Asian Cinema Digest #18

November’s edition of the digest draws your attention to the launch of film festivals happening both online and in-person, including Singapore International Film Festival, ​​Dharamshala International Film Festival and Cartoons Underground.  

Also featured are new perspectives on the horror genre, including a video essay series on ghosts in Asian cinema, a podcast on Hong Kong horror and two articles—one on Ana Lily Amirpour’s Iranian feminist vampire-noir and the other analysing Kaneto Shindo’s erotic-horror Onibaba (1964).

A few gems of South Asian cinema are available online, including Malayalam Cinema classic Thampu by G. Aravindan (1978), an article on Satyajit Ray’s Devi (1960) and a soundtrack mix paying homage to the Parallel cinema movement.


Singapore International Film Festival (SGIFF) 2021

The 32nd edition of the festival presents a diverse range of over 100 films from international filmmakers, and runs from 25 November – 5 December. Beyond film screenings, the Forum section presents a range of talks by filmmakers and industry experts on the shifting landscape of Asian Cinema. 

Cartoons Underground 2021 

Now in its 10th edition, Southeast Asia’s first and largest independent animation festival features an international line-up with a special focus on local and regional works. The festival will take place from 20-27 November.

​​Dharamshala International Film Festival 2021

This year’s festival takes place online from 4-10 November with a carefully curated lineup of eclectic films, along with interactive sessions. Four types of online festival passes are available. Read festival founder, Tenzing Sonam’s essay in Monographs 2020 on the experiences of taking DIFF online. 

Age of Revelation by Liao Jiekai (2021)

Watch this sound-film collaboration between SAtheCollective and filmmaker Liao Jiekai, featuring choreography by performance artist Effendy Ibrahim. Available for free on Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre’s Youtube channel until the end of November. 

Lemongrass Girl by Pom Bunsermvicha (2021)

Catch Pom Bunsermvicha’s latest short film, a meditation on gender, power, and sexism, at the Gene Siskel Film Center Virtual Cinema until 4 November. It makes its in-person Southeast Asian premiere at SGIFF on 28 November.

Thampu by G. Aravindan (1978)

Leftist India-based cinema collective, Potato Eaters hosts a newly-restored version of Thampu, a classic of Malayalam Cinema on their Youtube channel.

Live Creatives Show by Zhiyi Cao and Chong Lii (2021)

Originally debuting as a live-film set of The Open Workshop as part of Singapore Art Week 2020, this reality TV-inspired docu-fictive series documents the daily activities of three artist-creatives in Singapore. Catch all 5 episodes on their website.

Baesianz x Nowness Asia: Tales from the Silk Road

London-based curatorial collective Baesianz presents a series of experimental shorts by 13 Asian filmmakers focusing on the Silk Road, including Inside Out by Sarah Khan and Reality Fragment 160921 by the collaborative filmmaking duo, Qigemu.

Still from One Missed Call (2003, dir. Takashi Miike)

Ghostly Translation: Reading the Ghost in Asian Film 

This video essay series presented by the Asian Media and Cultural Studies Network explores the figure of the ghost across Asian cinema. The four thinkpieces include focuses on Japanese, Indian and Korean horror by a selection of video essayists and scholars. Available for free on Youtube.

Still from Description of a Struggle (1960, dir. Chris Marker)

Regions In Focus: On the Border of the Gaza Strip

A selection of films on the complex relationship between Israel and Palestine, including Once I Entered a Garden by Avi Mograbi and Description of a Struggle by Chris Marker. Available with a monthly or annual subscription. 

Still from Cenote (2019, dir. Kaori Oda)

Festival Focus: The International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR)

As the 2021 festival kicks off, MUBI presents a selection of the festival’s 2020 edition, including Cenote (2019) by Kaori Oda and Moving On (2019) by Yoon Dan-Bi. Read more on Kaori Oda’s experimental oeuvre in Matt Turner’s Monographs 2020 essay.

Stories of Yesteryear – Changing Landscapes

In commemoration of the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, enjoy this curation of 20 videos from the National Archives of Singapore’s Oral History collection. Available for free until 18 November, this series is a compilation of moments signifying changes in Singapore’s landscape.


Still from Coffin Homes (2021, dir. Fruit Chan)

Podcast: The Horror of Hong Kong

This Eastern Kicks episode turns its attention to modern Hong Kong horror, from the tail end of the Shaw Brothers to Fruit Chan’s satirical horror comedy Coffin Homes (2021). 

Still from Pather Panchali (1955, dir. Satyajit Ray)

MUBI Soundtrack Mix: The Parallel Playlist

Listen to this mixtape of the Parallel cinema movement, also known as New Indian Cinema which emerged out of West Bengal in the 1950s. The musical celebration includes highlights from Satyajit Ray’s iconic train sequence from Pather Panchali (1955) and unsung composer Vanraj Bhatia. 

Still from Hana-bi (1997, dir. Takeshi Kitano)

Sounds on Screen: Takeshi Kitano

Journey through the sonic world of Takeshi Kitano, the Japanese filmmaker and actor, best known internationally for his idiosyncratic yakuza films including Hana-bi (1997). 


Nang Magazine: Archival Imaginaries 

Issue 9 is dedicated to Archival Imaginaries, considering the power and limits of both archives and archiving. Archivists, artists, filmmakers, curators, and scholars of Asian cinema present imaginaries of the archive through essays, conversations, personal accounts, and creative writing pieces.

An Analysis: Iranian Feminist Vampire Defangs the Patriarchy

Spotlight on Ana Lily Amirpour’s black-and-white vampire noir film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) set in the fictitious Iranian ghost town of Bad City.

An interview with Apichatpong Weerasethakul on Memoria (2021)

Apichatpong Weerasethakul speaks to the film critic, Jordan Cronks on his newest film Memoria, also screening at SGIFF on 27 November 2021.

An Article on Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba (1964): Masks and Faces

Elena Lazic provides an analysis on how the Japanese erotic-horror film Onibaba elegantly uses the female protagonists’ reality as a microcosm of war, contextualising the film against the sexual revolution of the 1960s, 

An Article on Satyajit Ray’s Devi (1960): Seeing and Believing

In this filmic analysis, Devika Girish focuses on the gaze and the nature of perception in Satyajit Ray’s allegorical sixth feature.

Still from Three Sisters (2012, dir. Wang Bing)

Wang Bing’s Filmmaking of the China Dream

The latest publication from Critical Asian Cinemas by Amsterdam University Press is an investigation into Chinese filmmaker Wang Bing’s oeuvre, bringing together film and documentary studies, Chinese studies, and globalization studies. Available for purchase.

Chinese Independent Cinema Observer: Issue 2

Read Chinese Independent Film Archive’s latest issue on the pre-history of Chinese independent cinema.


Still from Home Economics with A Stubborn Bloom (2021, dir. A Stubborn Bloom)

Objectifs: Women in Film and Photography

The sixth edition of Objectifs’ Women in Film and Photography presents the works of artists and filmmakers from Southeast Asia, South Asia and East Asia, exploring the theme of Inheritance. Check out the exhibition from 11 November to 19 December at The Chapel Gallery, and two film screenings later in the year.

Still from The Missing Picture (2013, dir. Rithy Panh)

Asian Cinema Research Lab: New Events

The ACR Lab announced two online book talks on cinema to sign up for. The first traces alternative film culture in early-2000s Manila (5 November) and the second examines the cinema of Cambodian filmmaker Rithy Panh (12 November).

Still from The Hole (1998, dir. Tsai Ming-Liang)

Riverrun Global Film Series: Chinese-Language Cinemas 

Chinese-language cinema will be the focus on this series of virtual lectures and screenings by the Center for Global Film. There are three talks happening in November. The first on 1980s Chinese Women’s Cinema (4 November), the second on Jia Zhangke’s Xiao Wu (11 November) and the last on Tsai Ming-liang’s The Hole (18 November). 

Still from The Vertical Ray of the Sun (2000, dir. Trần Anh Hùng)

A talk on Nhu Quynh’s Stardom: The (Re)making of Gender on Screen and the Contemporary Vietnamese Film Industry

Attend this online talk on 19 November about the five-decade career of the prolific socialist film star Nhu Quynh through a combined analysis of gender, creative labor, and transnational filmmaking of her work in Vietnamese cinema.


IMDA’s Call-for-proposal for short films 

IMDA and SFC will open their short film call-for-proposals on 1 Dec. The call supports the creation of short-form content. 

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