Asian Cinema Digest #26

July’s edition of the digest spotlights lesser-known Asian regions and identities: catch a  retrospective of Lebanese artist-filmmakers, a riveting feature on Nepali women filmmakers, and free screenings of Mongolian animated shorts. 

New voices from the cinema of Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong are also foregrounded in this month’s digest with online festival screenings, podcasts and long-form articles.


Opening title of The Umbrella (2018, dir. Hing-Weng Eric Tsang)

Hong Kong Fresh Wave Film Festival Online Screenings

Celebrating new perspectives within the Hong Kong film industry, three short film selections from Johnnie To’s HK Fresh Wave Film Festival are available online on Cinémathèque Français’ streaming platform. Catch Eric Tsang’s Hong Kong protest film The Umbrella (2018), Chu Hoi-ying’s heartfelt transgenerational drama 3 Generations, 3 Days (2019) and Ren Xia’s sci-fi short Even Ants Strive for Survival (2017) for free on HENRI

Image still from Islander (2021, dir. Wu Zi-En)

Islander (赤島) (2021) by Wu Zien

Initially slated to premiere at the Hong Kong Fresh Wave Film Festival and inspired by Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests, Wu Zien’s urban noir was banned from screening at the festival by the Hong Kong censorship authorities. In response, Wu has uploaded his full 25-minute film to stream for free on Vimeo. Additionally, Vivien Chow writes about the film’s removal and what it means to the Fresh Wave Film Festival on Variety

Image still from Johnny Crawl (1986, dir. Roxlee)

KALAMPAG TRACKING AGENCY SHORTS PROGRAM: 30 Years of Experimental Film in the Philippines

Curated by Filipino artists Merv Espina and Shireen Seno, the programme includes 13 rare experimental films from the Philippines and its diaspora over three decades. Featuring Roxlee’s Johnny Crawl (1986), Raya Martin’s Ars Colonia (2011), and Miko Revereza’s DROGA! (2014), stream these singular and striking shorts on Metrograph with a subscription. 

Image still from Late Spring (1949, dir. Yasujiro Ozu)

Starring Setsuko Hara: Japan’s Most Beloved Actor 

A new streaming collection on Criterion spotlights the Golden Age Japanese actor Setsuko Hara whose on-screen presence came to represent an ideal of nobility, generosity and grace in Japanese society. Showcasing six collaborations with Yasujiro Ozu, including Late Spring (1949) and Tokyo Story (1953), and her earlier roles starring in Akira Kurosawa’s No Regrets for Our Youth (1946), catch Japan’s most beloved film star on the Criterion Channel. Additionally, Writer Ishii Taeko looks back on the celebrated actor’s career from teenage stardom to her abrupt exit. 

Image still from A Perfect Day (2005, dir. Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige)

A Perfect Day (2003) and Ramad (2005) by Joana Hadjithomas & Khalil Joreige 

Curated by Mizna Film Series, a retrospective of Lebanese filmmakers Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige presents two films Ramad (Ashes) (2003) and A Perfect Day (2005) available to stream on Eventive after 26 July 2022.

Image still from The Rice Dumpling Vendors (1969, dir. Chi-Hsin)

Taiwan Film Festival 2022 @ TACEC Virtual Screenings

Adjacent to the Taiwanese American Conference 2022, the Taiwan Film Festival @ TACEC is screening over 20 Taiwanese feature films and documentaries virtually on Eventive. These films include the recently restored classic The Rice Dumpling Vendors (1969) by Chi Hsin, Kuoan Lai’s A Fish Out of Water (2018) and Yang Chih-lin’s Listen Before You Sing (2021). 

Image still from Golden Gate Girls (2013, dir. Louisa Wei Shiyu)

CathayPlay Collection “Goodbye China”: Films by the Chinese Diaspora

Connecting the diverse identities of the Chinese diaspora across the world, Cathayplay selects 6 films depicting narratives of Chinese immigrants in North America, South America, Southeast Asia and Europe. Watch Wei Shiyu’s Golden Gate Girls (2013), Tan Chui Mui’s South of the South (2005) and Francois Yang’s Heidi In China (2020) on CathayPlay with a subscription.

Image still from Tears of Inge (2013, dir. Alisi Telengut)

Tengri (2012) by Alisi Telengut

In this hand-painted animated short film, Mongolian-born filmmaker Alisi Telengut illustrates the Mongolian postmortem ceremony known as a wind burial. Wielding an earthly display of colours and textures, Telengut captures this spiritual rite frame-by-frame with meticulous care. Watch the short for free on AEON. For more visual explorations of Mongolia rituals and identity, see Telengu’s Tears of Inge (2013) and Nutag – Homeland, also streaming on AEON. 

Image still from Lacuna (2017, dir. Scarlett Adele Chen)

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival: Online Screenings

Taking place online until 31 July 2022, the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival presents three documentaries with an Asian focus: Andrea Pellerani’s Dreaming An Island (2021) traverses the idle Japanese island of Ikeshima, Scarlett Adele Chen’s Lacuna (2017) explores the stories of Chinese immigrant women in Australia and Alfred Pek’s Freedom Street (2021) follows the plight of three refugees trapped in Makassar, Indonesia awaiting resettlement. Available to stream on their website.

Image still from By the Time it Gets Dark (2016, dir. Anocha Suwichakornpong)

By the Time It Gets Dark (2016) by Anocha Suwichakornpong 

Thai director Anoncha Suwichakornpong’s second feature is available to stream on the Criterion Channel. Haunted by a lingering trauma and silenced by the state’s role in gatekeeping accounts of history, Suwichakornpong navigates the multiple lives transformed and troubled by the 1976 Thammasat University massacre in Bangkok. 

Image still from: Enter the Dragon (1973, dir. Robert Clouse)

Video Essay: Why Are Kung Fu Movies So Patriotic?

By contextualising the rise of Chinese martial arts film within the historical and socio-political landscapes of 1970s China, Accented Cinema dismantles the patriotic motifs of martial arts cinema of the kung-fu and wuxia subgenres and examines how Bruce Lee’s international reputation has propelled Chinese patriotism in these films. 

Michelle Yeoh in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

GQ Interview: Michelle Yeoh Breaks Down Her Most Iconic Characters

“To be funny… to be real… to be sad… Finally, somebody understood that I could do all these things.” In an interview with GQ on YouTube, martial arts legend Michelle Yeoh reflects on her most iconic characters, including her roles in Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Crazy Rich Asians (2018) and her recent tour de force Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022). 

Image still from Never Have I Ever (2022, created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher)

TIFF Next Wave 2022: In Conversation With Maitreyi Ramakrishnan

Named as one of  TIME’s 100 Next Changemakers and Future Leaders in 2021, Netflix teen star Maitreyi Ramakrishnan speaks to the Toronto International Film Festival about Tamil-Canadian representation in mainstream media and in the Hollywood industry. Watch the discussion on Youtube

Image still from Floating Weeds (1959, dir. Yasujiro Ozu)

Cinematography by Kazuo Miyagawa

Behind the striking visual landscapes of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon (1950), the sublime compositions of Kenji Mizoguchi’s Ugetsu (1953), Sansho the Bailiff (1954), and the painterly hues of Yasujiro Ozu’s Floating Weeds (1959), is Japan’s acclaimed cinematographer Kazuo Miyagawa who manoeuvres the camera with incredible mastery and artistry. Study Kazuo Miyagawa’s cinematic world on the Criterion Channel

Image still from Pig’s Game (2022, dir. CM Bautista)

Video Nasties: Pig’s Game (2022) by CM Bautista

Rappler’s streaming platform Act One presents Filipino filmmaker CM Bautista’s Pig’s Game (2022), a short film that offers an unflinching look at the abuse of power by the authorities. Shot from the perspective of a viewfinder, Bautista employs an innovative cinematic form to impart an unnerving commentary on media manipulation and deceit. 

Image still from Ala Kachuu (2020, dir. Maria Brendle)

Ala Kachuu (2020) by Maria Brendle

Nominated for the Academy Awards Best Live Action Short in 2022, Swiss filmmaker Maria Brendle’s short film revolves around a young Kyrgyz woman who falls victim to bride kidnapping and struggles to fight for her freedom against the clutches of tradition. Streaming on Vimeo with a fee.  

Image still from An Algorithm (2017, dir. Min Mi-Hong)

Korean Queer Film Festival Online Screening

The 22nd Korean Queer Film Festival will be screening all its programmes online. From accentuating Queer art to foregrounding gender violence and the breakthroughs of drag performance, the film festival prides itself on showcasing an eclectic range of ethnic communities and social groups. Watch them on the festival’s streaming platform Purplay.


Image still from Children of the Mist (2021, dir. Diễm Hà Lệ)

Docs In Orbit Podcast: Children of the Mist with Diễm Hà Lệ 

In this incisive conversation with Vietnamese filmmaker Diễm Hà Lệ on her documentary debut Children of the Mist (2021), Docs in Orbit discusses the film’s complex negotiations between Vietnamese cultural customs and individual freedom. Opening up about the personal challenges she faced while filming, Diễm shares her desire to keep memories of childhood alive through her films. 

Image still from Ran (1985, dir. Akira Kurosawa)

MUBI Soundtrack Mix #27: Storytelling Rhythm: Tôru Takemitsu

“It’s wonderful how, through the rhythm of sound and images, we are drawn gradually into the world of the story.” In this hour-long MUBI mix dedicated to film composer Tôru Takemitsu’s musical oeuvre, discover the Japanese master’s varied body of soundscapes and film scores, offering a spectrum of different emotions and genres.

Image still from A Girl in the River (2015, dir. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy)

‘Ms. Marvel’ Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy Talks Bringing The “Color & Vibrancy” Of Pakistan To The MCU

Helming episodes 4 and 5 of Marvel Studios’ “Mrs Marvel”, Pakistani-Canadian director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy introduces the sights and sounds of her hometown of Karachi, Pakistan to the international audience. Conversing with Obaid-Chinoy, The Playlist discusses her shift in career from directing investigative documentaries to tackling the world of superheroes and fantasy. 

Image still from Boat People (1982, dir. Ann Hui)

Hong Kong On Screen Podcast: Ann Hui, Hong Kong New Wave, Boat People

Newly conceived by the non-profit organisation Hong Kong On Screen (HKOS) as an outreach initiative, the HKOS podcast’s first episode dives into a brief history of the Hong Kong New Wave and explores Ann Hui’s Vietnam Trilogy and her career-defining Boat People (1982). 

Image still from Whale Island (2018, dir. Huang Chia-chu)

Taiwan on Air: Interview with Director of Whale Island (2018)

In this interview chat, podcast host Ti-han Chang invites Taiwanese director Huang Chia-chu to speak about his making of the eco-film Whale Island (2018), offering a glimpse into how Taiwanese nautical literature informs the script and Huang’s use of underwater photography. 

Image still from Lust, Caution (2008, dir. Ang Lee)

New Books Network Podcast: Vulgar Beauty: Acting Chinese in the Global Sensorium

Speaking with film scholar Mila Zuo about her newly published book “Vulgar Beauty: Acting Chinese in the Global Sensorium”, New Books Network tackles the racialisation of Chinese women film stars against Western notions of beauty and re-evaluates the vibrant flavours embodied in Chinese beauty. 


Image still from The King & I (1956, dir. Walter Lang)

The Making of the Cold War Alliance: Hollywood as an American Diplomat and Thailand’s Ban of The King and I (1956)

Responding to Asian Film Archive’s Orienting Paradise programme, assistant professor of Southeast Asian Cinema at the University of Minnesota, Dr Palita Chunsaengchan unpacks Cold War reverberations and Orientalism in Walter Lang’s The King and I (1956), demonstrating the politics of representation in Western texts and filmic adaptations.

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

10 Things I Learned: Rouge – Aliza Ma’s Production Notes

Reviewing Hong Kong auteur Stanley Kwan’s production notes on the set of Rouge (1987), Criterion producer Aliza Ma elucidates how Kwan translates his distinctive cinematic language on screen and details his collaboration with the chameleonic actress Anita Mui. Supplementing this article, Film curator and critic Dennis Lim expounds on the complex temporalities that underscore Rouge’s tragic romance. Over at ArtForum, writer Alex Kong examines the interior terrain of Rouge and negotiates the gulf between the spiritual and corporeal. 

Image still from Merku Thodarchi Malai (2018, dir. Lenin Bharathi)

Digging Shallow And Deep—Portrayals Of ‘The Farmer’ In New Tamil Cinema

In an impressively wide-ranging dossier titled ‘A Tamil Trio: Views on the Cinema of Tamil Nadu in the 21st Century’, Ultra Dogme publishes an essay by film critic Aswathy Gopalakrishnan who offers an incisive analysis of the farmer as a potent figure in Tamil cinema. For further reading, consider Srikanth Srinivasan’s essay on the aesthetic of custodial violence in South Indian films and Mahesh S & Anuj Malhotra’s piercing commentary on the struggles of independent filmmaking in 2000s Tamil Nadu. 

Image still from A New Old Play (2021, dir. Qiu Jiongjiong)

Send in the Clowns: Qiu Jiongjiong on A New Old Play

The new issue of Cinema Scope has arrived, featuring Shelly Kaicer’s long-form interview with Beijing-based filmmaker and artist Qiu Jiongjiong. His new film, A New Old Play (2021), is the centre of their discussion, offering insight into his storytelling strategies and the political dimensions of his craft.

Image still from Leila and the Wolves (1984, dir. Heiny Srour)

Out of the Shadows: Arab Cinema driven by female voices

With a notable rise of Arab female film directors in recent decades, the Out of the Shadows dossier brings together a selection of essays and interviews that revitalise the work of Arab female filmmakers whose films are often overlooked and marginally screened. Compiled by filmmaker Gerard-Jan Claes and researcher Stoffel Debuysere, five formidable women filmmakers are presented in this dossier: Atteyat Al-Abnoudy, Selma Baccar, Assia Djebar, Jocelyne Saab and Heiny Srour. Read more on Sabzian

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

The Fiction of Citizenship: What Is Refugee Cinema About?

Curator Vinh Nguyen opens this immensely evocative article with his personal ruminations of Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary Flee (2021), connecting its bittersweet premise with Nguyen’s own refugee displacement. Eschewing the conventional use of testimonials from refugee narratives, Nguyen proposes shifting the focus towards exposing citizen politics embedded within the refugee crisis to dissect the fiction of settledness and stability. 

Image still from Stronger (2021, dir. Belmaya Nepali)

Spotlighting Nepali Women Filmmakers: A Cinema of Ideas Initiative

Collaborating with Nepalese filmmakers Shanta Nepali, Prasna Dongol and Rajeela Shrestha, guest curator Aagya Pradhan shares her philosophy behind creating a programme that spotlights upcoming generations of female filmmakers in Nepal and captures their lived experiences under various cultural and societal practices. 

Image still from Decision to Leave (2022, dir. Park Chan-Wook)

Park Chan-wook and Ultra-Violence: A Fascinating Two Decade Journey, from Obsession to Abhorrence

Anticipating South Korea’s auteur Park Chan-wook’s latest feature Decision to Leave (2022), film researcher Arthi Vasudevan revisits the Korean director’s oeuvre and his predilection for choreographing hyper-violent sequences. From his early box-office success, Joint Security Area (2000) to his lush period drama The Handmaiden (2016), Park’s expression of bodily excess has evolved over the years and all eyes are peeled on what his newest Cannes selection will bring to the table. 

Image frames from Kummatty (1979, dir. Aravindan Govindan)

Aravindan Govindan Restored: The Magical Tranquillity of a Lone Ranger

Responding to the restoration of Aravindan Govindan’s Kummatty (1979) by Martin Scorsese’s The Film Foundation, MUBI Notebook writer Arun A.K. profiles the avant-garde filmmaker’s understated cinematic accomplishments and his poetic breakthroughs that inspired several South Asian luminaries such as Satyajit Ray, Mani Kaul and Chidananda Dasgupta. 

Image still from Chungking Express (1994, dir. Wong Kar-Wai)

I, Too, Am On My Way: On Being the Living Backdrop of Hong Kong Cinema

In a text commissioned to commemorate the opening of M+ Cinema in Hong Kong, film critic Bryan Chang Wai-hung dwells within the city’s busy streets as framed by the camera and negotiates the role of passing pedestrians in Hong Kong films over the decades. 

Image still from The Burdened (2022, dir. Amr Gaml)

‘We Want to Tell Our Untold Stories’: On Yemeni Abortion Drama ‘The Burdened

Film journalist Marta Balaga reports from Karlovy Vary Film Festival for Variety, speaking to Yemeni director Amr Gamal who straddles the contentious theme of abortion in his upcoming drama The Burdened. Set to complete in August 2022 and based on a true story, Gamal describes the challenges and risks faced during production.

Image still from Careless Crime (2020, dir. Shahram Mokri)

The Cinematic Time Loops of Shahram Mokri 

In tandem with the upcoming Blu-ray release of Shahram Mokri’s four feature films, Hyperallergic critic Forrest Cardamenis evaluates the acclaimed Iranian director’s deft use of temporal manipulation and explores the liminality between the past and present. 

Image still from The Mission (1999, dir. Johnnie To)

A Guide to the Intricate Cinema of Hong Kong’s Crime Auteur Johnnie To

“Johnnie To makes stylish and atmospheric cinema that courts mainstream appeal as often as it subverts it.” In this comprehensive and well-informed guide to the prolific crime auteur Johnnie To, James Balmont provides an essential walkthrough of To’s most compelling works, from his classic gangster epics such as The Mission (1999) to his prominent police flicks such as Running Out of Time (1999) and PTU (2003). 

Image still from Inu-Oh (2021, dir. Masaaki Yuasa)

‘Inu-Oh’, Masaaki Yuasa’s Mediaeval-Rock Anime Saga 

Delivered with an expressive visual flair alongside heavy-rock musical scores, Masaaki Yuasa’s eccentric animated film Inu-Oh reawakens the emancipatory powers of music, performance and art. Heady with kaleidoscopic colour palettes and a queer edge, the psychedelic animation sheds new light on Japanese traditions and medieval texts. 

Image still from Good Morning (1959, dir. Yasujiro Ozu)

Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema and Planet Hong Kong 

David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson have made a handful of their essential titles freely accessible online. Among these titles, Ozu and the Poetics of Cinema dissect the arthouse repute of Japan’s most celebrated auteur, Yasujiro Ozu, and broaches the functions of his cinematic language while Planet Hong Kong comprehensively studies the arsenal of Hong Kong’s film industry from its early inception to the diverse generic manifestations we see today.  


Perspectives on the South Asian Cinema Collection

Happening on 5 August 2022, film specialists Erica Jones and Lydia Creech will provide perspectives on the importance of the collection and preservation of South Asian Cinema at the George Eastman Museum. Accumulating almost 532 Indian film titles under their wing, the preservation will benefit scholars, archivists and members of the diaspora community. Register to learn more at the presentation.

Image still from A Day of Trans (2021, dir. Yennefer Fang)

Transgender in China: Post-screening Online Q&A and Panel Talk

On 22 July 2022, Riparian Chinese Independent Film Showcase will be screening Yennefer Fang’s short documentary A Day of Trans (2021) followed by a post-screening online Q&A with the Beijing director. Catch the online screening for free with registration.

Image still from Our Story – 10 Year ‘Guerilla Warfare’ of Beijing Queer Film Festival (2011, dir. Yang Yang)

Another online screening will be held on 30 July 2022, featuring Yang Yang’s Our Story –10-year ‘Guerrilla Warfare’ of Beijing Queer Film Festival (2011) and a panel talk revolving around cultural activism conducted by the Chinese diasporic communities. Free with registration


Call for Participation: Asian Folklore, Folk Horror and the Gothic

Organised with the National Chengchi University in Taiwan, The Gothic in Asia Association (GAA) is calling for all scholars to contribute new ideas about connections between Asian folklore and the Gothic within film and literary texts. The deadline for application is 31 July 2022. Guidelines can be found here.

Call for Submissions: Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival 

Hailed as the largest film festival in Taiwan, the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival is calling for entries for films across all categories. The deadline for submissions is 1 August 2022. Guidelines can be found here.

Call for Submissions: 33rd Singapore International Film Festival 2022

Singapore’s largest and longest-running film event, SGIFF is calling for feature & short film submissions to be part of its official selection. The deadline for submissions is 8 August 2022. Rules and regulations can be found here.

Call for Submissions: 24th Bucheon International Animation Festival 2022

The Bucheon International Animation Festival (Korea) is accepting animated feature films until 31 July 2022. Rules and regulations can be found here.

This edition of the digest was compiled by Jolie Fan

About the Writer