Asian Cinema Digest #20

Ring in the new year with January’s edition of the Asian Cinema Digest!

We round-up a range of documentaries from Asia including Japanese documentaries from the Yamagata International Documentary Festival’s 32-year history, a mini retrospective of Indonesian non-fiction films and Harun Farocki’s experimental documentary War at a Distance (2003) in the context of the Gulf War.

Other highlights include the 6th issue of Pelikula:  A Journal of Philippine Cinema, a book talk by film scholar Rosalind Galt on Pontaniak films and the streaming premiere of Long Day’s Journey into Night (2018) by Bi Gan


Long Day’s Journey into Night (2018) by Bi Gan

The Criterion Channel presents the streaming premiere of Bi Gan’s neon-tinged sophomore feature starring Tang Wei. Featuring a new conversation between critics J. Hoberman and Dennis Lim, this arthouse favourite is available to stream with a subscription. 

And We Collide (2021, dir. Li Lanca)

CathayPlay X Love Queer Cinema Week: 20th Anniversary of the Beijing Queer Film Festival

Part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the Beijing Queer Film Festival, these 25 queer films are available to stream for free on CathayPlay until 6 February. Register for a free account to watch films such as A Story of Wedding (2021) by Zhao Wei and Lonesome: an Malaysian LGBTQ+ voicemail documentary (2021) by Justice Khor. 

Pickles and Komian Club (2021, dir. Sato Koichi)

Yamagata International Documentary Festival: Retrospective 

Spanning the 32-year history of the festival, catch 10 Japanese documentaries including Naomi Kawase’s The Weald (2006) and Sato Koichi’s Pickles and Komian Club (2021). Stream it on DaFilms from Jan 17 to Feb 6, with the first week free. 

A Lady Caddy Who Never Saw A Hole in One (2013, dir. Yosep Anggi Noen)

Beguiled and Beguiling: An Introduction to Indonesian Documentary

This new series of Indonesian documentary films gives a taster of the country’s tradition of non-fiction from a new wave of directors. Catch Yosep Anggi Noen’s A Lady Caddy Who Never Saw A Hole In One (2013) and Shalahuddin Siregar’s The Land Beneath the Fog (2011) with a subscription. 

Book and Knife (2021, dir. Miku Sato)

TENT Rotterdam’s Online Cinema: Artist Films

TENT, a platform for contemporary art in Rotterdam, has launched an online cinema which includes Rotterdam-based Asian diasporic artist films including Float Down the Stream by Dachen Bao, The Sun Burns An Image Into My Eyes by Shannon Liang and Book and Knife by Miku Sato. Stream for free now.

War at a Distance (2003) by Harun Farocki

Harun Farocki, one of Germany’s best-known experimental filmmakers, continues his provocative filmic essays on the relationship between wartime production and destruction in the context of the Gulf War and the global economy in this documentary. Watch it on e-flux Video & Film till 18 January 2022 for free. 

Daxing is on Fire (2018) by Chen Jiaping

Catch Chinese filmmaker and activist Chen Jiaping’s documentary about the aftermath of a fire in the Southern suburbs of Beijing where a mass eviction of migrant workers was carried out. Available for free on the Chinese Independent Film Archive’s Youtube Channel.

MUBI Releases: The Halt (2019) by Lav Diaz

Catch Filipino auteur Lav Diaz’s 5-hour long dystopian odyssey which takes place in 2034. Shot pre-COVID, this eerily prophetic fable features an uncannily familiar despotic president and a flu pandemic in Diaz’s monochromatic absurdist style.


Belle (2021, dir. Mamoru Hosoda)

Soundtrack Mix: The Sounds of 2021

Go on a sonic journey of 2021 with this mixtape of movie soundtracks, including Eiko Ishibashi’s score for Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car and Kaho Nakamura’s “Faces in the Rain” from Mamoru Hosoda’s Belle.


The Chess Game of the Wind (1976, dir. Mohammad Reza Aslani)

MUBI Notebook: 2021 Essential Reads

A round-up of the best of 2021’s film criticism on MUBI includes an essay on the restoration and release of the lost Iranian classic, The Chess Game of the Wind (1976) and a dialogue on Hong Sang-soo’s Introduction (2021).

Pelikula:  A Journal of Philippine Cinema

The sixth volume of Pelikula, published annually by the University of the Philippines Film Institute, is available to download for free now. The journal, which covers national and regional perspectives on Philippine cinema, includes Jasmine Nadua Trice’s essay on Southeast Asian Science-fiction cinema in this issue. 

Letters from Panduranga (2015, dir. Nguyen Trinh Thi)

Screen Vol. 62.4 dossier: Tracing the Anthropocene in Southeast Asian film and artists’ moving image

Edited by Graiwoot Chulphongsathorn and Philippa Lovatt, this dossier presents articles from film scholars who live in and out of Southeast Asia. Each article takes a different focus on the intersection of cinema and the Anthropocene, and explores the films of Nguyen Trinh Thi, Kirsten Tan and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, among others.

Tropical Malady (2004, dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

The Metaphysical World of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Movies 

Hilton Als writes about Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s commitment to visualising the uncanny in the mundane throughout his oeuvre. 

Interview with Riar Rizaldi on Tellurian Drama (2021)

Artist-filmmaker Riar Rizaldi talks about his unusual theoretical-fictional approach to cinema, and the relationship between capital, technology, and Indonesian political history in his work.

The Street Fighter (1974, dir. Shigehiro Ozawa)

Sonny Chiba’s 10 Greatest Hits

This article explores legendary action star Sonny Chiba’s career through a discussion of his martial arts moves in yakuza films like The Street Fighter (1974) and his later appearances in Hollywood blockbuster films Kill Bill Vol. I (2003) and The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006).


Alluring Monsters: The Pontianak and Cinemas of Decolonization

Happening on 28 Jan 2022, ACR Lab presents a book talk on Rosalind Galt’s new book on pontianak (female vampire) films which flourished between 1957 to 1965 in Malaysia and Singapore. The talk will analyze the pontianak across a range of contexts to investigate its relationship with anticolonial aesthetics. Free with registration. 

Living for Art (2019, dir. Sookoon Ang)

Hothouse: In Suspension

In Suspension is a 3-day virtual symposium broadcast by Hothouse that engages with the boundaries of art and life. Programmes include Living for Art: Extended Cuts, where artist-filmmaker Sookoon Ang presents extended interviews from her debut film, Living for Art (2019) on the economic realities faced by contemporary artists. Free to attend between 21-23 Jan.

The Cloud Messenger (2022, dir. Rahat Mahajan)

International Film Festival Rotterdam 2022

The International Film Festival Rotterdam remains an online programme this year.  Within this year’s lineup, catch Korakrit Aruananondchai’s Songs for living (2022) and Rahat Mahajan’s The Cloud Messenger (2022), amongst others. For a list of Asian films screening at the festival, check out Asian Movie Pulse’s compilation. Ticket sales start Friday, 21 January.


Berlinale World Cinema Fund 

The World Cinema Fund’s latest round of funding is open for submissions for Southeast Asian films except those from Singapore and Brunei. Deadline is 28 February 2022.

About the Writer