Review: Asian Gangs (2012)

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Cast: Lewis Bennett
Director: Lewis Bennett, Calum MacLeod
Country: Canada
Genre: Documentary | Short | Biography | Comedy | Crime


Editor’s Note: Asian Gangs will screen at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival as part of Short Cuts Canada Programme #2

Posited though it might be as a documentary, Lewis Bennett and Calum McLeod’s witty short Asian Gangs doesn’t take long to divorce itself from reality and take a more farcical, frankly more entertaining turn toward deadpan mockumentary style. Rooted in a schoolyard fight the former filmmaker had 17 years prior and a subsequent comment from his principal that future membership in an Asian gang lay ahead of him with behaviour such as this, the ten minute piece humorously attempts to tackle the big questions, not least of all why an Asian gang?

A teasing interview with Bennett’s mother regarding the specifics of his conception and a silly recreation of the childhood fight are among the best of an impressive selection of great scenes the story takes us through. The awkward beauty of Bennett’s questions to his mother are too good to spoil here, but suffice it to say the mere thought of repeating the same to one’s own parent is enough to encourage squirms of tantalisingly discomforting hilarity. Bennett is, unlike the leads of most self-starring indie shorts, a charismatic and convincing presence, well assured in these moments of teeth-clenching social maladroitness, confident enough before the camera to maintain the façade of reality Asian Gangs enjoys playing with.

Part of a planned series of twelve shorts—one corresponding to each of 2012’s months—looking at issues of contemporary British Colombia, Asian Gangs is an ideal selection for TIFF’s Short Cuts Canada programme, inherently interlinked to cultural identity as it is. For all its comic antics, this is a movie with something to say, and though the struggle to incorporate such a moral in a film so short isn’t one Bennett and McLeod manage to overcome entirely, they poise their sense of community spirit among just enough efficient comedy to make this a resonantly successful piece well worth seeing.

[notification type=”star”]70/100 ~ GOOD. Asian Gangs is an ideal selection for TIFF’s Short Cuts Canada programme, inherently interlinked to cultural identity as it is. [/notification]

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About Author

Ronan Doyle is an Irish freelance film critic, whose work has appeared on Indiewire, FilmLinc, Film Ireland, FRED Film Radio, and otherwhere. He recently contributed a chapter on Arab cinema to the book Celluloid Ceiling, and is currently entangled in an all-encompassing volume on the work of Woody Allen. When not watching movies, reading about movies, writing about movies, or thinking about movies, he can be found talking about movies on Twitter. He is fuelled by tea and has heard of sleep, but finds the idea frightfully silly.