Asian Cinema Digest #12

March 2021 marks a year since  the launch of the  first issue of the digest in April 2020. What began as a mini project over the lockdown period has now become one of the mainstays of AFA’s outreach initiatives, allowing us to engage with a wider community in new ways via the online space. 

With your support, we hope to continue this regular roundup of audio-visual and text-based resources,  exploring and sharing the art of Asian cinema together with you. 

Some highlights of this edition include the launch of a new VOD platform featuring rare classics from Central Asia and the Caucasus; a virtual conference on the South Koran film industry; as well as interviews with key Asian-American filmmakers working today.


Close-Up on Kazuhiro Soda

A retrospective programme of seven works by the Japanese independent trailblazer whose singular documentaries constitute a towering achievement in contemporary documentary cinema.

Keiko Sato: Pinku Maverick

A selection of five pinku eiga or “pink films,” known for their salacious erotic content, frequent experimental aesthetics, and psychological themes. Though originally devised to appeal to male audiences’ libidos, one of the genre’s guiding lights was, in fact, a woman: the maverick pinku producer Keiko Sato, who goes under the male pseudonym of Daisuke Asakura in an otherwise male-dominated industry.

Story of the Weeping Camel (2003), dir. Byambasuren Davva

Klassiki Online 

A new VOD platform by London based Russian film charity, Kino Klassika Foundation, Klassiki Online currently features a modest, but rare selection of classics from Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Mongolia and Uzbekistan. 

Adela (2008), dir. Adolfo Alix Jr.

Philippine New Wave: This is Not a Film Movement (2010)

A documentary by filmmaker Khavn De La Cruz (Balangiga: Howling Wilderness) featuring the most prominent internationally-acclaimed and wildly divergent digital filmmakers from the Philippines, discussing filmmaking and beyond.

Dead Pigs (2018) 

The debut feature by Chinese-born American filmmaker Cathy Yan (Birds of Prey) is available on MUBI with an accompanying introduction by Yan, along with a note on what inspired the film and an essay by writer Elizabeth Horkley

Dark in the White Light (2015)

An arthouse psychological drama by Sri Lankan filmmaker, Vimukthi Jayasundara (The Forsaken Land). 

The Depths (2010)

Part of Projectr Movie Club, this is a bi-weekly series, curated by American distribution company Grasshopper Film. The delicate character study by Ryusuke Hamaguchi (Happy Hour) is available on VOD from 3-16 March 2021. 

Video Essay: Blurring Subjectivity in Once Upon a Time in Anatolia — A Study of Perspectives  

A hypnotic study of how Nuri Bilge Ceylan (The Wild Pear Tree) shifts and morphs perspective in his 2011 film Once Upon a Time in Anatolia.

Love Kill (2014-2015), by Sarker Protick, photographic series

Normalising Disaster exhibition

Curated by Moritz Cheung for UK-based Platform Asia, this online exhibition features five digital works by South Asian artists exploring core human experiences in the face of disaster; those of emotion and morality. Available to view from 1-14 March 2021. 

The Box (2020) by Sena Başöz, Single channel video, 4 mins 31

Artists’ Film International – Sena Başöz: The Box

A collaborative project by Whitechapel Gallery (UK) featuring film, video and animation from around the world. The current programme features a short from 2020 by Turkish artist and filmmaker Sena Başöz that explores gestures of care and compassion. 

Dreaming of Nothing: Apichatpong Weerasethakul 

Organised by the Berlin International Film Festival, this is a recording of a live conversation between Apichatpong Weerasethakul and artist-filmmaker Juan Diaz Bohorquez. 


Stories That Matter: Public Talks 

Part of a programme by Objectifs that looks at critical issues and trends in non-fiction visual storytelling, this series of public talks, taking place from 20-24 March 2021, will feature practitioners, researchers and media professionals who will discuss different aspects of the circulation and mediation of the image. 

Asian Cinema: A Regional View

Film academic, Olivia Khoo, discusses her new book which examines the transformations that have occurred in Asia’s film industries in the last 30 years. The talk will take place live on Zoom on 26 March 2021 from 11am-12.30pm (GMT+8).

South Korean Film Industry Conference 

Co-organised by the University of Michigan’s Nam Center for Korean Studies and the Asian Cinema Research Lab in Singapore, this virtual conference, taking place from 12-16 April 2021, will bring together scholars from major sites of Korean film and Media Studies research in the Anglophone world (including Canada, U.S., U.K., and Australia) with scholars from Korea and Singapore for an interdisciplinary dialogue on the diversity and complexity of the South Korean film industry. Attendance is free with registration


Actress Yeri Han in Minari (2020), dir. Lee Isaac Chung

The Invisible Artistry of Asian Actors

A piece responding to Korean actor Yeri Han’s award snub at the recent Golden Globes for Minari (2020), Shirley Li reflects on how Asian performers have been overlooked for awards, even when they star in critically acclaimed films.

Director Lee Isaac Chung in front of a scene of his film Minari (2020), photographed by Justin J Wee for The New York Times

A Vision of Asian-American Cinema That Questions the Very Premise

Filmmakers Lulu Wang, Lee Isaac Chung, Bing Liu, Alan Yang, Justin Chon, Sandi Tan and Mira Nair talk forthrightly about staying true to themselves while navigating Hollywood and issues of identity.

CROSSCUT ASIA SPECIAL: All About Asian Cinema 2020

Presented by The Japan Foundation Asia Center, CROSSCUT ASIA is an annual publication series on Southeast Asian and Asian cinema. The most recent edition was presented in collaboration with the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2020 and has now been made available for free in PDF format.  

The 4th International Symposium for Media Art “Open Media Culture: Collaborations, Networks, Exchange” Report

In February 2020, The Japan Foundation Asia Center, in partnership with the NTT InterCommunication Center [ICC], organised a symposium to explore and discuss new trends in media art and technology in Asia. A PDF report with content from this event is now available. 

The Action Scene: The Street Fighter (1974) and the Power of Excess

Part of a series exploring the construction of action set pieces in films, this latest entry looks at the climax of Shigehiro Ozawa’s grindhouse classic which uses near-parodic exaggeration to make its violence more visceral.

Man Push Cart: A Melancholy Pull

The critically-acclaimed debut feature from 2005 by Iranian-American filmmaker Ramin Bahrani (The White Tiger) is the subject of this essay by Bilge Ebiri.

Cruising at the Cinema: An Excerpt from Goodbye, Dragon Inn

Film critic Nick Pinkerton’s book on Tsai Ming-liang’s film is the first release in the series Decadent Editions, devoted to masterpieces of the 2000s by Fireflies Press, an independent publisher of books on contemporary cinema.

Satyajit Ray on the set of the documentary film on Sukumar Ray

Satyajit Ray’s Rendezvous with Documentaries

Documentary filmmaker Subha Das Mollick explores the lesser-known, yet celebrated documentaries of Satyajit Ray. 

Happy Together: Wong Kar-Wai And The History Of Hong Kong Migrant Cinema

Writing for The Quietus, Ian Wang locates Wong Kai Wai’s 1997 romance drama Happy Together within a wider trend of Hong Kong cinema that deals with migrant themes. 


Open Call: Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (YIDF) 2021

One of Asia’s most respected platforms devoted exclusively to the documentary form, the biennial YIDF is currently accepting submissions for its International Competition and New Asian Currents segments. 

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