Asian Cinema Digest #15

August 2021 is packed with fresh content to explore: a homegrown podcast on film, an interactive location map for old Singaporean films, and tons of on-demand releases, such as a rare trio from cinematic stalwart Satyajit Ray. Some of the most engrossing reads include a photo essay about the pandemic killing off India’s single-screen cinemas and a brand new Hong Kong-based journal on storytelling in film.


The Holy Man by Satyajit Ray

A religious charlatan weaves himself into the lives of an engaged couple. This is accompanied by a piece on Ray’s self-designed posters for his films. Also showing on MUBI are Charulata (1964) and The Coward (1965).

Dossier of the Dossier by Sorayos Prapapan (2019)

A filmmaker and a producer try to get their film pitched and released. Watch this hilariously relatable Locarno and SGIFF 2019 pick for free on YouTube.

Kawasaki Keirin by Sayaka Mizuno (2016)

A peek into the lives of elderly male patrons who gather at a minuscule bar-grocery in the industrial city of Kawasaki in Japan where they get drunk, share secrets and bet on bike races together.

Sunday Beauty Queen by Babyruth Villarama

A group of Filipina maids in Hong Kong prepare for a beauty pageant outside of their work hours. Set to premiere on Netflix Philippines in August alongside two other Filipino films – Bliss by Jerrold Tarog (2017) and A Faroe Way Land Land by Paolo Contis and Mavx Productions (2021).

Dear To Me (2021), dir. Monica Vanesa Tedja

11 Free Shorts: 74th Locarno International Film Festival

Having chosen to spotlight films from Southeast Asia and Mongolia from 2019-2021, Lorcarno will screen its Open Doors: Shorts programme for free worldwide from 4-14 August, 2021. Selections include German-Indonesian production Dear to Me (2021), Thai family drama E-po (2018) and Cambodian documentary Side By Side (2020).

Breathless Puppets by Akram Khan and Naaman Azhari (2021)

Forced apart in childhood by the expectations of their cultures and the disapproval of their fathers, two men with a passion for dance reconnect through the tragedy of the pandemic. 


Santi-Vina (1954), dir. Khru Marut

Banteay Srei Presents: Summer of SEA Film

Every week this month, catch a free film online as part of this Thai organisation’s efforts to empower women through film. The line-up include Santi-Vina (Thailand) on 28 July, Our Mother’s Land (Indonesia) on 4 August, Gravedigger’s Luck (Singapore) on 11 August and Kingdom of Nature (Cambodia) on 18 August, 2021. Register for premiere updates.


Global Storytelling: Journal of Digital and Moving Images

Hong Kong Baptist University launches its latest open-access journal with an inaugural issue of 11 articles on the politics, economics, culture, and technology of the moving image. Potential journal contributors can make submissions via the open call

“No cinema or media journal has before focused on storytelling across multiple platforms and genres, theatrically and digitally both in its affect (emotional engagement) and effect (social impact). Examining how audio-visual narrative works and functions in its multifaceted formations and formats, this journal fills that void,” says Professor Ying Zhu, the Founding Chief Editor of the new journal, who is also Director of the Academy’s Centre for Film and Moving Image Research.

The Edward Theatre in Mumbai taken from the vantage point of its stage and screen.

India’s Single-Screen Cinemas in the Pandemic

As lockdowns persist and streaming services amass, theatres across India have been shutting down in the thousands. Read this startling piece about the potential sunset industry of India’s single-screen theatres, accompanied by haunting images of their vast but now empty spaces.

Kiwi Chow on his Cannes 2021 documentary Revolution of Our Times 

Speaking on his latest breakthrough project on the 2019 Hong Kong protests, director Kiwi Chow – who deliberately left his name credited in the film amidst surging political risk – highlights courage as his anchor: “Once you have gone through a certain experience, you will accumulate more courage. Step by step, you move forward. It is a learning process, the precondition is that you need to move on and keep learning.”

Fist of Fury (1972), dir. Lo Wei

The new wave of Asian Americans expanding on Bruce Lee’s legacy

Read about the new faces in Asian American film working to undo consistent under-representation in front of and behind the camera. They speak about Bruce Lee breaking down the sexless Asian character stereotype, the more recent classification backlash surrounding Minari in the Golden Globe Awards, and the reworking of Asian masculinity through queer Asian romance movies.

Sementara (2020), co-directed by Chew Chia Shao Min and Joant Úbeda

Chew Chia Shao Min in Sundance Institute Producer’s Lab

The versatile Singaporean filmmaker and producer’s fellowship serves as a groundbreaking Asian presence at Sundance. She will work on the feature film The Plutonians.

Bali provided the backdrop, cast and folk narrative for Legong: Dance of the Virgins (1935), dir. Henry de La Falaise. Photo: Getty Images

The Potential For ‘Baliwood’

On 9 July, 2021, the film circuit saw an announcement at Cannes about United Media Asia’s plans to make Bali a hub for filmmaking in joint partnership with Hollywood’s Creative Artists Agency. This has prompted excitement over the possibility of ‘film tourism’, and opportunities for local talent and filmmaking crew.

Plants In Cinema: Through the Olive Trees by Abbas Kiarostami

An analysis of Kiarostami’s 1994 ode to Iranian village life through the lens of its main plant character: the olive tree.

Body Puzzle (2001), dir. Laurence Ma Yuk-Fai

Cinema Reclaimed: Film Locations Map

As part of the Singapore Heritage Festival held  in June 2021, researchers Toh Hun Ping and Ben Slater have put out a map of locations and their uses in different points of Singapore’s cinematic history.

Still from A Land Imagined (2018), dir. Yeo Siew Hua

Air-Conditioned Nation: The City In Singapore Cinema

Read about the use of landscape to unearth and examine socio-economic issues in three Singaporean films.

Still from Oro Plata Mata (1982), dir. Peque Gallaga

Restoring Philippine Cinema: ABS-CBN Film Archives

Leo Katigbak, head of the ABS-CBN Film Archives, speaks on the importance of archival and restoration alongside its challenges and obstacles.


Moving Art: Film Talk by NLB

Film librarian Melissa Kawasoe takes audiences through this 4-part podcast series on film by the National Library Board, now streaming on Spotify.


The Résidence in Paris

Cannes Cinefondation Residency 2022 

Filmmakers working on their first or second films are eligible to be selected to live in Paris for 4 ½ months to work on their screenplays, with accommodation, flight and monthly allowance provided. Submissions are now open for the Spring 2022 (end of February to mid-July 2022) residency. Registration ends 31 August, 2021.

Open Call: Berlinale Talents 2022

Aimed at applicants from the global film circuit – actors, audience designers (i.e. a curator or founders of a cinema space, festival, or VOD platform), composers, cinematographers, directors, distributors, editors, film critics, producers, production designers, sales agents, screenwriters and sound designers. Registration ends 1 September, 2021.

Call for Entries: 32nd SGIFF

The festival is now accepting feature and short films, projects for their Southeast Asian Film Lab, critics for the Youth Jury & Critics Programme, and first-time producers for the Southeast Asian Producer Network. Entries close 27 August, 2021.

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