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2008 Reel Asian Pitch Award winners return to screen new documentary

Last November in Toronto, Canadian filmmakers June Chua and Christine Alexiou won first place in the 2008 Reel Asian Film Festival Pitch Competition. On November 13, Chua and Alexiou's now completed short documentary Travels With My Brother has its world premiere at the 2009 edition of Reel Asian Film Festival, which runs until this Sunday.

Travels With My Brother explores the relationship between Toronto-based writer and filmmaker Alexiou and her younger brother Vas, a high-functioning autistic man. The sixteen minute film was shot over a six week period last year and shows moments of candid interactions between the siblings in locations ranging from Alexiou's apartment to the Toronto Island to a local outlet of Book City. With Vas’ thirtieth birthday fast approaching, the siblings discuss and debate love, art, family, existence and destiny.

June Chua, a Malaysian-born Canadian filmmaker, reporter and writer who co-wrote and co-directed the film with Alexiou, says the decision to make the documentary formed in 2007 when the two friends attended a screening of Bravo Fact short films that featured several animated documentaries. Both Chua and Alexiou immediately knew that this was the ideal art form through which to show Vas’ unique perception of the world and replicate his habit of ripping out and collecting images from reference books and encyclopedias..

With the concept for Travels With My Brother in place, Alexiou and Chua applied for and were granted funding from the Ontario Council for the Arts and the Toronto Arts Council. They brought Evan Tapper, an award-winning multimedia artist on board to animate various sequences in the documentary using stop-motion, 2-D computer animation. Cinematographer and editor Peter Elliot and composer Bob Wiseman rounded out the production team.

Filming commenced in October 2008, which meant Chua and Alexiou could submit a one minute clip featuring Vas discussing God and women to the Reel Asian Pitch Competition. Their prize included the opportunity to screen their work at the 2009 Reel Asian Film Festival and $18,000 worth or production services at Charles Street Video, which Alexiou and Chua put towards hiring an experienced sound editor who could bring the film’s audio texture up to the same quality level as its vivid high definition film footage.

What does the future hold for a short documentary that is equal parts playful, dark, surprising and humorous? Chua and Alexiou are submitting Travels With My Brother to several international film festivals. They hope the documentary can be used as an educational resource in schools and by organizations supporting individuals with autism and their families. In the meantime, Chua says the two are thrilled to be back at the Reel Asian Film Festival with Travels With My Brother once again.

Travels With My Brother screens at 1:00 PM at the NFB Cinema (150 John Street) along with six other short films in the My Name Is… program. Advance tickets for My Name Is… are sold out but same-day tickets will be available. The Reel Asian Film Festival showcases contemporary Asian cinema and work from the Asian diaspora and runs November 11 to 15. Visit for details.

Photo of Christine Alexiou and Vas in a scene from Travels With My Brother, courtesy of the filmmakers. Visit to view a promo reel and stills from the film.