Asian Cinema Digest #29

November is a treat for documentary lovers with a rich spread of online screenings including a collection of Taiwanese female-directed documentaries, a retrospective dedicated to a legendary Japanese activist documentary filmmaker and a filmography of anthropological observations and explorations through cinema. 

Additionally, there’s a celebration of bold experimentations with cinematic materials and apparatus, as evinced from a textual introduction to the restoration of South Korea’s feminist experimental film in the 1980s and two separate screenings of different artists’ moving images directed by a Lebanese artist-filmmaker and a Japanese video artist respectively. 


Song Kang-ho in A Taxi Driver (2017, dir. Jang Hoon)

Master’s Series Online: Actor Song Kang-ho

The Korean Cultural Center in New York spotlights one of Korea’s most well-known and revered actors, Song Kang-ho, whose wide-ranging roles spanning various genres have garnered critical acclaim from filmmakers and critics alike. Catch his powerful performances in Park Chan-Wook’s Joint Security Area (2000), Jang Hoon’s A Taxi Driver (2017) and Yang Woo-Seok’s The Attorney (2013) among many others online

Image still from Godzilla (1954, dir. Ishiro Honda)

Godzilla: The Showa-Era Films, 1954–1975

Straddling the kaiju eiga (monster-movie) genre that took the Japanese box office by storm in the 1950s to 1970s, Criterion showcases 14 fiercely entertaining sequels following the original Godzilla (1954) directed by Ishiro Honda. Over two decades during the Cold War, Godzilla reigned supreme in the monster horror genre of Japanese cinema, representing gripping anxieties of nuclear annihilation and ecological damage.

Image still from Melody Beyond Time (2022, dir. Lo I-Li)

All Asian Independent Film Festival 2022 Online Screenings

Supporting independent filmmakers throughout Asia, the All Independent Film Festival will be screening 38 films from 14 countries online and in Manila, including Taiwanese animator Lo I-li’s Melody Beyond Time (2022), Burmese filmmaker May Thyn Kyi’s Shifting Sands and Chinese experimental filmmaker Ivan Zhang’s Anna Bonna. Streaming with a fee on their website from 16 – 20 November 2022.

Image still from Spectrum of Nostalgia (2017, dir. Yi-Zhu Chen)

Taiwan Spectrum: Personal Cinema of Female Directors

Alongside Taiwan Docs, the Taiwan International Documentary Festival unravels a new retrospective of Taiwanese female filmmakers in the 1990s, whose works meditated upon personal experiences, memories and histories. Examining the concept of “the personal is political”, these documentaries contemplate the restraints and issues of the female body, motherhood, and erotic desire. Available online for free until 20 November 2022 and thereafter available via subscription on DaFilms

Image still from Video Portraits – Men: Issey Miyake (1982, dir. Kyoko Michishita)

Kyoko Michishita Online Screening

Curated by researcher and writer Jesse Cumming together with restorations provided by the artist-run distributor of video art VTape, Collaborative Cataloguing Japan highlights the work of artist, writer and translator Kyoko Michishita’s Video Portraits Series, in which she selects and interviews several Japanese cultural figures that subvert the long-standing ideals of machismo in Japanese society. Her early documentary works My Hometown trilogy and Being Women in Japan: Living with the Ocean will also be screened with a subscription on CCJ’s streaming platform

Image still from Memories for a Private Eye (2015, dir. Rania Stephan)

E-flux Staff Picks: Rania Stephan 

In November’s edition of E-flux’s staff picks, two films by Lebanese artist and filmmaker Rania Stephan are available to screen for free online. Primarily working with video art and creative documentaries, her two shorts Threshold (2018) and Memories for a Private Eye (2015) provide a glimpse into the artist’s eclectic approach to selecting material and working with narratives. 

Image still from Funeral Parade of Roses (1969, dir. Toshio Matsumoto)

Video Essay: The Essential Japanese Cinema 

Youtube content creators Lewis Michael Bond and Luiza Liz Bond from The Cinema Cartography introduce six essential themes that frame their understanding of Japanese cinema, from long-standing aesthetic traditions of Wabi-sabi (​​’flawed beauty’) to subgenres of mainstream horror such as Guro (‘gore’).  

A Window into New Indian Cinema: The Gold-Laden Sheep & the Sacred Mountain (2018) by Ridham Janve

Newly released by MUBI as part of their ongoing series A Window into New Indian Cinema, Ridham Janve’s debut feature The Gold-Laden Sheep & the Sacred Mountain is a mystical exploration of the Himalayan landscape spoken in Gaddi, the dialect of a nomadic Himalayan tribe. Atmospheric and Immersive, catch this independent masterpiece online with a subscription.

Image still from Lady Vengeance (2005, dir. Park Chan-wook)

Metrograph At Home: Park Chan Wook’s Vengeance Trilogy 

Revisiting the celebrated South Korean auteur Park Chan-Wook’s Revenge Trilogy, Metrograph is now streaming Sympathy for Mr Vengeance (2002) and Lady Vengeance (2005) with a subscription. 

Image still from Inland Sea (2018, dir. Kazuhiro Soda)

Directed by Kazuhiro Soda 

Newly released on DaFilms is the powerfully humanist filmography of Japanese observational filmmaker Kazuhiro Soda. His approach follows the director’s self-devised ‘Ten Commandments’ of observational filmmaking resulting in documentaries filled with complex characters that extend a curious authenticity. Catch his most important works starting with Campaign (2007), Campaign 2 (2013) and Inland Sea (2018). 

Image still from A Yangtze Landscape (2017, dir. Xu Xin)

CathayPlay’s Anthropologic Documentaries

CathayPlay introduces its latest collection of documentary films informed by an anthropological lens, ethnographically profiling Asia’s urban and rural landscapes. Sourced from rich and diverse oral histories, these films include J.P. Sniadecki’s Demolition (2008), Yu Guangyi’s Immortals in the Village (2017) and Xu Xin’s A Yangtze Landscape (2017). Available on CathayPlay with a subscription. 


Image still from Mama’s Affair (2022, dir. Kearen Pang)

Hong Kong On Screen Podcast: SDAFF with Brian Hu

Exploring the selection of Hong Kong films in the 23rd edition of the San Diego Asian Film Festival, Hong Kong On Screen speaks to the festival’s artistic director Brian Hu on the processes of encountering legendary Hong Kong films and their popularity among festival goers.

Image still from Farewell My Concubine (1993)

EasternKicks Podcast: Cindy Yu on Chinese Cinema 

“Is Chinese cinema in decline?” EasternKicks Editor Andrew Heskins joins film writer Cindy Yu on The Spectator’s podcast to discuss the rise of the Chinese cinematic industry and its current predicaments given the socio-political milieu in China amidst the Pandemic.  

Image still from The Dead, The Day After (2019, dir. Asio Liu)

Taiwan On-Air: Film Chat with director Asio Liu

Hosting this podcast, film scholar Lara Momesso interviews Taiwanese movie director Asio Liu on his recent projects including an exploration of Vietnamese boat refugees who landed on the coast of Penghu, Taiwan and Liu’s take on the regional phenomenon. 

Asian Cinema Film Club: Zhang Yimou’s Curse of the Golden Flower

In this podcast, the Asian Cinema Film Club examines Zhang Yimou’s wuxia epic Curse of the Golden Flower (2006) based on the classic Chinese play “Thunderstorm”. Starring legendary Hong Kong actor Chow Yun Fat, renowned Chinese actress Gong Li and Taiwanese pop singer Jay Chou, the film is a thrilling historical drama with a diverse cast of characters.

Heroic Purgatory Podcast: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives 

Deciphering Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s critically acclaimed film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives (2010), Heroic Purgatory discusses the Palme D’or winning film, its cryptic animist imageries, the immersive acoustic soundscapes and the auteur’s illustrious career. 


Image still from Jirtdan (1969, dir. Aghanaghi Akhundov and Yalchin Efendiyev)

Falling through rugs: Jirtdan and the rediscovery of Azerbaijani animation

The recent rediscovery and restoration of the 1969 short Jirtdan, long presumed lost, has prompted fresh interest in the history of Azerbaijani animation. In this article, filmmaker and founder of the ANIMAFILM International Animation Festival Rashid Aghamaliyev together with film historian Daniel Bird considers the film’s magical qualities and engagement with national folkloric traditions. 

The newly restored animation Jirtdan (1969) is currently streaming on Klassiki with a subscription. 

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

The Inclusions and Occlusions of Expanded Refugee Narratives: A Dialogue on Flee 

In a new volume of Film Quarterly, film scholars Wazhmah Osman and Karen Redrobe investigate the storytelling conventions of the award-winning animated documentary Flee (2021) and the hierarchies of power involved with the perspectives that are being privileged.

Image still from The Middle Dog Days (1974, dir. Han Okhi.)

South Korean Feminist Film Collective Kaidu Club’s Experimental Shorts

Accompanying Harvard Film Archive’s programme featuring the historic films of Han Okhi and Kaidu Club, curator Hannah Baek gives an overview of Korea’s first feminist film collective Kaidu Club and their spectacular experimental approach to filmmaking. Spotlighting the collective’s founder Hanaa Okhi’s pioneering contribution to South Korean women’s cinema, the introduction uncovers her key shorts including Hole (1974), 2minutes40seconds (1975) and Color of Korea (1976). 

Chess of the Wind: The Glorious Miniature of an Upheaval

A daring yet lesser-known Iranian New Wave masterpiece, Mohammad Reza Aslani’s Chess of the Wind was unjustly criticised when it first premiered at the fifth Tehran International Film Festival. In defence of the film’s ambiguity, Criterion writer Ehsan Khooshbakht asserts that Aslani’s rich use of language and austere control of the luscious mise-en-scene establishes a harmonious confluence of East and West, past and present. 

Mamoru Oshii’s Angel’s Egg (1985): The Punishment of Blind Pursuits

Brimming with creative freedom and bold experimentation, the rising popularity of Japanese animation in the 1980s was helmed by animator-filmmakers Mamoru Oshii, Yoshitaka Amano and Katsuhiro Otomo among others. Yet, the intensely allegorical and meditative animation Angel’s Egg directed by Mamoru Oshii remains singularly esoteric and unknown. Film critic Danielle Burgos writes for Screen Slate on the film’s trajectory in the 1980s Japanese animation landscape. 

One Second: a heartfelt but compromised vision

“What we’re seeing is not exactly the film Zhang made.” At Sight and Sound, film critic Tony Rayns breaks down Zhang Yimou’s third adaptation of a work by Chinese novelist Ge Ling Yan One Second (2020). Outlining Zhang’s personal experience during the Cultural Revolution, the film was removed from competition at the Berlinale for criticising the Chinese government. The resulting film screened was a compromised vision of Zhang’s true intentions. 

One Second (2020) is available to stream on MUBI

Image still from Music of Satyajit Ray (1984, dir. Utpalendu Chakrabarty)

A Single Dewdrop: The Pleasures of “Satyajit Ray: Miscellany”

Commonly known for his distinguished contributions to India’s Parallel Cinema, Satyajit Ray was also a prolific writer with wide-ranging works across film criticism, festival notes and biographies on eminent film personalities. Film writer Arun A.K. analyses a newly published volume containing all of Satyajit Ray’s written corpus titled Satyajit Ray: Miscellany—On Life, Cinema, People, & Much More

A Collapsing World: An Interview With Bi Gan

On the Metrograph Journal, critic and programmer Jordan Cronk interviews the Chinese filmmaker Bi Gan on his new dreamlike short A Short Story (2022) and breakthrough feature Long Day’s Journey into Night (2018). Among a new generation of Chinese filmmakers, Bi Gan experiments with the spatiotemporal boundaries of the cinematic medium and 3D technology. 

Long Day’s Journey into Night (2018) is currently streaming on Metrograph

The Persuasive Potency of “Decision to Leave

The New Yorker’s critic Anthony Lane reviews Park Chan-wook’s gripping tale of romance and crime Decision to Leave (2022), commenting on the stark departure of Park’s usual violent excess in his previous films. Over at Art Forum, researcher Phoebe Chen tackles the many twists and pivotal reveals embedded within Park’s thriller-romance. Elsewhere, author Imogen Sara Smith writes for Film Comment, delving into the narrative’s use of contemporary technologies as a symbol of surveillance and connection. 

Image still from Minamata: The Victims and Their World (1971, Noriaki Tsuchimoto)

From Televisual Didacticism to Revolutionary Action

Accompanying Museum of the Moving Image’s retrospective dedicated to legendary Japanese documentarian Noriaki Tsuchimoto, Matt Turner profiles the prolific filmmaker’s career and his rarely-screened politically charged works. Often committed to themes of student activism and environmental rights, his most important works include Exchange Student Chua Swee Lin (1965), Prehistory of the Partisans (1969) and Minamata: The Victims and Their World (1971). 

For further reading, Sabzian published from their archives an interview with Tsuchimoto in 1971. 

Image still from He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Father (1993, dir. Peter Chan)

Hong Kong Film History in Digital Media

Newly launched by Lingnan University’s Centre for Film and Creative Industries Director Emilie Yeh and Affiliate Fellow Stephanie Ng, 10 short essays and 2 videos of pre-war Hong Kong film history have been published on their latest digital humanities site. 


Edinburgh Film Education Journal: Winter Symposium 2022 – Decolonising Cinematography

On 24 November 2022, Edinburgh Film Research Center celebrates the launch of the new issue of the Film Education Journal with an online talk on the subject of Decolonising Cinematography. Hosted by Taiwanese-British writer and lecturer Yu-Lun Sung, the webinar addresses diversifying aesthetic traditions beyond Eurocentric practices and calls for the decolonisation of established educational practices. Free with registration


Call for Papers: NYU Cinema Studies Student Conference

The Cinema Studies Student Conference at New York University invites graduate students to submit their projects that engage with the theme of “After After” – a generative and affirmative approach towards the study of cinema and media. The deadline for papers is 15 December 2022. More information on eligibility can be found here

Call for Papers: Senses of Cinema Issue 105

Foregrounding alternative distribution and grassroots aspirations, Senses of Cinema is accepting proposals for a dossier on Cinema and Piracy, to be featured in Issue 105 of the journal. The deadline for proposals is 30 November 2022. More information can be found here.

Call for Submissions; 18th Osaka Asian Film Festival

Promoting Osaka worldwide as a gateway city for Asian films, the 18th Osaka Asian Film Festival is currently accepting submissions for features and shorts. The deadline for submissions is 28 November 2022. Rules and regulations can be found here.

Call for Submissions: 18th Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival

Recognised as Asia’s first international documentary film festival, The Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (Japan) is accepting documentaries for their International Competition section. The deadline for submissions is 15 December 2022. Learn about their rules and regulations here.

Call for Submissions: 18th DisOrient – Asian American Film Festival

Celebrating the richness and breadth of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander stories and voices, DisOrient Asian American Film Festival is accepting films until 16 December 2022. The full rules and regulations can be found here.

Call for Submissions: 25th UK Asian Film Festival

The longest-running South Asian film festival, the UK Asian Film Festival (UKAFF) is accepting submissions to showcase the work of emerging and established filmmakers in South Asian cinema. The deadline for film submissions is 16 December 2022. Rules and regulations can be found here.

This edition of the digest was compiled by Jolie Fan

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