Asian Cinema Digest #19

Happy Holidays from the Asian Film Archive! This December edition of the digest brings together online film programmes from AFA’s very own Monographs, to rarely seen gems by China’s ethnic minority filmmakers, and a moving image programme focusing on the Arab World.

A spotlight on women filmmakers and scholars includes a Trinh T. Minh-ha retrospective,  an experimental animation screening of Japanese independent animator Yuko Asano’s work and a webinar on gender in Malayalam Cinema by Meena T. Pillai.


Monographs 2020: Online Relaunch

AFA’s Monographs 2020, a series of essays on Asian cinema—in both audiovisual and written forms—is available on the AFA website and Vimeo channel from 7 December 2021. Savour this programme of 20 essays presented in two thematic groups: Motifs casts a critical gaze upon symbols, systems, and the apparatus of power; while Moments deals with the subjective, the ephemeral, and the plasticity of memories.

Kavich Neang’s Goodbye Phnom Penh (2015)

Watch Cambodian director Kavich Neang’s AFA commissioned short film about a young couple’s final days together on AFA’s Youtube channel for free.

Djamilia (2018) by Aminatou Echard

Aminatou Echard’s documentary Djamilia is now available to rent on AFA’s VOD! Shot on Super 8mm film, a format most closely associated with home movies, intimate portraits of the various Krygyz women are created as we learn about their lives and desires. Watch now

Image still from Alikis (2019, Emetjan Memet)

Contemporary Murmurings of China’s New Ethnic Minorities Exhibition

Stream 7 short films by ethnic minority filmmakers exploring Uyghur, Ewenki, Tibetan and Mongol identities as part of the Chinese Independent Film Archive’s Contemporary Murmurings of China’s New Ethnic Minorities Exhibition. Register for free here till 15 December 2021. 

Image still from The Fantasy of the Deer Warrior (1961, dir. Zhang Ying)

Online Film Programme: Taiwan Cinema

TaiwanPlus, a new global English-language video streaming service, has launched its free Taiwan Cinema program with a selection of ten films available until 31 December 2021, that exemplify the diversity of Taiwan’s culture, peoples, and history. The collection includes restored cult-favourites such as The Fantasy of Deer Warrior (1961) and Vengeance of the Phoenix Sisters (1968). 

Image still from Fatma 75 (1975, dir. Selma Baccar)

Moving Images from the Middle East/Arab World After Empires

e-flux Video & Film presents Memories for Forgetfulness Elsewhere, curated by Irmgard Emmelhainz. The programme gathers filmmakers and moving image artists from the Arab World to present their works in five thematic group screenings. The second chapter presents three films on Revolution and Civil War and streams from 8 December 2021 for free.

Image still from The Garden of Five Fingers (1988, dir. Yuko Asano)

Yuko Asano – 4 Experimental short animations

Kraut Film presents a free online screening of Japanese independent animator Yuko Asano’s works, streaming for free until 15 December 2021, including Ryusui-kaen (1985), a short animation drawn on Washi paper and Cel with a marker and animex. 

Image still from A Tale of Love (1995, dir. Jean-Paul Bourdier Trinh T. Minh-ha)

Trinh T. Minh-ha: There Is No Such Thing As Documentary

Catch this 8-film retrospective of Trinh T. Minh-ha, the pioneering anti-colonialist feminist filmmaker and theorist, in the spirit of deconstructing the documentary form on dafilms. Available with a subscription.

Image still from The Bacchus Lady (2016, dir. E J-yong)

MUBI presents New South Korean Cinema

This new series of recently-premiered South Korean films gives a taster of the landscape of contemporary South Korean cinema, from directors who have forged an independent path away from the beaten track, such as Jeong Ga-Young and Yoon Dan-Bi. 


Image still from Seven Samurai (1954, dir. Akira Kurosawa)

Sounds on Screen: Akira Kurosawa’s Samurai Movies

This mixtape pulls together some of the best soundtrack moments from Akira Kurosawa’s timeless oeuvre of samurai films, scored by the likes of Fumio Hayasaka and Toru Takemitsu.


An techno-orientalist analysis of Asian characters in sci-fi films 

A new video essay, Asian Futures Without Asians by Astria Suparak interrogates why science fiction films often incorporate Asian culture as a shorthand to telegraph futurism while failing to develop real storylines and characters for Asian actors within these universes.

White Dust From Mongolia

Another Gaze: Issue 5

Feminist Film Journal Another Gaze’s latest issue is up for pre-order here. It includes an essay on Korean-American artist’s Theresa Hak Kyung Cha’s cinematic imagination, focusing on her only feature-length film, White Dust From Mongolia, which was interrupted by her premature death.

Hayao Miyazaki Prepares to Cast One Last Spell

Ligaya Mishan of The New Yorker talks to Hayao Miyazaki on his newest film, an adaptation of the Japanese Children’s book How Do You Live? and the questions he hopes to seek. 

Lav Diaz on History of Ha (2021)

Lav Diaz meditates on the themes of his latest film which include the purpose of art, overcoming loss and the tragic history of the Philippines. 

Ryusuke Hamaguchi on Drive My Car (2021)

This short chat with Japanese auteur Ryusuke Hamaguchi on his filmic adaptation of the Haruki Murakami short story includes details of his production process and inspirations.

A Conversation with Edwin on Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash (2021)

Locarno winner, Edwin, speaks about his eponymous, genre-bending adaptation of Eka Kurniawan’s book.

Image still from Once Upon A Time in China (1991, dir. Tsui Hark)

An analysis of Tsui Hark’s martial-arts films

Maggie Lee writes about how Tsui Hark’s martial-arts saga Once Upon a Time in China revolutionized Hong Kong cinema by presenting a complex portrait of modern Chinese history and setting a gold standard in action choreography.

Image still from Once Upon a Time in China V (1994, dir. Tsui Hark)

Life of a Legend: Filmic Representations of Wong Fei-Hung

Grady Hendrix takes us through the pop-culture phenomenon and different filmic adaptations of Cantonese folk hero, Wong Fei-Hung. Starting with the first movie in 1949, movies about him have been directed by some of Hong Kong’s greatest auteurs, including Chang Cheh, Lau Kar-leung, Yuen Wo-ping, Tsui Hark, and Sammo Hung.

Image still from The Handmaiden (2016, dir. Park Chan-Wook)

Theorizing Colonial Cinema: Reframing Production, Circulation, and Consumption of Film in Asia

The latest publication from New Directors in National Cinemas by Indiana University Press is a millennial retrospective on the entangled intimacy between film and colonialism from film’s global inception to contemporary legacies in and of Asia. Available for preorder.


Webinar: Gendering the Politics of the Popular in Malayalam Cinema

I SHORE presents a webinar by Professor Meena T. Pillai on gender in popular Malayalam Cinema on 10 December 2021 as part of the Intersections & Confluences series. Her work addresses a wide range of themes including caste and gender relations. Register by sending an e-mail with your full name, address and mobile number to

Image still from Monga (2010, dir. Doze Niu)

International Symposium on Taiwan Cinema: Gangster/Noir Film

The first webinar of the International Symposium on Taiwan Cinema on 17 December 2021, organized by the Visual Culture Research Center at National Central University and the Centre for Film, Taiwan and Creative Industry at Lingnan University, Hong Kong includes talks on Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Daughter of the Nile (1987) and Monga (2010). 


Taiwan International Documentary Festival (TIDF) Call for Entries

The 2022 Taiwan International Documentary Festival (TIDF) Call for Entries deadline closes Monday, 20 December 2021.

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