Asian Cinema Digest #14

July 2021 marks another summer that showcases once again the exciting potential of film to reach audiences in new ways, be it through online streams or podcasts. From a Malaysian film festival going fully digital, to a UK-based festival adopting a ‘hybrid’ format and platforming Southeast Asian representation, to the National Gallery Singapore streaming short films online, there is so much to learn and see.


MUBI Release: The Wasps Are Here (1977)

Available for rent online from 14 July, this pioneering work of Sri Lankan cinema had its restored version premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival in 2020. Over 4000 hours of work went into the restoration of this film, done by the Asian Film Archive.

17th Mini Film Festival: In Time of Crisis

Malaysia’s longest-running film festival returns with online film screenings and discussions. Register for free to watch the films in competition during festival week, held between 17-25 July.

Sheffield DocFest 2021: Films From Thailand

Hand-picked by festival programmers at Sheffield to present more Southeast Asian talent, Santikhiri Sonata by Thunska Pansittivorakul is now streaming on DAFilms. The documentary pushes at its own genre boundaries and highlights tensions in the history of northern Thai village Santikhiri – transforming from a centre of heroin production to a charming tourist attraction.

Eye Filmmuseum: Masterclass on Global Audiovisual Archiving

In lieu of the 2021 edition of the Eye International Conference, cancelled due to Covid-19, the Eye Filmmuseum held a panel discussion on the topic ‘Global Audiovisual Archiving: North-South Exchange in Knowledge and Practices’. The round table masterclass was moderated by Cinémathèque suisse’s Maral Mohsenin, with New York University’s Juana Suárez (focus on Latin America), University of Carleton’s Aboubakar Sanogo (focus on Africa), Asian Film Archive’s Karen Chan (focus on Asia-Pacific) and University of Amsterdam’s Giovanna Fossati (focus on Europe). Streaming for free online.

Hong Kong Film Archive: Musicians in Film

As part of its 20th Anniversary celebration, the Hong Kong Film Archive presents 我與香港電影資料館 (My Hong Kong Film Archive) series, with the first installment streaming for free on Facebook. It features Rebecca Pan and Leon Ko – both musicians who have worked on film, exchanging their experiences working with notable filmmakers, and their views on creativity and music in film.

Director Lee Man Hee, image courtesy of the Korean Film Archive (KOFA)

Korean Film Archive (KOFA): Classic Film on YouTube

As part of its efforts to make classic Korean features available to the masses, KOFA has uploaded many of its collections and restorations on YouTube, with the first film in July being 청녀 (The Young Woman) dir. Lee Man-hee. 

Thai Film Archive Presents: Visit of Siamese Boy Scout To Japan (1929)

This 35mm heritage film depicts the diplomatic outreach which saw selected Thai Boy Scouts, aged 12 to 17, travel to Japan. The troop stopped at Singapore’s ports on 9 July 1929 before sailing en route to Osaka Palace. Filmed by journalists from two Japanese publications, the reels were later sent to and preserved under the estate of Siamese monarch King Prajadhipok and is now housed under the Thai Film Archive.

Song of the White Rabbit (2001, dir. Minh Trí & Phương Hoa)

Music in 20th Century Vietnamese Animation

A collection of five classic Vietnamese animations from the 1960s – 2000s has been given new life with newly rescored music added to it, performed by current Vietnamese artists. The unique cine-concert, entitled RED BALLOONS, is up for free online viewing until 23 July 2021.


Cinemas Dark and Slow in Digital Media

Shifting the conversation away from Bollywood-focused film studies, film professor and journal editor Lalitha Gopalan focuses instead on breakthrough independent features that parallel a new shift towards digital filmmaking in India. She will share more about her unprecedented study in an online talk on 16 July 2021. The event is free via registration.

Xue Ni Fang Zong Zhuang Xue Fang (雪霓芳踪莊雪芳) (Singapore: Lingzi Media, 2017), co-edited by Yeo Min Hui

Merdeka Studio’s “New-style” Malay Films

The Asian Cinema Research Lab’s latest seminar in their “Work-In-Progress” series sees researcher Yeo Min Hui present on the historical impact of “Hong Kong-ised Malay films”. These were cross-cultural collaborations marketed as progressive and “new age” in order to rejuvenate the Malay film industry in the late ‘70s. The seminar is free via registration.

In the Shadows (2019, dir. Xam Keodoungdy) one of the Southeast Asian short films selected for the festival

Painting with Light: Festival of International Films on Art

The annual festival, running from 2-25 July 2021 at the National Gallery, returns with a theme of “origin stories”. Choose from 14 different Southeast Asian short films available online for free, or register to attend the Special Focus programme: a joint exhibition of six solo films by Singaporean artists, held on 24 – 25 July 2021. The exhibition, Something New Must Turn Up, held from 7 May – 22 August 2021, is accompanied by a film anthology that expands on its discourses.

Not Ordinary Work (N.O.W): A Festival Of Women, By Women

The festival’s third edition – helmed by actress Noorlinah Mohamed – returns as an all-digital one, this time featuring two interdisciplinary (film, writing, and theatre) performances as ticketed online streams. One of them, curated by Salty Xi Jie Ng, touches on intimacy and eroticism in ageing bodies for a women-only attendance, held between 22-25 July 2021. Another explores the invisible histories of Singaporean Tamil women, streaming on 24 July 2021.


Sarung (2021, dir. Garin Nugroho)

Garin Nugroho: 40 Years Of Inspired Filmmaking

A short piece that scales the filmography and impact of the multi-faceted and controversial Indonesian artist, with stunning pictures throughout his career that is perfect for those who want to learn more about Southeast Asian cinema. Nugroho recently debuted his latest film, Sarung, at Esplanade in June 2021.

Director Ash Mayfair on the set of The Third Wife (2018)

The ‘New Wave’ filmmakers challenging Vietnamese society

Read about the ongoing struggle between Vietnam’s internationally adored filmmakers and the nation’s rigidly conservative censors.

‘The Witches of the Orient’ Review: Symphony of a Sports Team

On Julien Faraut’s glittering new sports documentary about the Japanese factory women who went on to dazzle at the 1964 Olympic Games’ volleyball matches. Also showing now at Oldham Theatre.

Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul and actress Tilda Swinton on the set of Memoria (2021)

Cannes: Apichatpong on Making ‘Memoria’ in Colombia With Tilda Swinton

Thai arthouse favourite Apichatpong Weerasethakul discusses his latest feature in Cannes, delving into the issue of exoticism in the international reception of his work, and his creative relationship with Memoria star Tilda Swinton. Also read Thai critic Kong Rithdee’s interview with Apichatpong.

Variety Interview with Producer Jeremy Chua

Singaporean producer Jeremy Chua discusses his latest Singapore/Bangladesh production playing at Cannes Un Certain Regard: Rehana, directed by Abdullah Mohammad Saad, alongside the funding issues that cropped up in the making of the film.

The Legend, or Fong Sai-Yuk (1993), dir. Corey Yuen

Explainer: Hong Kong martial arts cinema

South China Morning Post’s Richard James Havis has written several new articles on Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and more, including this crash course on the martial arts scene in Hong Kong film. Havis also writes about southern style kungfu exponent Wong Fei-Hong, while fellow SCMP editor Douglas Parkes memorialises Yu Jim-yuen – the man who trained Jackie Chan, Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao.


MUBI Podcast: Episode 6 – China Builds Itself a “Dream Factory”

The concluding episode of this season’s podcast – which focuses on films that got incredibly famous, but only in their own country – looks at Feng Xiaogang’s Chinese New Year comedy, The Dream Factory. Accompanied by New York-based film professor Ying Zhu’s piece on Feng’s career and impact on the Chinese New Year movie season.


Call for Documentaries on Death / Life

The Visual Documentary Project’s 2021 edition has called for non-fiction features from anywhere in Southeast Asia revolving around the theme “Death/Life”. Applications end 31 August.

Fan Girl (2019, dir. Antoinette Jadaone) part of Full Circle Lab Philippines 2019

Full Circle Lab Philippines 2021 Open Call

Application for Full Circle Lab Philippines returns for its third edition, to be held online from 17 September – 1 October 2021. The lab is calling for Filipino and Southeast Asian projects for four programs: Fiction Lab with 8 feature films in development, Series Lab with 4 series projects in script and development, First Cut Lab with 4 feature films in editing stages and its newest addition, the Creative Producers Lab training 5 junior producers. Applications close 30 July 2021.

Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival 2021 Open Call

Southeast Asian short films and projects are currently being accepted in the 7th edition of this Thai film festival, which will run from 1-6 September 2021. Entries for the ASEAN Short Film Competition and the Southeast Asian Short Pitch (SEAPITCH) end 31 July 2021.

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