Asian Cinema Digest #3

As we enter the halfway mark for the year, the world seems to be brimming with possibilities and yet riddled with strife. While some cinemas around the world carefully reopen, with new measures in place, it might take a while for normalcy to resume. When the present feels tentative, we can look to the past to bring us comfort and security. 

In this edition of the digest, we encounter the history of Asian cinema in delightful new ways – from a Youtube playlist of rare Chinese classics, to the discovery of never-before-seen artifacts by the late Satyajit Ray and Abbas Kiarostami. This month we have also included a new section of sonic recommendations featuring the well-loved soundtracks of Studio Ghibli and Ryuichi Sakamoto as well as a special podcast commemorating the 20th anniversary of Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon


Asian Film Archive Presents: Rewired 

Although Oldham Theatre is temporarily closed due to COVID-19, the AFA team will continue to engage audiences beyond the cinema space. Rewired is a new platform for AFA’s upcoming online programmes. Whose House is This? launches the season in June with a showcase of some of the boldest contemporary films from Central Asia. The programme will be available on VOD basis from 19 June – 16 July. More information to follow on 

From the Asian Film Archive Collection: Pinoy Sunday (2009) 

A heartwarming comedy about the day in the life of two Filipino migrant workers in Taipei, Pinoy Sunday, is the debut feature of Taiwan-based Malaysian director Wi Ding Ho, winning him the Best New Director Award at the 47th Golden Horse Awards. 

In 2010 Ho donated the original picture and sound negatives to the AFA for preservation. The film was then selected for the Asia Film Digitisation Project, and the film elements were digitised by the Korean Film Archive in 2018. It made its online premiere on Netflix on 5 June 2020. 

Singaporean Documentaries Presented by The Projector 

Independent cinema The Projector is featuring two films that delve into unconventional sides of Singapore. The Last Artisan (2018) by Craig McTurk and Singapore GaGa (2006) by Tan Pin Pin are available on VOD for a limited time. Available for viewing in Singapore only.

Documentary Club Presents: The Cruelty and the Soy-Sauce Man

Bangkok-based Documentary Club is screening this critically-acclaimed Thai indie classic from the year 2000 on VOD. 

Korean Cultural Centre UK (KCCUK) Presents: Jiseul (2012) 

Based on the true story of a group of villagers during the Jeju uprising of the late 1940s, Jiseul won many international awards including the World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. 

Oh Lucy! (2017), directed by Atsuko Hirayanagi

New Asian Films by Anticipate Pictures and HAL

Indie distributors Anticipate Pictures (Singapore) and HAL Distribution (Thailand) have put up more of their library titles on VOD, including a diverse range of new Asian films:

  • Capernaum (2018), Dir: Nadine Labaki  [Available only in Indonesia & Singapore]
  • Cats Don’t Come When You Call (2016), Dir: Toru Yamamoto [Available only in Thailand]
  • City of Ghosts (2017), Dir: Matthew Heineman [Available only in Singapore] 
  • Harmonium (2016), Dir: Koji Fukada [Available only in Thailand]
  • Neko Ninja (2017), Dir: Takeshi Watanabe [Available only in Thailand]
  • Oh Lucy! (2017), Dir: Atsuko Hirayanagi [Available only in Singapore]

Documentary Feature: From Victoria Street to Ang Mo Kio 

The online premiere of Singaporean documentarian Eva Tang’s (Songs we Sang) latest film is a commissioned project that explores the history of Singapore’s first Catholic missionary school for Chinese girls.  

Before We Fall in Love Again (2006), the first in James Lee’s trilogy

James Lee’s Love Trilogy 

One of the key figures of Malaysian New Wave Cinema, James Lee’s acclaimed feature films Before We Fall in Love Again (2006), Things We Do When We Fall in Love (2007) and, Waiting for Love (2007)  – collectively known as the Love Trilogy have been made available via the filmmaker himself. 

Asian Artist Moving Image Platform (AAMP) Presents: Projections 

Projections is an online screening platform of curatorial programs for moving images from international artists and filmmakers. The current programme will be presented in three parts from 5 June – 5 July 2020 by Asian artist-curators, Nguyen Trinh Thi (Vietnam), Shireen Seno (Philippines), John Torres (Philippines) and Sung Nam Han (South Korea/Japan).

Singapore Art Museum (SAM) Presents: Stay Home Shorts

The first in a new online film series by SAM, this edition is themed around issues of hope and family, featuring works by Singapore artists: Tan Siang Yu, Tan Wei Keong, Clara Gan, and Shen Jiahui. Films will be available to view from 19 Jun 2020, 12pm (SGT) –  21 Jun 2020, 11.59pm (SGT)

Nguyen Trinh Thi’s short film for Cut it Out

Cut it Out: Films Against Censorship

An initiative by the Goethe-Institut in 2019, 20 directors from the world were tasked to create short films not longer than 45 seconds as a sign of solidarity with people in countries dealing with censorship and restrictions on freedom of expression. The Asian filmmakers in the lineup include Pimpaka Towira (Thailand), Fan Popo (China), Edwin (Indonesia), Shireen Seno (Philippines), and Nguyen Trinh Thi (Vietnam). 

The Goddess (1934) directed by Wu Yonggang

Chinese Film Classics 1920s-1940s

A Youtube playlist of 14 English-subtitled classic Chinese films has been made freely available by the Department of Asian Studies of the University of British Columbia.

Films Division (India) Youtube Channel

The main film arm of the Government of India, the Films Division has made available archival films, newsreels, experimental and animated short films from as early as the 1950s. 

Rebels of the Neon God (1992) directed by Tsai Ming-Liang, one of the films available on GagaOOLala

LGBTQ-focused streaming platform GagaOOLala

Launched in May 2020, the Taiwan-based subscription platform will feature queer Asian content including feature films and TV series.  

22nd Far East Film Festival (FEAFF) Goes Online

One of the largest Asian-focused film festivals outside of Asia, FEAFF which usually takes place in Udine, Italy, will adopt a fully digital form from 26 June – 2 July 2020. Virtual passes will be on sale from 8 June 2020 onwards. The complete lineup of the festival titles can be seen here

Walker Dialogues and Film Retrospective: The First Thirty Years

American institution Walker Arts Center has published never-before-seen interviews and masterclasses with film personalities dating back to the 1990s. These include heavyweight Asian directors such as Chen Kaige, Abbas Kiarostami, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Ang Lee and  Bong Joon Ho


Studio Ghibli Mix

Canadian DJ and producer Ciel cuts together her favourite Studio Ghibli soundtracks in this immersive playlist.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Double Bill 

The latest installment in MUBI’s ongoing series of film music mixes is dedicated to the legendary Ryuichi Sakamoto, featuring soundtracks from films such as Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983), Little Buddha (1993) and The Revenant (2015). 

Additionally, on 16 May 2020, Sakamoto himself uploaded a newly-recorded 100-minute concert entitled Playing the Piano for the Isolated with Shamisen player Hidejiro Honjoh, featuring new arrangements of his older music. 

Podcast: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon 20th Anniversary Discussion 

Founder of American film club, CineVerse, Erik Martin and Asian cinema scholar Kenneth Chan, reflect on the cultural impact and legacy of Ang Lee’s blockbuster classic. 


Article: Uncle Boonmee at 10

Leading Thai film critic Kong Rithdee looks back at the legacy of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Palme d’or winning film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2020. 

Article: India’s First Gay Film Resurfaces After Nearly 50 Years

Considered to be the first Indian film to depict a homosexual relationship, Badnam Basti (1971), thought to have been lost, was recently found in the archive of the Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art in Berlin. 

Article: Previously Unseen Satyajit Ray Memorabilia Found

During a spring cleaning effort under lockdown, a treasure trove of photos and letters belonging to the late Satyajit Ray have been found in Kolkata by Ray’s son and filmmaker Sandip Ray. 

Film posters for the film Utsav (1984), directed by Shashi Kapoor

Column: Jahan Singh Bakshi’s Top Ten Favorite Bollywood Posters

Mumbai-based cinephile and poster connoisseur selects and writes about the poster designs of Hindi classics such as Mother India (1957), Kaagaz Ke Phool (1957) and Guide Vijay Anand (1965), among others. 

The Viewing Booth (2020), the new film from Ra’anan Alexandrowicz

Interview: Ra’anan Alexandrowicz

Israeli documentary filmmaker, Ra’anan Alexandrowicz speaks with Film Comment and Reverse Shot on his provocative new film about the power of images in the digital age. 

Interview: A Slippage In Time: Ben Rivers and Anocha Suwichakornpong on Krabi 2562

British filmmaker Ben Rivers and Thai filmmaker Anocha Suwichakornpong’s collaborative new film is the subject of this interview by MUBI. 

Seven Samurai (1954), directed by Akira Kurosawa

Where to Begin with Akira Kurosawa

Coinciding with the British Film Institute’s Japan film season, this is a beginner’s guide to the films of Akira Kurosawa. 

I’ve Got Something to Say that Only You Children Would Believe —A Book Illustrated by Abbas Kiarostami

Iranian film curator Ehsan Khoshbakht unearthes a rare children’s publication from 1969, illustrated by the late Abbas Kiarostami, before he began his cinema career. The scanned PDF version can be downloaded here.

3-ACT Film Magazine

Started in 2018, 3-ACT is a triennial bilingual Burmese-English film magazine featuring critical writing about Burmese cinema. PDF versions of their past 4 issues are available here

Open Calls 

14th Five Flavours Asian Film Festival (FFAFF) 

An annual showcase of South and Southeast Asian cinema that happens in Warsaw, Poland, FFAFF is calling for feature film submissions. Slated to take place from 16-20 November 2020, the festival might either partly or fully go digital. 

TIFFCOM 2020 Tokyo Gap-Financing Market 

TIFFCOM 2020, the affiliated market of the Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), is announcing a Call for Projects for the first edition of the Tokyo Gap-Financing Market (TGFM), which will take place from 4-6 November 2020. Open to Japanese, Asian and international projects. Submission deadline is 1 July 2020.

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