During the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, there was one weekend devoted to “Wee Asians” directed at children with family friendly activities. This is a diary entry recorded on Sunday, November 12/17 as to what happened when I showed up with my mother and my toddler son. My mother is a Chinese school principal (Saturday only, Ontario “Heritage Languages” Program), so she stayed overnight on Saturday night to partake in the Sunday Wee Asian activities.
6:00am My son is awake in his crib, but I am ignoring him because I need to finish articles on Reel Asian for Ricepaper.
7:00am My mother starts telling me that my son must be cold because he is babbling. She fetches him from the crib (Surprise! Grandma’s here!) and they fight over what clothes he should wear.
8:00am Everyone is dressed and my husband avoids all activities by mumbling something about work and runs out the door. I tell my mom that at 9:30am there is baby kung fu on the schedule of Wee Asian.
8:30am We rush into a Hong Kong style restaurant and over order breakfast (something about a deal). We rush eating as mom is in hyper mode and worried we will miss the kung fu stuff. My son refuses to eat, so we pack up his food. I tell her it is ok if we are late but she says it is unacceptable. Mom is usually an hour early for everything…
9:30am We take a streetcar and arrive at the beautiful TIFF building. My son is mystified by the escalators. We get lost trying to find the Wee Asian room, but staff intervene. I check out the bathrooms and they are huge and beautiful with a stainless steel change table (the most important room for the very young and old).
The Wee Asian room is not dark since there are windows and there is a small screen looping animation films. A few blankets are on the floor for the crawlers along with pillows. I tell someone I am writing an article and they nod, saying something about bloggers. They tell me that the schedule is delayed because the day before people arrived around 10:30am, so therefore, today the baby kung fu will start at 10:30am instead.
9:35am My son sits down to watch shorts and refuse to do any other activities so I can take pictures of him in action. Mom frets that he must be hungry and feeds him bbq pork noodles which had been packed up at breakfast. Mom asks why isn’t the kung fu starting and I confess that it won’t start until 10:30am. Steam rises from her head as she talks loudly about schedules and what is the point if no one follows them? Write in your article that they should stick to their schedule, she orders.
9:50am Kody Kapow: Lantern Kapow! (Sam Chou) comes on with a tiger that can do kung fu and children that can do chi magic. Mom is impressed and wants to watch but becomes upset that people are talking loudly nearby.
10:00am The baby kung fu demonstration starts because suddenly there are more kids in the room. Sifu head instruction Calvin Chung of Chung’s Arts Academy gives an introduction to lionheads and shows how strings are used to make the mouth and eyes move. My son freaks out and starts screaming about going home. Mom ignores him and decides to learn kung fu herself!
I drag my child back to watch animation shorts and he settles down. The children who watch Calvin learn a few kung fu moves and get to put on the lion head used for the dances. Mom is impressed that children were allowed to put it on and says they are a few hundred dollars apiece. I point out to my son that kids were doing kung fu and he deliberately ignores me by focusing on the movie screen.
10:30am Son throws himself on the floor screaming about going home. I tell him there is a button making activity and he is interested. After coloring characters from Lillian Chan’s Yumi and Boom, a volunteer helped us make a few buttons. My son is happy that he gets to press the lever of the button machine. The volunteer laments that she has been so busy she hasn’t watched any films at Reel Asian!
10:40am My child is bored after buttons and coloring, but he is willing to sit down to watch reruns of the animation. Mom resumes feeding him bbq pork noodles and is happy when he almost finishes the bowl.
11:00am Son starts fussing about why we can’t change the channel to watch Thomas the Train. Good question! There is an announcement for another baby kung fu session, but he refuses to budge. I tell him that he can touch the feathers of the lion head but he shakes his head in disgust.
11:15am The animated shorts all stop, lights turn on and kids can get their face painted. Son starts running around like a wild animal and gets into a fight with another child over the use of a toy tunnel. The other kid was bigger and runs off with the tunnel (made of nylon and wire). Someone tells me that at 401 Richmond Street we can experience Yumi and Boom on virtual reality (VR) headsets and nearby is ice cream.
11:30am We walk by Sweet Jesus, a soft serve ice cream store and one order is around $10. We can buy a chicken at a Chinese restaurant for $10! My mom fumes. So no ice cream. We fumble around at different doors at 401 Richmond before finding the right one. Volunteers kindly lead us to the exhibit but only kids 12 and up can experience the VR headsets and there is a 45 minute wait if adults want to try. That is too long of a wait. We end up in a lounge watching experimental videos before my son starts demanding ice cream.
11:35am We end up at McDonalds with more reasonably priced soft serve ice cream and everyone is happy.
The Wee Asian for children was a great event overall as kids learn about film festivals at an early age and will hopefully be a supporter of the arts when they grow up. Half a day is a good chunk of scheduling time because children tire easily and can exhaust their parents. Hopefully, next year Reel Asian will do a similar activity again and my son will be old enough to do more!