Asian Cinema Digest #22

The month of March is blossoming with Asian documentary content past and present: from new releases of Southeast Asian co-productions and Kidlat Tahimik’s Masterclass, to a special documentary podcast on Payal Kapadia’s debut feature and an article on South Korean TV documentaries

This month’s events are rooted in exploring the natural world through cinema with a webinar specialised on the (im)material world, a “ruin tourism” film, an article on surrealist landscapes, environmental destruction as well as botany’s healing rituals


Asian Film Archive presents Reframe: Inland, Island Online Shorts Programme

Contesting the meaning of Singapore’s island-ness, the online satellite program of INLAND, ISLAND offers a glimpse into how figurative “island” (as opposed to “national”) filmmaking in the region can unsettle, chart new grounds and call forth communities. The online programme includes Kirsten Tan’s Dahdi (2014), Russell Morton’s Saudade (2020) and Kalyanee Mam’s Lost World (2018). Available to stream on AFA’s website from Thursday, 3 March 2022.

Image still from I Dream of Caring (2021) dir. Kristoffer Brugada

DocCross Asia Releases: Two Documentary Co-Productions by Japan and Southeast Asia

Under the theme of multiculturalism and cross-cultural exchange, DocCross Asia premieres two co-produced documentaries by Japanese and Southeast Asian filmmakers: I Dream of Caring (2021) directed by Kristoffer Brugada and Away From Home (2021) directed by Nguyen Nhat Duy and Phan Ý Linh. Both documentaries are available to screen on Youtube.

Image still from The Kavalan: Past and Present (1997) dir. Bauki Angaw

Taiwan Spectrum: Indigenous Taiwanese Films, 9 1994 to 2000

Taiwan Spectrum selects 14 key documentaries from the first wave of indigenous cinema that emerged between 1994 to 2000 in Taiwan, including The Traditional Clothes of Raisinay Village (1997) by Baunay Watan, The Kavalan: Past and Present (1997) by Bauki Angaw and As Life, As Pangcah (1998) by Mayaw Biho. Mediated by emic perspectives, the programme reconstructs the history of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples’ movement. Available to screen with a subscription on DaFilms. 

For a deeper contextualisation of the early developments in Taiwanese documentaries, DaFilms is also screening Reel Taiwan: Selected Films from Fragrant Formosa (1970s–80s).  

Copenhagen International Documentary Festival: An Evening with the Hong Kong Movement

In conversation with the directors of When a City Rises (2021), Han Yan and Ip Kar Man, alongside Hong Kong activist Alex Chow and journalist Sofie Buch Hoyer, the webinar spotlights the political praxis of filmmaking–creating images of civil conflicts, national crises and political repressions. Amid Hong Kong’s escalating protests, Han and Ip capture the collective spirit of the movement through their documentary. Watch the full recording of the talk on Facebook.

The Hunt (2021) by Sanjay Rawal

Sanjay Rawal, a New-York based Indian director, explores the foodways of two indigenous tribes, the White Mountain Apache Nation and San Carlos Apache Nation, and how food rituals encourage the healing of historical wounds and advances their self-determination. Watch the 9-minute film for free on Emergence Magazine

Image still from The Botanist (2017, dir. Maxime Lacoste-Lebuis and Maude Plante-Husaruk)

The Atlantic Selects: Duterte’s Graveyard (2020) and The Botanist (2017) 

Curated by The Atlantic, two short documentaries, Duterte’s Graveyard (2021) set in the Philippines and The Botanist (2017) in Central Asia, Tajikistan, unveils the harrowing aftermath of civil wars and political impunity unleashed onto innocent civilians. Presenting two stark dimensions, the former reveals a landscape of human detritus while the latter wields the touch of healing. Available to screen on Youtube.

Image still from Barsaat (1949, dir. Raj Kapoor)

Agni Pariksha (1954) by Agradoot and Bhabhi (Sister-in-Law) (1938) by Franz Osten 

Hailing from rural Hawaii, a self-made film archivist (Thomas Daniel) restores classic public domain films from India and Pakistan from the 1930s to 1950s and uploads them onto his YouTube channel. Notable films made accessible by Daniel include Nirmal Dey’s Sare Chuattar (1953), Raj Kapoor’s Barsaat (1949), Agni Pariksha (1954) by Agradoot and Franz Osten’s Bhabhi (Sister-in-Law) (1938)

Yu Men (2013) by Huang Xiang, Xu Ruotao and J.P. Sniadecki

Supported by Harvard University’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, Yu Men (2013) is a docu-fiction set in the barren ghost town of Gansu, a province in North-west China that was once a major silk road thoroughfare. Haunting and speculative, the film traces the vignettes of a disappearing population still tethered to the town’s crumbling landscapes. Yu Men is  streaming on CathayPlay.

Exile Shanghai (1997) by Ulrike Ottinger

A new release on CathayPlay, Exile Shanghai (1997) is a cinematic and cultural odyssey composed of photographs, news reels, moving images and narratives, following six entwined stories of German, Austrian and Russian Jews living in exile in Shanghai. 

BFI Online Discussion: A Philosophical Analysis on Tampopo (1985)

As part of the British Film Institute’s Philosophical Screen series, film philosophers Lucy Bolton and Catherine Wheatley along with film scholar Victor Fan discuss Juzo Itami’s Tampopo (1985) and the film’s recursive themes of pleasure and perfection in traditional Japanese gastronomy. Watch their discussion here.

Ji.hlava IDFF Presents: Masterclass with Kidlat Tahimik

Kidlat Tahimik’s Masterclass from the 2014 edition of the Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival is now screening at DaFilms Collections. Acclaimed as the “father of Philippine independent cinema”, Tahimik guides the viewer candidly through the creative process of his films. Stream it with a subscription on DaFilms

Video Essay: Hi, Mom (2021) and Chinese Nostalgia by Accented Cinema

A domestic box-office sensation, Jia Ling’s Hi, Mom (2021) struck an intimate chord with the mainland Chinese audience through themes of filial love and endearing sketches. The video essay explains the 1980s nostalgia of a society fresh out of economic reform and spotlights the personal sentiments shared by Chinese youths during the country’s transitional period. 

Image still from Tokyo Drifter (1966, dir. Seijun Suzuki)

Postwar Disillusions: Introducing Japanese Noir

From the ranks of renegade directors like Seijun Suzuki, Shohei Imamura, Toshio Masuda and the legendary Akira Kurosawa, Japanese Noir spins a corrosive portrait of post-war desperation through a panoply of fatalistic thrillers, yakuza films and twisted crimes. Watch the collection on Criterion with a subscription. 

Interview: Q&A with Venice Atienza on Last Days at Sea (2021)

Visions du Réel sits down with Filipino documentarist, Venice Atienza, to discuss her recent film Last Days at Sea (2021), which was produced with the support of International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and premiered at the Berlinale 2021. 

Image still from Fragrance of the First Flower (2021, dir. Angel I-Han)

BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival 2022 Screening Online

In celebration of queer cinema, BFI Flare showcases a rich lineup of LGBTQIA+ Asian titles this year in their programme including Angel I-Han Teng’s Fragrance of the First Flower (2021), Saeed Gholipour’s This is Not Me (2021) and Khozy Rizal’s Makassar is a City for Football (2021). BFI Flare can be screened virtually on BFI Player across the UK for a limited time from 16 – 27 March 2022. A full list of Asian titles can be found here


Docs in Orbit Podcast: A Night of Knowing Nothing (2021) with Payal Kapadia

Together with Swiss filmmaker Aylin Gökmen, the podcast features a conversation with Indian filmmaker Payal Kapadia about her acclaimed documentary A Night of Knowing Nothing (2021) which won the L’oeil d’Or for best documentary at Cannes International Film Festival 2021. In this podcast, she discusses her artistic approach, influences and her raison d’etre in documentary filmmaking. 

Image still from Syndromes and a Century (2006, dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

Soundtrack Mix #23: Sonic Memoria – Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Sound is an integral arm of Apichatpong Weerasethkul’s films, often drawing allusions to memory, touch, dreams, connection and eroticism. Surrounded by the rich scores of Syndromes and a Century (2006), Blissfully Yours (2002), Tropical Malady (2004) and more, dive into the magical soundscapes of Apichatpong’s filmography. 

Image still from Vengeance is Mine, All Others Pay Cash (2021, dir. Edwin)

Talking Indonesia Podcast: Indonesian cinema’s New Wave with Yulia Evina Bhara

With the rise of Indonesian cinema in competition at international festivals, film producer Yulia Evina Bhara discusses the emerging new wave of cinema in Indonesia and the implications of growing international attention on the local film industry.

Image still from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995, dir. Aditya Chopra)

Remembering Bollywood Music Legend Lata Mangeshkar With 5 Essential Tracks

The legendary voice of Bollywood, Lata Mangeshkar has sung for thousands of songs featured in Bollywood films in over twenty languages, amassing both domestic and international recognition as the titular nightingale of India. Pitchfork selects five essential tracks as an introduction to her outstanding impact on South Asian cinema. 

Film Forum From the Archive: A Separation (2011) by Asghar Farhadi

From their archives, Film Forum presents a recorded audience Q&A from January 2012 with Iranian director Asghar Farhadi at New York’s leading arthouse theatre. Catch Farhadi’s discussion of his film A Separation (2011) and the continuities and disparities of his filmmaking process through the decade in this 30 minutes session. 


Loss and Absence in Still Life (2006)

As part of Senses of Cinema’s 100th Issue: the Centennial Edition, this article explores Jia Zhangke’s depiction of historical loss and trauma associated with the Three Gorges Dam Project in his film Still Life (2006). With a focus on displacement and identity, author Yiju Huang deconstructs the surreal-realist landscape within the broader sensibilities of movement, space and time.  

Do you feel lonely standing here? A conversation with Na Jiazuo

Speaking with the author at Cannes Film Festival 2021, director Na Jiazuo discusses the cinematic languages and inspirations that informed his feature length debut film Streetwise (Gaey Wa’r) (2021) which premiered at Un Certain Regard.

Image still from The Monk (2014, dir. The Maw Naing)

After the Storm: National Cinema in Myanmar

Against the current ethnopolitical turmoil, the state of cinema in Myanmar has undergone a rebirth and is wrestling with a new national cinema filled with authentic voices including The Monk (2014, dir. The Maw Naing), Silence in Mrauk Oo (2018, dir. Than Kyaw Htay and Thadi Htar) and Man with the Beard (2020, dir. Aung Min). 

Image still from Gundala (2019, dir. Joko Anwar)

Uncut Jabs: 4 Movies That Showcase The Amazing Action Talent In Indonesia

The tide of action genres in Indonesia has been on the rise, carried by local action stars such as Joe Taslim, Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian among others. ArtsEquator selects 4 Indonesian action films with astute choreography in this listicle. 

Image still from Rouge (1987, dir. Stanley Kwan)

Transcending Space and Time: Early Cinematic Experience of Hong Kong 

Hong Kong Film Archive has published a 2014 exhibition online as a digital repository. You can now rediscover Hong Kong’s early cinematic works from as early as the late 1800s to the 1940s and historical relics owned by the nation’s film pioneers on their website. Further readings can be found here

A Brighter Summer Day (1991): How to renegotiate collective memory through an ‘Opera Mondo’

Coined by literary critic Franco Moretti, ‘opera mondo’ is used to describe a work of art that ‘brings epic into modernity’ possessing qualities that are ‘complex, infinite, digressive, allegorical…’. This article analyzes Edward Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day (1991) alongside Moretti’s train of thought.

How Vietnamese Filmmaker Bui Kim Quy Faced Death, Real & Imagined, in Her Film Memoryland

Partly based on the filmmaker’s personal observations of death, Bui Kim Quy’s second debut feature, Memoryland (2018) examines the disappearing traditional burial rituals that were once essential in Vietnamese culture. In this article, Quy talks about loss and death in the age of modernization. 

MUBI Notebook – The Age of Beasts (2021): The Beasts on TV

Dan Schindel writes about Jeong Jaeun’s latest work, directing an episode of a documentary series Modern Korea titled The Age of Beasts. Here, he uncovers the structural violence and patriarchal reflexes rooted within contemporary South Korean society that informs Jeong’s documentary. 

Image still of No Choice (2020, dir. Reza Dormishian) starring Fatemah Motamed-aria

Interview with Reza Dormishian and Fatemah Motamed-aria: The Songs of Street People 

Asian Movie Pulse speaks with acclaimed actress Fatemah Motamed-aria and director Reza Dormishian about the prevalence of homeless citizens in Iran – a vulnerable group of people that fall through the cracks and are exploited by drug and sex traffickers. 


Image still from How to Improve the World (2021, dir. Nguyễn Trinh Thi)

Immaterial Worlds: Listening in the Dark (2018) & How to Improve the World (2021) Screening

Happening on 13 March 2022, the ‘(Im)material worlds’ series presents two online film screenings: Maeve Brennan’s Listening in the Dark (2018) and Nguyễn Trinh Thi’s film How to Improve the World (2021) that feature the sounds of indigenous cultures in Vietnam. A virtual Q&A with the two filmmakers will be livestreamed on 19 March 2022. Free with registration and available in all countries.

Image still from Promised Lands (2010, dir. Emma Walukau-Wanambwa)

Immaterial Worlds: Emma Walukau-Wanambwa & Prapat Jiwarangsan in conversation

Beginning on 5 March 2022, African filmmaker Emma Walukau-Wanambwa discusses her film Promised Lands (2010) along with an introduction by Thai director Prapat Jiwaransan on his newest release, Myanmar Anatomy. Join the screening and live Q&A virtually, free with registration. Available for UK, Thailand, Vietnam & Philippines audiences only. 

Asian Film Archive presents Reframe: INLAND, ISLAND Online Introduction Talk and Q&A

Live-streaming online via AFA’s Facebook and Youtube channels on 3 March 2022, curator for Inland Island Patrick F. Campos explains the framework and methodology that guided the selection of the 18 films in the programme. It unpacks the concepts of ‘inland’ and ‘island’ as alternative imaginaries to the fiction of national cinemas in Southeast Asia. Join the talk and virtual Q&A here.

Cinemas of Global Solidarity: A Virtual Symposium

From 3 – 4 March 2022, Cinema of Global Solidarity has invited a panel of international scholars to explore the role of cinema in negotiating global coalition-building and the aesthetics of politicised moving image culture. Notable speakers include Chinese film scholar Ling Zhang and Lakshmi Padmanabhan. Join the symposium on Zoom.

Image still from Chigasaki Story (2014, dir. Misawa Takuya)

Osaka Asian Film Festival 2022  

Unspooling between 3 – 20 March 2022, the Osaka Asian Film Festival returns with a hybrid programme offering a total of 76 Asian films in their lineup. Among the films you can watch online are  Yamazaki Yutaka’s Torso (2009) as the online opening film, Misawa Takuya’s Chigasaki Story (2014) and Shimizu Shumpei’s Breathless Lovers (2017). Available worldwide for rent

Goethe-Institut KinoFest 2022 Online Screenings

Presenting 12 films in joint production by Goethe-Instituts across Southeast Asia, the German films are subtitled in four Asian languages (Indonesian, Thai, Burmese and Vietnamese) as well as in English. Available online from 18 February – 31 March 2022. Free with registration.


Call for Film Journalists: Udine Far East Film Festival 2022 

The Far East Film Festival Campus 2022 returns for its eighth edition to connect young Asian film journalists across the globe. The Campus is hosted online and will select 10 film writers aged 26 or under. Deadline is 20 March 2022. Apply online here

Call for Contributions: Senses of Cinema’s Bollywood dossier 

In anticipation of Issue 101 of the Senses of Cinema journal, the publication is currently accepting proposals for a dossier on Bollywood–popular Hindi cinema. Their scope of interests can be found here. The deadline for proposals is 2 March 2022. 

Call for Proposals: Eco-Disasters in Japanese Cinema

Professor of Japanese Literature Rachel DiNitto at University of Oregon has called for proposals to be included in the Asia Shorts book series published by the Association for Asian Studies. The topic of interest addresses the environmental crises in Japan. The deadline is 31 March 2022. More information on submission can be found here.

Call for applications: IDFA Project Space 2022 

Now open for application, the IDFA Filmmaker Support offers first or second-time documentary directors the opportunity to work on their project with highly esteemed filmmakers and film professionals. Spread over June – September 2022, selected IDFA filmmakers will receive mentoring and developmental support for their documentary projects. Deadline to apply is 20 March 2022. 

This edition of the digest was compiled by Jolie Fan

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