Asian Cinema Digest #24

May’s edition of the digest is all about change, from exposing the ugly reality of rapid urban redevelopment or spotlighting the political upheavals against martial law to re-examining the representation of Asians in war narratives

Women filmmakers and programmers also take centre stage this month, including an interview with Mira Nair, a panel discussion on the rise of female festival programmers and a podcast with an Indonesian-American child actress about visibility and race.


Image still from Liway (2018, dir. Kip Oebanda)

Liway (2018) by Kip Oebanda

Paying homage to his mother who was detained in a military camp as a dissident of Ferdinand Marcos’ regime, Oebanda tells the experiences of Dakip, a young boy living in captivity with his parents and the political turmoils that plague their lives. Stream for free on Youtube

Several films about martial law in the Philippines are available for free online, including Kidlat Tahimik’s Why is Yellow at the Middle of the Rainbow? (1994) and Ramona S. Diaz’s Imelda (2003). Access the full list here.

White Building (2021) by Kavich Neang

Co-produced by Jia Zhangke and Davy Chou, Kavich Neang’s first feature film White Building looks at the ever-changing Cambodian capital Phnom Penh through scooter rides and panoramic shots, documenting the city’s disappearing homes and histories. Watch with a subscription on MUBI. Having grown up in the now demolished apartment complex, Neang describes the pain of watching his heritage uprooted in this article

Inhuman Figures (2022) by Michelle N. Huang and CA Davis

Media and Design Studio digital storyteller, CA Davis, together with Asian-American studies scholar Michelle N. Huang, presents an animated film essay on the consequences of techno-orientalism and the ways racial stereotypes pervade popular science-fiction films. Available  at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s (SmithsonianAPA) website

AFTEREARTH (2017) by Jess X. Snow, Kit Yan and Peter Pa

AFTEREARTH is an immersive short film about motherhood from the perspective of four women from Hawaii, the Philippines, China and North America as they fight to preserve the environment for their future generations. Streaming as a part of the SmithsonianAPA’s Care Package for the Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month in the United States. 

Image still from Memoria (2021, dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

International Film Festival Rotterdam: Big Talk with Sayombhu Mukdeeprom

Known for his work on films such as Call Me by Your Name (2017) and Memoria (2021), IFFR speaks to Thai cameraman Sayombhu Mukdeeprom about his cinematic language and structural choices that culminated in the Robby Müller Award he received for developing a unique and moving visual language. Watch his discussion on the IFFR’s website.

Video Essay: The Hidden Meaning in Drive My Car (2021)

Accented Cinema deconstructs how Ryusuke Hamaguchi utilises intertextuality within the film’s minimalist presentation to highlight the complicated emotions of regret and grief that always seem to be bubbling underneath the sparse dialogues. Watch the video essay on Youtube

Video Essay: Black Lizard (1981): Chor Yuen’s Shaw Brothers Swordplay Mystery

Commenting on a lesser-known Shaw Brothers film Black Lizard, Hong Kong Cinema Appreciation Society humorously describes the film’s appeal to international audiences and discusses how Chor Yuen’s creative direction was influenced by and adapted from Universal Studios’ monster films, the Sherlock Holmes series and the James Bond franchise. Available on YouTube.

A Little Closer (2021, dir. Cheryl Mong)

Southeast Asia x Seattle Film Festival (SEAxSEA) Online Screenings

From 2  – 15 May 2022, the SEAxSEA Film and Literature Festival will be screening 39 short films from Southeast Asia for free with registration. Hailing from Singapore to the Philippines, the line-up includes Cheryl Mong’s A Little Closer (2021), Lin Htet Aung’s Seeking Wombs for Rebirths (2021) and Mark Giddel Liwanag’s The Boats that Sail Backwards (2021). See the full list here

Being Mortal (2020, dir. Ze Liu)

Odyssey: a Chinese cinema season Online Screenings

Presented by the UK-China Film Collab Center, Odyssey spotlights a new generation of independent Chinese filmmakers and curates an international perspective on China’s most recent trends in filmmaking. The films include Ze Liu’s Being Mortal (2020), Qisheng Gao’s River of Salvation (2020) and Mingduan Wang’s Black Tide Coast (2020). Available online from 12 – 19 May 2022 for UK audiences only.

Beyond the Walls of Prison (1987, Lito Tiongson)

TIDF 2022: Negotiating Realities in Post-national Philippine Documentaries Online Screening

As part of the Taiwan International Documentary Festival’s (TIDF) Focus Programme, 3 socio-political documentaries made by Philippine activist organisations, ‘AsiaVisions’ and ‘Southern Tagalog Exposure’, are available online. Hailed as the people’s cinema, watch Lito Tiongson’s Beyond the Walls of Prison (1987), Kiri Dalena’s Red Saga (2004) and From the Dark Depths (2017) on Vimeo through 22 May 2022. 

The Bride (2009) by Zhang Ming 

Shot on digital video, The Bride revolves around a motley crew of friends that conspires a murder scheme to obtain insurance money from a newly-wed country woman. A subtle commentary on China’s social environment, catch the film exclusively on Cathayplay with a subscription. 

Which Way Is East: Notebooks from Vietnam by Lynne Sachs

Conceived initially as a candid travelogue from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, the documentary transforms into a cultural experiment where conversations with Vietnamese strangers and images of their daily life are juxtaposed with Sachs’ own memories of the media-manipulated Vietnam War seen on American TV. Available on DaFilms with a subscription. Other films by Sachs that approach American Chinese immigrant identities are also streaming on DaFilms. Read more about her subversive documentaries here

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

Seret International Israeli Film & TV Festival Online Screening

From 12 May 2022, the film festival is showcasing a slate of Israeli films including Cannes Jury Prize winner Nadav Lapid’s Ahed’s Knee (2021), Yair Qedar’s The Fourth Window – Amos Oz (2021) and Ohad Milstein’s Summer Nights. Available online with a festival pass.


Asian Cinema Film Club: The Insect Woman Podcast

In this podcast, The Asian Cinema Film Club looks at Shohei Imamura’s The Insect Woman (1963), a film depicting the resilience of three generations of women who survived abuse at the hands of various men and emerged triumphant. Situated within the Japanese New Wave, further readings about Imamura’s film can be found on Criterion Current.

The Tale of Zatoichi (1962, dir. Kenji Misumi)

Eastern Kicks Podcast: The Paths of Zatoichi 

Senior lecturer in film studies Jonathan Wroot discusses the enduring popularity of the blind Japanese swordsman, Zatoichi. United by one actor, Shintaro Katsu, who plays the legendary swordsman in 26 films, the podcast details the various influences and successors of Japan’s period films. 

Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja and Justin H Min in After Yang (2021, Kogonada)

Asian Voices Radio: Young actress Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja on Creating your Own Representation 

Indonesian American child actress Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja speaks about the lack of Asian representation in children’s films and television. Beginning her career at age 4, she has gone on to star in A24’s feature film After Yang (2021) and in the television series iCarly (2021) thereby raising visibility to Asian American youths on screen. 

Reel Asian Podcast: Everything Everywhere All At Once with Renee Ya and Baldwin Diep 

Still reeling from the multiversal madness of Daniel Kwan’s Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022), podcasters Renee Ya and Baldwin Diep unpack the multiple unfolding storylines and weigh in on the film’s depiction of Asian American culture and the dynamics of Chinese immigrant families


Mira Nair on Making Mississippi Masala a Radical Act of Love

Speaking with Vulture Magazine, director Mira Nair describes her cinema vérité style that shaped Mississippi Masala and the film’s portrayal of American xenophobia towards the South Asian diaspora. By choreographing the complexities of race and eroticism between an African-American man and an Indian woman, she reflects on the film’s romance as a radical act of love.

Image still from RRR (2022, dir. S.S. Rajamouli)

Myth and Men of Marble, Sculpted and Scorched by History

Juggling Indian myth, history and nationalism, Telugu film director S.S. Rajamouli releases his newest production, RRR (2022), an epic follow-up to his previous two-film fantasy box-office hit Baahubali (2015). In this article, MUBI Notebook traces Rajamouli’s technical prowess in managing a film set of a monumental scale and the incredible chemistry built among his crew. 

Kwaidan (1964): Ghost Stories on the Silver Screen

Adapted from a 1904 collection of folkloric phantom stories, Masaki Kobayashi’s classic horror film Kwaidan blends elements of ancient art forms with popular Japanese superstitions to create a chilling four-part narrative. Visually elegant and politically daring, Kwaidan not only captures Japan’s spiritual past but also its dark present. 

Image still from Tropical Malady (2004, dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

How It Sounds to Remember: The Sonic Work of Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr

Behind many of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s elegant aural landscapes and mystical sensations is his sound designer, Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr, who scored Tropical Malady (2004) and Memoria (2021). MUBI converses with Kalayanamitr on his current body of work and his process of creating the sonic environment for the two films. 

Image still from Right Now, Wrong Then (2015, dir. Hong Sang Soo)

An Act as Simple as Dreaming: Hong Sang Soo 

Film critic and curator Dennis Lim charts the cinematic oeuvre of South Korean auteur Hong Sang Soo, from his formal strategies to his multi-perspective narrative universes. Lim’s newest monograph Tales of Cinema on Hong’s filmmaking is available in full on the Fireflies Press website with purchase.

Image still from The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987, dir. Kazuo Hara)

Kazuo Hara’s Dedicated Lives

With his magnum opus The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987), Kazuo Hara is considered one of Japan’s most important documentary filmmakers active today. In this article, film scholar Markus Nornes examines his career arc and the pivotal place he possesses within the Japanese documentary tradition. 

Anurag Kashyap in One Shot

A single frame from Anurag Kashyap’s socio-political drama Gulaal (2009) seizes the film’s cruel essence and captures the filmmaker’s disillusionment with the world. MUBI presents a quick read of the historical context that shaped the film’s climactic image. 

The Sunny Side of the Street: Immigrant realities, Optimism and Resilience

Participating in the Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum ‘Goes to Cannes’ venture, Malaysian-born director Ray Lau’s feature debut, The Sunny Side of the Street is a much-anticipated project exploring the plights of immigrants and asylum seekers living in Hong Kong. Together with producer Peter Yam, Lau breaks down his creative and financial processes in this interview. 

Interview with Martika Ramirez Escobar and Sheila Francisco: “This Is Not the Type of Cinema I Would Like to Make”

Asian Movie Pulse sits down with director Martika Ramirez Escobar and lead actress Sheila Francisco of Leonor Will Never Die (2021) to explain the film’s 8-year-long gestating production from script-writing to post-production.  

Movie Poster of the Week: Rare Japanese Art for “Metropolis

Made for the 1929 Japanese release of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, two rare Japanese movie flyers (“Eiga Chirashi”), illustrated in rich colours and graceful modernist lettering, resurfaced at an auction in April 2022. Browse designer Shuji Kawamura’s 12-page booklet of Metropolis posters on MUBI Notebook

Pointing the finger: The ending of The Housemaid (1960)

Sight and Sound revisit Kim Ki-young’s masterpiece The Housemaid (1960), focusing on the film’s enigmatic conclusion and its subtle prod at classical Hollywood’s demand for narrative closures and happy endings. 

Memory Bank: An Interview with Kogonada on After Yang (2021)

Reverse Shot speaks to director Kogonada on memory and heritage in his second feature film After Yang (2021). Beginning his career as an editor of a series of video essays, Kogonada explains his artistic motivations and how they bled into his debut feature Columbus (2017) and subsequently, After Yang.


Image still from Godavari (2021, dir. Nikhil Mahajan)

New York Indian Film Festival 2022 Virtual Programme

Streaming via Shift72 on 7  – 13 May 2022, the New York Indian Film Festival’s virtual programme consists of three films and documentaries from India, showcasing its people and heritage: Nikhil Mahajan’s Godavari (2021), Bani Singh’s Longing (2021) and Ajoy Bose’s The Beatles and India: An Enduring Love Affair (2021). Watch these titles on the festival’s website.

How Southeast Asia imagines itself in Creative Practice Panel Discussion

Held on 13 May 2022 and co-organised by the journal Practice, Research and Tangential Activities, this panel discussion examines creative practices in Southeast Asia. Their panellists include independent scholar Jen Soriano, Singaporean poet Wahid Al Mamun and Malaysian fiction writer Shamini Aphrodite. Join the virtual panel discussion with registration.

Image still from My Life As McDull (2001, dir. Toe Yuen)

Animators’ Roundtable Forum: Hong Kong Animation

Over the course of 12  – 14 May 2022, the Association for Chinese Animation Studies is holding a roundtable forum to examine the landscape of animated filmmaking in Hong Kong – past, present and future. Hosting a slate of animators, media scholars, industry professionals and filmmakers, the roundtable spans 6 different panels about Hong Kong animation. Join their roundtable on Zoom.

Image still from Jackfruit (2021, dir. Thuy Trang Nguyen)

Double Screening and Q&A of Sarnt Utamachote’s Soy Sauce (2020) & Trang Nguyen’s Jackfruit (2021) 

On 21 May 2022, Elsewhere Cinema Club explores the Southeast Asian Queer diaspora in Germany with online screenings of two films from Thailand and Vietnam, Sarnt Utamachote’s Soy Sauce (2020) and Thuy Trang Nguyen’s Jackfruit (2021), followed by a virtual Q&A with the filmmakers. Register for the online screening and virtual Q&A on their website. 

Image still from A Taxi Driver (2017, dir. Jang Hoon) which will be discussed by Kyoung-Suk Sung (Kyungpook National University) in Panel 10: Representation, Recreation and Reception

Forgotten Popular Culture: Asian Cinema and Film History 

From 23 – 25 May 2022, the University of Leicester School of Arts is holding an online conference dedicated to rediscovering popular Asian films and filmmakers that were neglected in official and scholarly discourse. With keynote speeches from historian Poshek Fu, East Asian cinema scholar Kate E. Taylor-Jones and Modern Chinese Culture Reader Xiaoning Lu, the conference will be held online with registration

Women’s Practice in the Contemporary Chinese Film Industry: Female Film Programmers on the Rise

Between 10 May – 10 June 2022, Odyssey: a Chinese Cinema Season will be hosting 10 online discussion panels, exploring aspects of UK-China film collaborations and practices. This panel focuses on the crucial role female programmers play in the contemporary Chinese film industry by spotlighting four women film programmers. Join the discussion by registering here.

Other panels under the festival showcase include a roundtable on Chinese Regional Cinemas, a panel on the Future Development of Chinese Animation Industry and International Collaboration and A New Exploration of UK-China Co-production Film


Call for Submission: SeaShorts Film Festival 2022 

SeaShorts Film Festival is  accepting entries for their competition programme: SeaShorts Competition, Next New Wave competition and the Malaysian Student Film Competition. The deadline for submissions is 15 May 2022. Guidelines for applicants can be found here.

Call to Participate: DhakaDocLab Bangladesh Cymru Climate Stories 

Emerging filmmakers in Wales and Bangladesh are invited to apply for Dhaka DocLab’s filmmaking commission on the theme of women building sustainability and resilience in response to climate change. For more information on the 4-day workshop and mentoring process, visit their website. The deadline for applications is 20 May 2022. 

Call for Submissions: Asian Cinema Fund’s Asian Network of Documentary (AND) 2022

The Asian Cinema Fund is looking for Asian independent documentary filmmakers who are completing their feature-length documentary film projects. The deadline for submission is 20 May 2022. Guidelines can be found here.

Call for Short Films: Hong Kong Lesbian & Gay Film Festival

The longest running LGBT film festival in Asia, the Hong Kong Lesbian & Gay Film Festivals are accepting short film entries about LGBT individuals and communities. The deadline for submission is 28 May 2022. Read their guidelines here

Call for Submissons: 16th Asian Film Awards

Founded by Busan, Hong Kong, and Tokyo International Film Festivals, The Asian Film Awards (AFA) is accepting films until 31 May 2022. Guidelines can be found on their website.

This edition of the digest was compiled by Jolie Fan

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