Asian Cinema Digest #16

Catch the latest slate of exciting programmes in this month’s digest! Watch a film about Malaysia’s skinheads, read about India’s dismal rate of film archiving, download a free book on calligraphy in East Asian Cinema, and read about the harmful effects of villainising Asian women on film. Also, attend online talks on Hong Kong cinema, Singaporean film or hit the theatres for a Singaporean Buddhist film festival.


Surabaya Johnny by Dain Said (1990)

Watch Malaysian filmmaker’s Dain Said’s essay film that explores the boundaries of documentary and fiction as he investigates the Indonesian military’s brutal massacres of “communists” in 1965. Available for free on AFA’s Youtube channel till 30 Oct 2021.  

Hashti Tehran by Daniel Kötter (2016)

Based on the idea that Tehran represents a house, DAFilm’s feature for the first week of September speaks to the inner circle of The Islamic Republic of Iran, its city outskirts becoming a transition space between the urban and non-urban. Available for rental.

Ambiguous Man (미지왕) by Kim Yong-Tae (1996) 

The Korean Film Archive’s latest restoration follows the story of a groom missing-in-action. Kim’s film is one that tantalised viewers at the time with its absurdity and brave social commentary about things then considered taboo in Korean society.

Good Men, Good Women (1995, dir. Hou Hsiao-Hsien)

MUBI Video Essay: Women Under Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s Lens 

With a focus on labour, this release explores feminism within the Taiwanese film director’s oeuvre.

Disciples by Jess Kohl (2021)

Kohl’s film, released in August 2021, explores the subcultures in the world of Malaysian skinheads—including the traditional, SHARP skins, and Nazis. Kohl’s earlier films, on the Asian trans community and on Philippines’ punk movement are also showcased on Girls In Film, an organisation that champions a new generation of female, non binary, and trans creatives in the film industry.

Spicy Village by Jia Li (2021)

This immigrant story about a couple’s Chinatown restaurant – previously credited in the Michelin Guide – focuses on their latest Chinese New Year while struggling to stay afloat in the pandemic.


Still from Revolution of our Times (2021, dir. Kiwi Chow)

Hong Kong’s New Censorship Law 

A further crackdown on creative freedom comes in light of the new law, where films breaching national security will be criminalised, this time including films already greenlit by censors.

The Dire State of Film Preservation In India

Both imagination and passion fail when it comes to preserving the country’s rich cinematic legacy: shockingly, only an estimated 8-10% of films on celluloid have survived. Film historians and archivists lay their thoughts on the hurdles that need to be overcome.

Anna May Wong in Toll of the Sea (1922 dir. Chester M. Franklin)

The Gendered Racialisation of Asian Women as Villainous Temptresses 

An important look at the effects of the harmful hypersexualisation of Asian women in the wake of several murders of Asian women by American men. A section on Hollywood cinema looks at three manifestations of the trope: Asian women as self-sacrificing and servile, deceitful and dangerous or hypersexual and erotic. 

Dozens of blind moviegoers come to Saturday screenings organised by Xin Mu Theater. Image credit: The Bangkok Post

Talking Movies: Chinese Cinema For The Blind

Every Saturday, a theatre in Qianmen, Beijing, draws dozens of blind moviegoers who get to enjoy films as they are narrated to them while they play on screen. Narrator Wang Weili was inspired by his own experience narrating The Terminator for his blind friend: “I saw sweat pouring from his forehead when I described the action scenes. He was so excited…he kept saying, “Tell me what you see!”

Days (2020, dir. Tsai Ming-Liang)

Interview with Tsai Ming Liang

This interview opens a window into the celebrated Taiwanese director’s life in his retirement home in the mountains, and includes a review of his prolific body of work.

Surviving 35mm prints of Kummatty (1979, dir. G. Aravindan), photo credit: Film Heritage Foundation

The Restoration of Kummatty by G Aravindan (1979) 

Read about the process of restoring the late Malayalam director’s film, written by filmmaker and archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur, the founder of Film Heritage Foundation in Mumbai. After salvaging two remaining 35mm prints, Dungarpur worked with Aravindan’s son and Kummatty’s cinematographer on the restoration.

Kazakh film Bad Bad Winter (2018, dir. Olga Korotko) was featured at the annual Cannes Film Festival Association for Independent Cinema and its Distribution (ACID) program in 2018.

Kazakh Cinema Industry: A New Era For Female Directors and Modern Topics 

Women helm the nation’s film industry in this piece that details their challenges and breakthroughs.

Sitara: Let Girls Dream (2020, dir. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy)

Best of Asian Animation

Besides Japanese animation, this list tackles the still lesser known world of animated features that both children and adults can watch to learn more about Asia’s diverse cultures.

Philippines’ Inaugural Film Industry Month

September marks the nation’s pioneering effort to celebrate film history. Free screenings of heritage films on the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) Channel, available via registration, will run through the month. This includes Brutal by Marilou Diaz-Abaya, Insiang and White Slavery by Lino Brocka, Manila by Night and Pagdating sa Dulo by Ishmael Bernal, Sinong Lumikha ng Yoyo, Sino Lumikha ng Moon Buggy and Turumba by Kidlat Tahimik and The Sex Warriors and the Samurai by Nick Deocampo.

Suk Suk (2019, dir. Ray Yeung)

Queer Cinema From Hong Kong

An explainer on the best of arthouse and queer cinema stemming from the Asian financial hub. 

Title card for The Makioka Sisters (1983, dir. Kon Ichikawa), calligraphy written by the widow of Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, who wrote the novel the film is based on.

Brushed in Light: Calligraphy in East Asian Cinema 

Asian film theorist Markus Nornes’ 2021 release is available for free. Drawing on a millennia of calligraphy theory and history, Brushed in Light examines how the brushed word appears in films and in film cultures of Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and PRC cinemas. 

Detective Chinatown 2 (2018, dir. Chen Sicheng), filmed in Manhattan

The Future of The Hollywood-China Romance

An analysis on the collisions and collaborations between Hollywood and China over the years.

Dark Heaven (1958, dir. Rattana Pestonji), one of the films the Cinémathèque Française showcased on their new streaming platform Henri.

How Heritage Film Institutions Are Coping With a ‘Missing Arm’ During the Pandemic 

A panel discussion on the state of film preservation at the latest Locarno Film Festival.

Rizal, an 18-year-old male Indonesian undergraduate student interviewed in this study has created a diagram called “Netflix Park”, mapping out the various digital streaming platforms

Roamers: Audiences on the move across entertainment platforms in Southeast Asia

Malaysian and Indonesian audiences feature in this study that aims to answer: what sort of precise movements, combinations and connections become possible for roaming audiences in rapidly expanding commercial entertainment platforms?

Bố già /Dad I’m Sorry (2021, dir. Trấn Thành)

The Drawbacks of Piracy in Vietnam    

Piracy continues to be a bugbear for filmmakers, with the latest setback involving the nation’s biggest box office hit Bo Gia.

Indonesian YouTuber Siswanto recording one of his videos at his home in a farming community in Banyuwangi on Jun 20, 2021. (Photo: AFP/Arbi Anugerah)

Movies From Home: Indonesia and Vietnam

From a growing ‘YouTube Village’ in Indonesia to home movie studios amid pandemic lockdowns in Vietnam, these articles peek into the savvy ways that cinema is reaching the two countries’ audiences.

Moving On (2020, dir. Yoon Dan-bi), one of the films that passed the Bechdel Test.

Directors’ Guild of Korea: Bechdel 10 List 

The latest list of Korean movies passing the Bechdel Test has been curated and announced by the DGK in August 2021.


Virtual Film Studies Symposium – Singapore: Identity on Film

The Asian Cinema and Broadcast Cluster, Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information and Nanyang Technological University have come together to present a virtual symposium on Singaporean identity in cinema.

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: Hong Kong Cinema with Sino-links in Politics, Art, and Tradition by Dr. Kenny Ng (Associate Professor, Academy of Film, HKBU)

Asian Cinema Research Lab: New Events

The ACR Lab announced four exciting events on film to sign up for. A book talk on censorship and creativity in Hong Kong cinema (10 September). A second book talk on politics in Bong Joon-Ho’s films (17 September). Nine online seminars on East Asian media and creative industries will run from September to November 2022, with the first talk, on censorship in Hong Kong, on 24 September.

The Third Wife (2018, dir. Ash Mayfair), where Chananun Chotrungroj was the cinematographer or director of photography

Objectifs: Visual Language Lecture

Read the recap on Chananun Chotrungroj’s lecture on the importance of creating a visual language in cinema, released at the start of this month. The local visual arts space is also still screening its documentary series on local photographers, Image Makers alongside Southeast Asian short films on the Objectifs Film Library, launched in April 2021.

SAM Talk: What makes a Singaporean Film?

Join director Sanif Olek and film programmer Leong Puiyee as they share more about local films in public memory. The free online talk will be held at 8pm SGT on 9 September, 2021. Moderated by the Singapore Art Museum’s Kenneth Tay.  

Peggy Su! (1998, dir. Frances-Anne Solomon), one of few films depicting the British Chinese experience and starring Singaporean actress Pamela Oei.

British Chinese Cinema: Reflections on the Field

10 years from its inception, this free academic talk on 13 September discusses the history and status quo of British Chinese cinema.

Scriptwriting Masterclass With Rajat Kapoor

The Arts House is holding a paid masterclass with the acclaimed Indian filmmaker and actor from 10-12 September, 2021.

THIS Buddhist Film Festival 2021

Thus Have I Seen Buddhist Film Festival (THISBFF), the longest-running and only biennial Buddhist film event in Singapore, holds its pioneering hybrid edition from 25 September to 8 October, 2021. 15 films will be screened at Shaw Theatres Lido for vaccinated patrons, while eight films will go online for both Singaporean and Malaysian audiences at $29 SGD.


Producers Lab SG: What If We Do It This Way?

Until 19 September 2021, producers can apply for this development programme for independent arts managers, producers, self-producing artists and artist-producers based in Singapore. Schedule to take place from October 2021 to March 2022.

Stranger Eyes (TBA, dir. Yeo Siew Hua) was a project at a previous edition of the Hong Kong – Asia Film Financing Forum

In-Development Projects: HK Asia Film Financing Forum

This open call for film projects in Asia will end 1 November, 2021. Applications submitted by 20 September are eligible for an early bird discount.

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