Asian Cinema Digest #27

September 2022 features a wide-ranging catalogue of East Asian stories from established and emerging identities within China, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. Spanning across screenings of the Chinese working class, mellow soundtracks of a Japanese experimental composer and the sensational performances of a 1970s Japanese action star, catch this month’s digest of online festival screenings, podcasts and written pieces. 


Image still from From What is Before (2014, dir. Lav Diaz)

From What is Before (2014) by Lav Diaz

Streaming until 22 September 2022, the production arm of filmmaker Lav Diaz, Sine Olivia Pilipinas, will be showcasing Diaz’s 5-hour tour-de-force From What is Before (2014) for free on YouTube. Dismantling the nation’s traumatic memory of the 1970s under martial law, the film documents the struggles of a remote village in the Philippines, reflecting on the coastal town’s decline in striking black-and-white cinematography. 

Image still from Daughter of the Dragon (1931, dir. Lloyd Corrigan)

Hollywood Chinese: Arthur Dong’s Critical Documentary and 23 Hollywood Chinese Films

Curated for Criterion’s new streaming collection, Chinese-American filmmaker Arthur Dong foregrounds the artful contributions of Chinese-American talents in Hollywood, extricating their legacy from a tangled history of racism and misrepresentation. Dong critically interrogates the orientalist imaginations of Chinese individuals in American feature films and subverts these narrow accounts by spotlighting past and present Chinese-American trailblazers, including stars Anna May Wong, Nancy Kwan, and directors Joan Chen and Justin Lin.  

Image still from The Drifting Post (2018, dir. Kento Shimizu)

Japan Film Festival Los Angeles 2022: 14 Short Film Screenings

The Japan Film Festival Los Angeles 2022 is screening 14 short Japanese films virtually on Eventive. Catch Kento Shimizu’s intimate drama The Drifting Post (2018), Takafumi Sakabe’s hair-raising thriller Chained (2020) and Yurugu Matsumoto’s acoustic gem Cassette Tape (2021) among others on the festival catalogue

Image still from Struggling Man (2021, dir. Toshio Lee)

Asian Pop Up Cinema Season 15: Online Showcase

For its 15th season, Asian Pop Up Cinema has made three contemporary Chinese films available to stream on Eventive, including Lan Hong-Chun’s family drama Back to Love (2022), Xue Xiao-lu’s romantic comedy Embrace Again (2021) and Derek Kwok’s action flick Schemes in Antiques (2021).  Additionally, Japanese filmmaker Toshio Lee’s Struggling Man (2021) premieres online from 17 – 23 September 2022 on the festival’s streaming platform. 

Image still from China’s Van Goghs (2016, dir. Haibo Yu and Kiki Tianqi Yu)

CathayPlay Collection: 4 Documentaries on China’s Working Class

Navigating China’s rapid economic and social changes, 4 documentaries detail the struggles of an alienated Chinese working class, illuminating the painstaking ordeals they endured in pursuit of a better life. From coal miners, and factory workers to mimicry painters, watch the critically acclaimed China’s Van Goghs (2016) by Haibo Yu & Kiki Tianqi Yu, Lin Xin’s Sanlidong (2007), Yifan Li’s We were Smart (2019) and Fang Liang’s Factory Boy (2014) on CathayPlay with a subscription. 

Image still from Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue (2020, dir. Jia Zhangke)

Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue (2020) by Jia Zhangke

In his evocative new documentary, China’s foremost auteur Jia Zhangke chronicles a literary festival in his hometown Shanxi, weaving a wide-ranging and discursive tapestry of testimonies about the drastic changes in the country’s cultural scene since the 1950s. Interviewing three prominent authors, Jia Pingwa, Yu Hua and Liang Hong, Jia employs personal memory and oral history to convey his nation’s tumultuous past. Available to stream on MUBI

To hear the director’s personal take on the making of his documentary, watch Film at Lincoln Center’s Q&A with Jia Zhangke on YouTube

Image still from The Island at the End of the World (2004, dir. Raya Martin)

Necessary Fictions: Negotiating Realities in Post-national Philippine Documentaries

Handpicked by Filipino curator Merv Espina in collaboration with the Taiwan International Documentary Festival, this online programme showcases 17 films spanning 40 years of Philippine cinematic history, delivering an extensive and diverse impression of independent Filipino films and filmmakers. Narratives from the formative animator-filmmaker Roxlee’s The Great Smoke (1984) and ABCD (1985) together with contemporary documentaries Adjani Arumpac’s War Is a Tender Thing (2013) and Raya Martin’s The Island at the End of the World (2004) are available to stream on DAFilms with a subscription. 

Image still from A Rifle and a Bag (2020, dir. Arya Rothe, Isabella Rinaldi and Cristina Hane)

A Window Into New Indian Cinema

MUBI unravels a special programme that delves into the works of India’s emerging independent filmmakers, especially female identities traversing through the personal-political turmoils of class hierarchies and systemic injustices. Two films, Arya Rothe, Isabella Rinaldi & Cristina Hane’s A Rifle and A Bag (2020) and Alisha Tejpal’s Lata (2020), helm the programme. Watch both films on MUBI with a subscription. 

For a panoramic repository on Indian Cinema, MUBI Notebook’s Primer breaks down the essential movements, figures, films and genres in Indian film history.

Image still from Mississippi Masala (1991, dir. Mira Nair)

Love and Apocalypse: Mississippi Masala and Fresh Kill

Straddling two diametrically opposed identities in this electrifying double-bill, the British-Indian Sarita Choudhury debuts as an alluring doting lover opposite Denzel Washington in Mira Nair’s passionate interracial romance Mississippi Masala (1991) and plays an unconventional lesbian mother in Shu Lea Cheang’s experimental eco-satire Fresh Kill (1994). Stream this eccentric pair of early-1990s showpieces by Asian American women filmmakers on the Criterion Channel. Catch Mississippi Masala in person at AFA

Image still from A Nice Arrangement (1990, dir. Gurinder Chadha)

Directed by Gurinder Chadha

A key figure for championing stories of the South Asian diaspora in British cinema, Gurinder Chadha wrestles with complex questions of race and identity through incisive short documentaries and wryly humorous narrative films. These films include I’m British But… (1989), A Nice Arrangement (1990), Acting Our Age (1992) and What Do You Call an Indian Woman Who’s Funny? (1994), all streaming on the Criterion Channel

Image still from Revenge (1989, dir. Ermek Shinarbayev)

Revenge (1989) by Ermek Shinarbayev

Quietly haunting, Ermek Shinarbayev’s Kazakh New Wave masterpiece grapples with the cultural displacement of the Korean diaspora in Central Asia. A tale of obsession, violence and destruction, Revenge is a searing 8-part narrative that unpacks the vicious cycles of generational trauma. Catch this beautifully restored Kazakh classic on MUBI

Image still from Georgia (2020, dir. Jayil Pak)

Georgia (2020) by Jayil Pak: The Cost of Justice in the Aftermath of Tragedy

Winner of the Best Short Film at the Busan International Film Festival, Georgia (2020) draws on the infamous Miryang tragedy and critically comments on the failure of South Korea’s justice system to protect rape victims and minors. Told through the lens of a victim’s parents, the short film is a harrowing reflection on the aftermath of sexual abuse and the lingering pain felt by the victim’s loved ones. Watch the short on The New Yorker for free.  

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

Video Essay: The Importance of RRR (2022)

As S. S. Rajamouli’s RRR (2022) takes the global audience by storm in theatrical box offices and on Netflix, Accented Cinema deconstructs the film’s sweeping success, from the significance of  Telugu-language “Tollywood” film industry to its cataclysmic impact in propelling films from South India to an international platform. Eschewing the troubling political controversies underlying the film, this video essay gives a brief overview of the film’s cinematography and production value. For a more comprehensive analysis of the film, filmmaker Siddhant Adlakha and video essayist Patrick Willems assess the film’s cultural and political contexts in their video essay.

Image still from Easter Sunday (2022, dir. Jay Chandrasekhar)

 Around the Table: The Cast of Easter Sunday on Asian Representation

“It’s been a long road to get to where we are for our story to be front and centre.” Entertainment Weekly’s Around the Table sits down with the cast and crew of Easter Sunday, a television series written and directed by Asian-Americans with a cast of Filipino-Americans about a dysfunctional Filipino-American family gathering on Easter Sunday. Watch the stars Jo Koy, Lou Diamond Phillips, Lydia Gaston and Tia Carrere share their personal accounts of pushing Asian representation on screen on Youtube.  


The Film Comment Podcast: The Future of Attention with Kevin B. Lee

An experimental initiative conceived at Locarno Film Festival 2022, ‘The Future of Attention’ is a 24-hour talk show featuring new guests hourly. In this podcast, filmmaker and critic Kevin B. Lee rounds up the event with moderator and Film Comment editor Devika Girish on how cinematic time shapes and captures audience attention. 

Image still from Kummatty (1979, dir. G. Aravindan)

Film Comment Podcast: Restoration and Preservation

Critic and media conservator Ina Archer and founder of Film Heritage Foundation Shivendra Singh Dungarpur speak to Film Comment editors Clinton Krute and Devika Girish about the painstaking and provocative work of bringing new life to endangered and underseen cinema. Elaborating on their recent preservation projects, Dungarpur breaks down two major restoration works on Indian filmmaker Govindan Aravindan’s poetic masterpieces Kummatty (1979) and Thampu (1978). 

Image still from Reassemblage (1982, dir. Trinh T. Minh-ha)

No Master Territories Podcast: Cinema and Everyday Resistance & Trinh T. Minh-ha’s Reassemblage (1982) 

In a conversation between artist-filmmaker Laura Huertas Millán and Vietnamese filmmaker Trinh T. Min-ha, the two discuss Trinh’s most recent work What About China? (2022) and her 1982 film Reassemblage. Broaching the complex sensitivities of ethnographic encounters, Trinh provides recourse for documentary filmmakers to approach difficult subject matters and capture delicate cultural phenomena on screen. 

Compose in Focus: Eiko Ishibashi

Best known for her soft-spun bittersweet scores in Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s highly celebrated drama Drive My Car (2021), Japanese songwriter and composer Eiko Ishibashi shares her favourite melodies, ranging from folk, jazz, avant-garde compositions and more. The full soundtrack for Drive My Car composed by Ishibashi can be found on Bandcamp


Image still from All That Breathes (2022, dir. Shaunak Sen)

Senses of Cinema Issue 102 – Bird, Planet, Cinema: The Living Bodies of Shaunak Sen’s All that Breathes

Senses of Cinema, in its newest issue, presents film scholar Alicia Brynes’ thorough analysis of Shaunak Sen’s eco-political documentary All That Breathes (2022). For further reading, the Guardian’s journalist Saptarshi Ray dissects the film’s backdrop, set against Delhi’s heavily-polluted and overwrought political climate. 

Image still from Free Chol Soo Lee (2022, dir. Julie Ha and Eugene Yi)

Free Chol Soo Lee charts the rise of a community and the toll racism took on one man

Reviewing Julie Ha & Eugene Yi’s latest documentary Free Chol Soo Lee (2022), Los Angeles Times writer Robert Abele chronicles the systemic oppressions embedded within America’s justice institutions that precipitated the wrongful conviction of an innocent Korean immigrant. BFI’s Sight and Sound film critic Matthew Eng examines Ha and Yi’s nuanced approaches to telling Chol’s narrative, barrelling into larger conversations about equality, xenophobia and racism. 

The film will be screened online on 26 October 2022 by the International Documentary Association on their website

Image still from Pachinko (2021)

Emotional History: Pachinko Creator and Showrunner Soo Hugh

For Filmmaker Magazine, writer Jesse Pasternack appraises Korean-American showrunner Soo Hugh and her indelible creation of the Apple TV+ series Pachinko, offering insight into Hugh’s methodical approach to writing and directing for television. Elsewhere, IndieWire’s film critic A.E. Hunt elucidates the struggles behind world-building and sourcing locations for the production of a large-scale epic like Pachinko.

Image still from Return to Seoul (2022, dir. Davy Chou)

“Resistance is the driving force of the film”: An Interview with Davy Chou

“This teenage spirit of saying “no” to absolutely everything is much more playful and also true to the reality of such root-searching trips.” Speaking to Cambodian-French director Davy Chou after the Cannes premiere of his third full-length feature Return to Seoul (2022), film journalist Maja Korbecka untangles the director’s desire to subvert audience expectations of typical adoption narratives and their search for ‘home’, asserting that rebellion against categorization was the crux of his story.

Image still from Badmaash Company (2010, dir. Parmeet Sethi)

“Maangta Hai Kya?”: How Hindi Films Saw Liberalisation

Reviving public discourse on the seminal 1991 economic reforms in India that swept the nation, The 1991 Project veers its focus on how these governmental policies impacted the Bombay film industry, heralding what would be known as the world’s largest film industry, “Bollywood”. 

Image still from Jihad Rehab (2022, dir. Meg Smaker)

“As a Muslim filmmaker, I want to tell my own story”: Assia Boundaoui on Jihad Rehab at Sundance

“The showing of this film hurt members of our community.” The premiere of Meg Smaker’s controversial documentary Jihad Rehab (2022) sparked strands of discourse on the stereotypical representation of Muslim characters in cinema. Filmmaker and journalist Assia Bundaoui outlines the barriers and glass ceilings that prevent misrepresented communities, Black Muslim women, queer South Asians and Arab Christians, from telling their own stories. 

Image still from Lady Snowblood (1973, dir. Toshiya Fujita)

Why Meiko Kaji’s cult characters are still subversive in their strength

Revisiting the fascinating career of 1970s Japanese action star Meiko Kaji, Little White Lies critic Sam Moore traces her most famous roles within the exploitation film franchises Stray Cat Rock, Female Prisoner #701: Scorpion and Lady Snowblood, offering to re-evaluate her rebellious edge and fiercely muted performances against the genre’s gender politics and power imbalances. To supplement and critically contextualise the film texts, consider Ben Lambert’s analysis of Kaji’s expressive ferocities while wrestling with the Japanese ‘pink’ film industry in MUBI Notebook.

Image still from Woman in the Dunes (1964, dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara)

Head in the sand: the ending of Woman of the Dunes

Writing for BFI Sight & Sound’s column, Violet Lucca reassesses the closing of Hiroshi Teshigahara’s Japanese New Wave classic Woman in the Dunes (1964), positing a more cynical evaluation of the film’s ending than previous generations of critics especially when confronted with the contemporary woes of climate change and the repeal of voting and abortion rights. 

Image still from Hard-Boiled (1992, dir. John Woo)

Heroic Bloodshed: John Woo on Action with a Beating Heart

Film critic Katie Rife converses with the legendary Hong Kong action film director John Woo at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival where he shares his inspirations, filmmaking philosophy as well as the most dangerous stunt of his career. 


Image still from The Raincoat Killer (2021) from Netflix

The Raincoat Killer (2021) Netflix Screening & Q&A with Jessica Lee

Happening on 25 September 2022, Elsewhere Cinema Club will be hosting a Q&A with Jessica Lee, the producer of the Netflix true crime documentary The Raincoat Killer: Chasing a Predator in Korea (2021) to discuss the production of the documentary, the unrelenting global fascination with the true crime genre and the ethical responsibilities of storytelling in the genre. Register for the Q&A on their website

Trafficking Data: How China is Winning the Battle for Digital Sovereignty

On 23 September 2022, Asian Cinema Research Lab hosts a joint webinar series in collaboration with Lingnan University’s Centre for Film and Creative Industries, spotlighting media scholar Aynne Kokas’ new book on how digital media and data from social media to streaming platforms can be used for political gain. Free with registration. 

Korean Cinema in Global Contexts: Post-Colonial Phantom, Blockbuster and Trans-Cinema

Held over zoom on 2 October 2022, the Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Society presents film scholar Soyoung Kim’s latest book on global encounters of Korean Cinema and the transnational approaches to understanding the growing popularity of Korean blockbuster films. Together with film scholars Chris Berry, Joseph Jonghyun Jeon, Meghan Morris, Audrey Yue and Earl Jackson, catch Soyoung’s book launch free with registration


Call for Feature Films: 52nd International Film Festival Rotterdam

One of the most prestigious film festivals that spotlights strong Asian voices, the International Film Festival Rotterdam is accepting feature films for consideration in its competitive programmes. The deadline for submissions is 4 October 2022. Read the full rules and regulations here.

Call for Pitches: Asia TV Forum & Market

Exploring the latest trends in media and business industry leaders, the Asia TV Forum & Market is accepting projects for their pitching sessions to give producers various opportunities for financing their projects. The deadline for the animation and formats pitch is 9 October 2022. The full rules and regulations can be found in the links respectively.

Call for Submissions: 20th Mindanao Film Festival

One of the oldest regional festivals in the Philippines, the Mindanao Film Festival (Philippines) is accepting short and feature film submissions. The deadline for submissions is 7 October 2022. Guidelines can be found here.

3rd Calcutta International Short Film Festival

The Calcutta International Short Film Festival is accepting short film submissions until 30 September 2022.  Full guidelines are available here.

Call for Short Films: 20th CineMapúa Film Festival

Organised by students from the School of Media Studies (SMS) in Mapúa University, CineMapúa Film Festivals is calling for student short film submissions worldwide. The deadline for submissions is 30 September 2022. Guidelines can be found here.

This edition of the digest was compiled by Jolie Fan

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