, but it’s about their passion for art,” Wang says. “It’s not about working hard in a restaurant, or those kind of stories. We’re not interested in those stories.”

City Monkey (July 22), about a parkour-crazed kid in Beijing, sounds like it might take a similarly unconventional path, while features such as the Canadian festival favourite Modra (July 24) and The Human Resources Manager (July 21) relocate Your Kontinent entirely outside of Asia. The latter, which Wang excitedly describes as a “very tough title to get”, concerns an HR manager sent to Romania to represent his Jerusalem-based employer after an employee is killed in a suicide bombing. “This one was on our big list,” Wang boasts of the blackly humorous Israeli entry for 2010’s best foreign-language film Oscar.

There are also formally inventive works on offer. Wang says the extraordinary Live Tape (July 23), in particular, is her “cup of tea”. The best-picture winner at the 22nd Tokyo International Film Festival, Live Tape follows musician Kenta Maeno as he busks his way from the Kichijoji Hachiman Shrine to a band performance at Inokashira Park, all in the same Tokyo neighbourhood. Remarkably, the film is comprised of a single, 74-minute shot. Equally innovative is the wildly entertaining Hong Kong chop-socky flick Gallants—codirected by Toronto native Clement Cheng—which the festival is presenting as a free outdoor event on Friday (July 22).

There’s plenty more to Your Kontinent, and not just film-wise. Wang and her partners are running a number of workshops, premiering digital artist Paul Wong’s installation Flash Memory (July 21), among other media artworks—some of them inside converted shipping containers—and folding the third annual DocuAsia Forum into the event, from July 16 to 18. Japanese musician Shing02 will be on hand to present the timely film Ashes to Honey: Searching a Sustainable Future—about a Japanese community’s resistance to a planned nuclear-power plant—at Harbour Centre SFU on Saturday (July 16), and again on Sunday at Richmond City Hall (July 17). For the full schedule, go to

Your Kontinent takes place at the Richmond Cultural Centre from Thursday to Sunday (July 21 to 24). DocuAsia runs at Harbour Centre SFU, Richmond City Hall, and Richmond Cultural Centre from Saturday to Monday (July 16 to 18).