Asian Cinema Digest #23

In April’s edition of the digest, new and thrilling discoveries abound, from the launch of an exciting film movement and new releases of East Asian shorts to a rediscovery of an Asian-American Hollywood actress from the archives and an enlightening retrospective of a Japanese actress-director. Replete with critical perspectives, several films call attention to the social examinations of refugees, activists and the working class

Resurfacing the historical and re-evaluating the current, there are roundtable discussions on 1960s Taiwanese films, a webinar on Korean cinema in the ongoing Netflix-era, and a peek into the present-day politics of Asian cinema

Gazing towards the future, there are several calls for entries favouring innovative and ambitious Southeast Asian shorts, documentaries, scripts and academic papers, including AFA’s own local shorts showcase


Notes From Unknown Maladies (2017) by Liryc Dela Cruz

Set in the Philippines Notes from Unknown Maladies delves into the traumatic past of an individual in glorious black and white. Available to stream with a subscription on DaFilms.

Sally Tran’s Centuries and Still (2021) Short Film

Through a unique hybrid of documentary and mixed media illustrations, Vietnamese director Sally Tran charts the history of violence against Asians in the United States. Responding to the surge of racist attacks of Asian people in the West, Tran addresses her harrowing experiences in a Q&A here. Stream for free on Vimeo

New York Close Up: Tommy Kha’s Bits & Pieces (2022) by Jia Li

As part of Art21’s ‘New York Close Up’ film series featuring artists based in New York City, Tommy Kha’s Bits and Pieces is a documentary spotlight on the creative philosophies behind the Asian-American photographer Tommy Kha, his concept of home and its malleable representations. Watch the film for free on Art21’s website.

Image still from Chu Chin Chow (1934, dir. Walter Forde)

The Gallery of Anna May Wong: Chu Chin Chow (1934) 

From the archives of an avid Anna May Wong film collector, Rebecca Lee has collected a number of Anna May Wong’s films from Old Hollywood and made them available to the public on YouTube. Notable films made accessible by Lee include Chu Chin Chow (1934), Dangerous To Know (1938) and Piccadilly (1929). Shanghai Express (1932) will be screening physically at Oldham Theatre on Saturday, 9 April 2022.

In the Family (2011) by Patrick Wang

Patrick Wang, an Asian-American independent filmmaker, directs and stars in his film, In the Family (2011), which explores the dilemmas of a gay Asian-American man who struggles to gain custody of his foster child. Available with a subscription on MUBI

Summoning the Recluse (2022) Directed by Ellen Xu

Beijing-based director Ellen Xu follows a motley crew of urban youths who have sought refuge within the mountains, untethered from their modern devices. Through a series of interviews, Xu outlines the current generation’s dependence on technology. Watch this short film for free on Psyche

Life is But a Dream (2021) by Park Chan Wook

Commissioned by Apple and filmed using an iPhone 13 Pro, Park Chan-wook’s new short film is a whimsical martial arts tale with a comedic flair. For further reading, Asian Movie Pulse reviews the 21-minute film here. Available to stream on Youtube.

Vengeance of the Phoenix Sisters (1968, dir. Chen Hung-Min)

Taiyupian: the insolent Taiwanese cinema of the 1960s by Cinémathèque française

In collaboration with the Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute and Taiwan Cultural Centre, The Cinémathèque française launched a free online programme of Taiwanese cinema from the 1960s, including Chen Hung-min’s Vengeance of the Phoenix Sisters (1968). Available to stream on HENRI with English and French subtitles. 

Sunglasses (2020) by Kang Kaiwen

Recommended by Beijing Film Academy Professor Zhang Xianmin, Sunglasses is a science fiction short that pits the power of technology against religion, the visible against invisible, the corporeal against the spiritual. Sunglasses streams on CathayPlay.

Have A Good Night (2019) by Jiang Hongyu

Set in the filmmaker’s hometown of Chengdu, Have a Good Night deconstructs the tumultuous relationship between two gay lovers. A rare gem in queer Chinese cinema, Jiang operates on the intersection of documentary and fiction to capture the raw intensity of desire and longing. Watch the new release on CathayPlay

Leslie Cheung in Happy Together (1997, dir. Wong Kar-Wai)

Video Essay: Leslie Cheung & Hong Kong LGBT Cinema

Widely hailed by Hong Kong audiences and the wider Chinese diaspora as a cultural icon, Leslie Cheung was a multifaceted talent that rose to fame for his acting, singing and charisma. The video essay explains Cheung’s popularity and how his queer identity shaped LGBT representation in Hong Kong cinema. 

Image still from Asked How Old He Was, The Boy In New Kimono Stretched All Five Fingers (2022, dir. Tan Chui Mui)

Khavn Presents: New Poetic Cinema

Filipino Director Khavn is presiding over a New Poetic Cinema series with 37 filmmakers from Jihlava Academy and SeaShorts Film Society including Malaysian director Tan Chui Mui with Asked How Old He Was, The Boy In New Kimono Stretched All Five Fingers (2022) and Pakistani director Seemab Gul with Autumn Masque (2022). Watch both films for free on ISFFO’s website.

Image still from Love After Love (2020, dir. Ann Hui)

Asian Pop-Up Cinema Season 14 Online Screenings

Asian Pop-Up Cinema returns for the 14th season, streaming films from Hong Kong, Philippines and Taiwan including Ann Hui’s Love After Love (2020), Martin Edralin’s Islands (2021) and Jay Chern’s No Man is An Island (2022). Watch these films online for a fee through April 10 2022.

Japanese poster for Night is Short, Walk on Girl (2017, dir. Yuasa Masaaki)

IFFR 2022 25 Encounters: Film Programme

Presenting 25 films selected by 25 pairs of filmmakers invited to discuss cinema, International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) 25 kicks off an eclectic collection of features, including Yuasa Masaaki’s Night is Short, Walk On Girl (2017), Tsai Ming-liang’s Stray Dogs (2013) and Nahid Persson Sarvestani’s My Stolen Revolution (2013). Watch online for a fee on IFFR’s website.

Money Has Four Legs (2020): film and opposition in the Myanmar crisis

As part of University of Melbourne’s Screening Ideas programme, Money Has Four Legs director Maung Sun sits down with Myanmar studies scholars Jane Ferguson and Roger Lee Huang to discuss the current crisis in Myanmar and the under-explored history of Burmese national cinema. Watch the recorded panel on Youtube

Image still from Flee (2021, dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen)

BFI Player New Releases: Rasmussen’s Flee, Hamaguchi’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy

BFI announces their latest releases on their streaming platform, BFI Player: Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s Flee (2021), Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (2021) and Drive My Car (2021). Available to stream for a fee.

CrossCut Asia Special Short: Road to Nowhere (2022) by Chu Yew Miin 

Within the ambit of CROSSCUT ASIA Delicious! Online Film Festival, Malaysian director Pete Teo and young chef Darren Teoh venture into the lush forests in search of rare indigenous ingredients that are essential to Malaysian cuisine. Produced by The Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur, this short film is available on Youtube.


Image still from Ecstasy of the Angels (1972, dir. Kōji Wakamatsu)

Sounds on Screen: Japanese “Pink Movie” Special

NTS Sounds on Screen features 60-minutes of electrifying soundscapes and excerpts from classic Japanese pink films, including Ecstasy of The Angels (1972), Pleasures Of the Flesh (1965) and the Female Convict Scorpion series. Unapologetic and alluring, listen to the full tracklist on NTS

Image still from Ahed’s Knee (2021, dir. Nadav Lapid)

Film Comment Podcast: Cinema and the State, with Nadav Lapid and Jamsheed Akrami

Joined by Iranian cinema scholar Jamsheed Akrami and Iranian filmmaker Dariush Mehrjui, director Nadav Lapid talks about his abrasive film Ahed’s Knee (2021) and the current state censorship of cinema in Israel and Iran. Listen to their talk on the Film Comment Podcast. For further reading on the cinematic oeuvre of Nadav Lapid, check out these recent MUBI and 4Columns articles. 

Eastern Kicks Podcast: Mattie Do on her film The Long Walk (2019)

Laotian filmmaker Mattie Do and her screenwriter Christopher Larsen detail the genesis, influences and production of their genre-crossing sci-fi horror feature, The Long Walk (2019). Employing speculative elements and time travel, Do discusses how she subverts Western expectations of Southeast Asian cinema. Listen to the podcast here.

Image still from The Steed (2019, dir. Erdenebileg Ganbold), produced by Alexa Khan

The Mission of Representation and the Business Side of The Film Industry with Alexa Khan 

Asian Voices Radio presents a conversation with Mongolian-born American actress and producer Alexa Khan on her experiences within the film industry and how representation on-screen and obtaining funding are the greatest challenges she faces. Catch Khan’s dialogue on PlayerFM

Anthony Wong and Johnnie To’s Cheung Foh (The Mission) (1999) 

Featuring international action star Anthony Wong, Johnnie To’s 1999 artistic bodyguard crime thriller eschews explosions and gore for stylistic character studies into themes of brotherhood, masculinity and kinship. Asian Action Cast banters about the film in their podcast. Disclaimer: content contains use of explicit language.


Image still from Love Letter (1953, dir. Kinuyo Tanaka)

Actress Retrospective: The Films of Kinuyo Tanaka

Celebrating the films directed by Japanese actress Kinuyo Tanaka, MUBI Notebook explores Tanaka’s shift to filmmaking despite exclusionary studio policies. Focused on her technical prowess and thematic obsessions, the article analyses some of her prominent films including Love Letter (1953), The Moon Has Risen (1955) and Forever a Woman (1955). Criterion and 4Columns have also issued their take on the directorial language of the actress. 

Image still from Idhi Katha Matramena/Is This Just a Story (1983, dir. Yugantar)

The Radical Power of Feminist Friendships: Yugantar Film Collective 

In dialogue with the emerging feminist movement in India, the Yugantar Film Collective was founded in 1980 by four Indian women who pioneered films documenting the daily struggles and exploitation of working-class women at work and home. Adjacent to Essay Film Festival’s past screenings of three recently restored films by India’s first feminist film collective, the article critically broaches Yugantar’s filmography and the wider cultural context of feminist activism surrounding its inception. 

Image still from Netflix’s series Sacred Games

The New York Review: India’s Streaming Auteurs

Karan Mahajan writes about Bollywood’s censorious policies regarding depiction of religion, sexuality and politics and how streaming platforms have lent a voice to emerging Indian auteurs who deal openly with caste tensions, religious strife and queer sex. 

Writing with Fire: an inspirational fly-on-the-wall documentary

Following the women of Khabar Lahariya (“News Wave”), India’s only women-run newspaper, Writing with Fire dives headfirst into the search for the truth, documenting the dangerous conditions these journalists encounter in midst of socio-political turmoil. In a similar vein, POPULA recently published their take on the oscar-nominated documentary. 

Sight and Sound: Cine wanderer – Daughter of the Nile

One of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s lesser seen films set in the neon jungles of Taipei city, Daughter of the Nile ponders on the alienation of city-living and the fractal images of urbanisation. Sight and Sound author Phuong Le contextualises the film within the paradigms of Taiwanese history to uncover Hou’s cultural critique.

Anna May Wong in Song (1928, dir. Richard Eichberg)

Live from London: Looking for Anna May Wong in British Archives

Anna May Wong, the first Asian American movie star to break into Old Hollywood, considerably shaped discourse on race and representation in the American film industry. In this newsletter, Katie Lee Salisbury rediscovers Anna May Wong’s forgotten filmography in the British archives. 

Yellow Peril: A Cosmopolitical Revision of The Chinaman in The Foreigner (2017)

The latest publication from Adaptation by Oxford University Press is an investigation into Jackie Chan’s transnational persona in the martial arts film adaptation The Foreigner (2017) and how his status as an internationally-acclaimed action star perpetuates the contradictions of the Yellow Peril narrative. Article available for purchase.

Boat People: Becoming Refugees and Persistence of Vision

One of the earliest cinematic representations of Vietnamese refugees, Ann Hui’s Boat People (1982) depicts the plight of those who fled Vietnam after the fall of Saigon. Here, Criterion writer Vinh Nguyen discusses how Hui’s film speaks to a generation whose experiences are intimately tied to forced migration. In another recent article on Criterion, film critic Justin Chang provides his angle on Hui’s film. 

Knife to the Heart: A Conversation with Wayne Wang on the Fortieth Anniversary of Chan Is Missing

Film Quarterly’s Spring 2022 issue presents an exclusive interview with Wayne Wang conducted through a series of phone calls in July 2021, preceding the 40th-anniversary of Wang’s magnum opus Chan Is Missing (1982). Representing Chinese American community life via his “Chinatown Chronicles”, Wang underlines the political struggles and rich diversity of his culture. 

Michelle Yeoh’s Quantum Leaps

From performing slapdash to intensely choreographed sequences of Hong Kong action cinema, versatile martial-arts star Michelle Yeoh takes on a new role in her latest film Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022), drawing from previously unseen emotional reserves to deliver an authentic portrayal of a middle-aged Asian American woman. 

Image still from Drive My Car (2021, dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi)

Bong Joon Ho and Ryusuke Hamaguchi on Oscar Surprise ‘Drive My Car

Sharing a mutual admiration for each other’s filmography, Bong Joon Ho and Ryusuke Hamaguchi speak to Kyle Buchanan from the New York Times about Drive My Car (2021) and Parasite (2019). The two had previously exchanged their views in a 90-minute talk at the Busan International Film Festival 2021.

Posters for Satyajit Ray’s Ghar-Baire (1984) and Shatranj Ke Khilari/The Chess Players (1977)

In appreciation of Satyajit Ray’s mastery over film posters: Individual characteristics bound by a thread of unity.

Few cinephiles are aware that the remarkable pioneer of Parallel Cinema, Satyajit Ray, had painstakingly handcrafted every cinema house poster for his films, displaying an extraordinary artistic touch that drew the attention of his audience. Firstpost uncovers the lesser known aspects of the director’s life and features a slate of Ray’s most iconic posters. 

Image still from Excuse Me, Miss, Miss, Miss (2019, dir. Sonny Calvento)

A Dark Satire About Worker Exploitation in the Philippines

The New Yorker breaks down Sonny Calvento’s short film Excuse Me, Miss, Miss, Miss (selected for competition at Sundance 2021) and foregrounds its subtle commentary on the inequitable labour law in the Philippines that put the working-class in precarious employment. 


An Online International Workshop on the Politics of Asian Cinema Practices

Happening on 8 April 2022, Asian Film & Media Initiative at New York University presents an international workshop that discusses upcoming research on Asian cinema practices including eco-feminist discourse in India, Taiwan queer cinema, Singapore transnational film infrastructure and film preservation efforts in Indonesia and Thailand. Free with registration.

Image still from Netflix’s Squid Game (2021)

Asia Cinema Research Lab: “Is Netflix Riding the Korean Wave or Vice Versa?” Conference

Hearing from scholars in various fields of media and cultural studies, the international academic conference will explore the rising popularity of Korean cinema and television series on Netflix and the global phenomenon of an emerging ‘Korean Wave’. Live-streaming online via YouTube on 8 – 9 April 2022. Join the conference for free with registration.

Image still from Super Citizen Ko (1995, dir. Wang Jen)

Sensing Taiwan: Film series and Roundtable Discussions

From 6 – 22 April 2022, Department of Film and Media Studies at the University of Oklahoma screens a curated series of newly-restored Taiwanese films including Lin Tuan-chiu’s The Husband’s Secret (1960), Li Han-hsiang’s Storm over the Yangtze River (1969) and Wan Jen’s Super Citizen Ko (1995). 

A roundtable discussion on Taiwanese Cinema with director of Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute Wang Chun-Chi and scholars Evelyn Shih and Laura Jo-Han Wen will be held on 21 April 2022 over Zoom. Watch the screenings and discussion for free with registration

Image still from Aswang (2019, dir. Alyx Ayn Arumpac)

Dokyu Power (The Power of Documentary) Film Festival Philippines 2022 Online

Unravelling between 25 February 2022 – 9 April 2022, Dokyu Power is a festival organised by Filipino Documentary Society that celebrates the political capacity of documentaries in suffusing strength among ordinary people. This year, Dokyu Power presents a series of films available online, including Aswang (2019), The Kingmaker (2019) and Maliw (2013). Available to screen with registration

ReelAbilities Film Festival 2022 Virtual Screenings

Taking place between 7 – 13 April 2022, ReelAbilities Film Festival features a wide-ranging international film selection dedicated to promoting awareness and appreciation for the stories and artistic contributions of people with disabilities. Among these selections is Matsui Itari’s Only I Can Hear, a coming-of-age documentary about the experiences of Children of Deaf Adults in Japan. Available to stream virtually on the festival website


Call for Entries: Asian Film Archive Singapore Shorts ‘22

Showcasing the most promising Singapore short films, Singapore Shorts returns to feature a diverse range of new local cinematic works chosen by an esteemed selection panel. Organised by Asian Film Archive, SINGAPORE SHORTS welcomes your short film submissions until 22 April 2022. Guidelines to application can be found here.

Call for Submission: Docs By The Sea 2022 

Docs by the Sea Labs and Forum calls for Southeast Asian documentary filmmakers to submit their projects for funding and mentoring at any stage of production. More on submission guidelines here. The deadline for entries is 22 April 2022. 

Call for Entries: The 16th Asian Film Awards

Founded by Busan, Hong Kong and Tokyo International Film Festivals to celebrate Asian cinema and its talents, Asian Film Awards Academy has opened its application for film entries. The submission guidelines can be found here. The deadline for submission is 30 April 2022. 

Call for Entries: Asian Cinema Fund (ACF) Script Development Fund 

Asian Cinema Fund (ACF) 2022 is currently accepting entries for the Script Development Fund which supports film projects of filmmakers from Korea and Asia. For more information on eligibility, visit ACF’s website. The deadline for applications is 20 April 2022.

Student Open Call: “Taiwan Pitch Nonfiction Short Film Fund”

The 2022 Taiwan Pitch Nonfiction Short Film Fund invites students worldwide to showcase their unique experiences and perspectives about Taiwan. Visit their  website to find out more about submission qualifications. The deadline for submissions is 30 April 2022.  

Call For Papers: NYU Neil Postman Grad Conference 2022 

Hosted by New York University Steinhardt’s Department of Media, Culture, and Communication, the Neil Postman Graduate Conference is looking for proposals and abstracts on the centrality of media experiences and media technologies. Deadline to submit is 1 May 2022. 

Call to participate: Apichatpong Weerasethakul Lab: Filming in the Amazon
Under the guidance of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Playlab Films opened the call to participate in a practical film workshop held in the Amazon that seeks to bring together emerging talents from around the world and develop their short films. The deadline for applications is 25 April 2022.

This edition of the digest was compiled by Jolie Fan

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