Asian Cinema Digest #30

December’s edition wraps up 2022 with a slate of films and documentaries that foreground women’s long-standing struggle for political freedom, social-realist dramas by acclaimed political filmmakers and retrospectives of iconic Filipino independent filmmakers Kidlat Tahimik and Mike de Leon.

Riding on international trends, The World Cup makes its way on-screen with two streaming collections dedicated to the sport. 


Image still from Dryads in a Snow Valley (2016, dir. Shiegeru Kobayashi)

JFF+ Independent Cinema Free Online Screenings

Streaming from 15 December 2022 – 15 June 2023, The Japan Foundation spotlights 12 independent Japanese films curated by the managers of six independent theatres in Japan, each contributing a unique perspective that shaped Japan’s film culture. Catch the films for free online including Kobayashi Shigeru’s Dryads in a Snow Valley (2016), Maeda Yuki’s Wonderwall: The Movie (2021) and Okuda Yusuke’s Somebody’s Flowers (2021). 

Image still from Taxi (2015, dir. Jafar Panahi)

Iranian Cinema in the New Century and 3 Films by Jafar Panahi

Despite being stymied by state censorship and restrictions, contemporary Iranian filmmakers forge on to create formally daring and socially perceptive stories. Over at Metrograph, Mohammed Rasoulof’s Manuscripts Don’t Burn (2013) and Jafar Panahi’s This is Not A Film (2011), 3 Faces (2018) and Taxi (2015) are available to stream with a subscription. Likewise, The Criterion Channel foregrounds three of Jafar Panahi’s most beloved films, including The White Balloon (1995), The Mirror (1997) and Offside (2006). 

Image still from Radiograph of a Family (2020, dir. Firouzeh Khosrovani)

Docunight Presents: Iranian Women’s Stories

In a similar vein of celebrating Iranian cinema, documentary streaming platform Docunight curates for the Criterion Channel, four piercing works by female Iranian filmmakers that examine and dismantle stifling gender roles in their society. By focusing their lens on women with formidable careers in martial arts, business and filmmaking, these documentaries prove the mettle of women’s everyday struggles against social stigma and cultural restrictions. 

Image still from The Silent Majority Speaks (2010, dir. Bani Khoshnoudi)

Films From Iran For Iran

Further extending the conversation on Iranian cinema, Another Gaze brings together a multitude of diaspora and non-diaspora voices speaking across gender, sexuality and generations. The programme showcases a wide-ranging series of films by women and non-binary filmmakers made from 1979 to the present that stand in protest against state-sanctioned violence and incarceration. Catch all 12 films for free including Iranian Women’s Liberation Movement: Year Zero (1973), Bani Khoshnoudi’s The Silent Majority Speaks (2010) and Gelare Khoshgozaran’s Royal Debris (2022) online on Another Screen through 4 January 2022.

Accompanying the programme and spurred by the current revolutionary desires in their society, Iranian artists Pegah Pasalr, Katayoon Barzegar and Niloufar Nematollahi’s essay interrogate Western commodification of the Kurdish slogan Jin, Jiyan, Azadi (Woman, Life, Freedom) by art institutions that dilute its genuine cause and serve to reproduce western institutional dominance. 

Image still from Aoluguya, Aoluguya (2007, dir. Gu Tao)

Chinese Urbanisation Documentary Week: Free Online Screenings

For China Urbanization Documentary Film Week, CathayPlay is streaming 14 independent documentary films that chart China’s urban transformation over the past two decades. Straddling themes of displacement, relocation and demolition, these documentaries share the heartfelt stories of nomads, villagers and indigenous people caught in the web of rapid urbanisation. Catch Gu Tao’s Aoluguya, Aoluguya (2007), Yu Jian & Zhu Xiaoyang’s Homeland (2009) and Qi Bo’s Rural Women (2022) among others for free on CathayPlay until 25 December 2022.

Image still from Latifah and Himli’s Nomadic Uncle (1992, dir. Alnoor Dewshi)

Cinema of Ideas: Repetition as Differentiation via Latifah and Himli’s Nomadic Uncle Online Screening

Curated by writer and researcher Jemma Desai, Cinema of Ideas presents South Asian filmmaker Alnoor Dewshi’s short film Latifah and Himli’s Nomadic Uncle and critically considers how repetition in film programming precipitates new discoveries and encounters. Available to stream online for free until 20 December 2022. 

Image still from I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (2006, dir. Tsai Ming-Liang)

The Pursuit of a Cinematic Dream: Tsai Ming-Liang

In this 14-minute interview, critically acclaimed Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang reflects on his personal relationship to film and discusses his visions for the future of cinema. With eleven feature films in his oeuvre, Tsai deliberates on the origins of his craft and its prospects moving forward. Catch the interview on TaiwanPlus.

Image still from Nayak: The Hero (1966, dir. Satyajit Ray)

Sarita Choudhury’s Closet Picks

Mississippi Masala co-star Sarita Choudhury stocks up on films she cherishes at the Criterion Collection’s DVD closet, including Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story (1953), Satyajit Ray’s Nayak: The Hero (1966) and The Big City (1963).

Image still from Perfumed Nightmare (1977, dir. Kidlat Tahimik)

Kidlat Tahimik Retrospective: Who Invented the Yo-Yo? Who Invented Kidlat Tahimik?

Known as a pioneer of independent Filipino films and third cinema, a complete retrospective of legendary filmmaker Kidlat Tahimik is presented by DAFilms, featuring his eclectic works spanning 1977 to the present day. Catch his debut feature Perfumed Nightmare (1977), Who Invented the Yo-Yo? Who Invented the Moon Buggy? (1982) and Balikbayan #1 Memories of Overdevelopment Redux VI (2017) among others with a subscription to DAFilms. 

E-Flux Screening Room: Shotgun Tuding (2014) by Shireen Seno

Streaming on e-flux until 15 December 2022, Filipino artist-filmmaker Shireen Seno’s Shotgun Tuding (2014) is a unique blend of the American western genre and Filipino action-comedy entertainment termed “pancit western”. Curated as part of Julian Ross’ online program Takeover, Seno’s film subverts expectations of the Western genre and imbues personal histories into its conventions. Watch the film online for free on e-flux

Image still from Shaolin Soccer (2001, dir. Stephen Chow)

 The Beautiful Game: International Football Films and The Cup (1999) by Khyentse Norbu 

As the Japanese and Korean national teams took the world by surprise at the 2022 FIFA World Cup with their incredible spirit and accomplishment, MUBI and the Criterion Channel revisit prominent Asian films about football and sports spectatorship that capture the unwavering essence of football culture. From Tibetian and Shaolin monks that bring spiritual awakening and kungfu on the field in The Cup (1999) and Shaolin Soccer (2001), to stories of women who risk everything to participate in Offside (2006) and Freedom Fields (2018). Catch these films online with a subscription. 

Fundamentally Happy (2015) by Lei Yuan Bin & Tan Bee Thiam 

MUBI’s special collection titled Singapore New Wave Auteur resurfaces a socially contentious film Fundamentally Happy (2015) by Singapore filmmakers Lei Yuan Bin and Tan Bee Thiam. Banned in Malaysia due to its subject matter on HIV/AIDS, suicide and homosexuality, this emotionally arresting film unflinchingly confronts the hypocrisy of extreme religious practices through a tragedy about abuse and loss. Available to stream with a subscription. 


MUBI Podcast: Park Chan-wook finds “Decision to Leave” in “The Mist”

Uncovering the inspiration behind his recent thriller-romance Decision to Leave, South Korean auteur Park Chan-wook cites a 1970s pop ballad “The Mist” that serves as the crucial premise of his film. 

Over at The Film Stage’s podcast, veteran film critic Gerald Peary critically evaluates Park’s hybrid generic approach to film noir, thriller, romance and drama in the film. 

Film at Lincoln Center revisits a special conversation with director Park Chan-wook and actor Park Hae-il in their podcast, discussing the inner workings of making Decision to Leave from script reading to post-production. 

More content on Decision to Leave includes MUBI’s latest Movie Poster of the Week featuring a slate of fan-painted posters inspired by the South Korean master’s oeuvre. 

Image still from Something Like It (1981, dir. Yoshimitsu Morita)

Film at Lincoln Center Podcast: Yoshimitsu Morita Retrospective

Previewing their upcoming retrospective of prolific Japanese film director Yoshimitsu Morita, programmers Dan Sullivan and Aiko Masubuchi break down his 30-year filmmaking career from his irreverently comic debut feature Something Like It (1981) to his final film Take the “A” Train (2011). 

Press Conference IDFA 2020 at De Balie, 28th October 2020, image credit to Coen Dijkstra

Docs in Orbit Podcast: IDFA 2022 with Orwa Nyrabia

Speaking to the Syrian-born artistic director of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) Orwa Nyrabia, Docs in Orbit unpacks his vision to democratise festival gatekeeping processes and the concomitant problematics of curation through transforming IDFA as an inclusive and egalitarian festival. 

EasternKicks Podcast: Interview with Director So Yun Um

Diving into the Asian films screened at this year’s 66th BFI London Film Festival, EasternKicks founder and podcast host Andy chats with So Yun Um, the director of Liquor Store Dreams (2022). So describes her experience as a second-generation Korean-American filmmaker and comments on the influx of films from South Korea in the U.S.

Image still from Tokyo Story (1953, dir. Yasujiro Ozu), the highest ranking Asian film at number 4.

The Film Comment Podcast: Lists and the Documentary Canon

Celebrating Sight & Sound’s annual “Greatest Films of All Time” list, the Film Comment Podcast self-reflexively explores the relevance of such ranked lists especially when it comes to documentary films. Joined by a critics panel including Devika Girish, Clinton Krute, Nick Bradshaw, Emerson Goo, Girish Shambu and Kelli Weston, this episode questions the relationship between list-making and canonisation as well as the documentaries being spotlighted in this year’s Sight & Sound catalogue. 


Image still from Itim (The Rites of May) (1976, dir. Mike De Leon)

Interview: Mike De Leon on Philippine Cinema

Speaking to eclectic Filipino filmmaker Mike De Leon about his upcoming book Last Look Back and his memories of the First Golden Age of Philippine Cinema, A.E. Hunter discusses the political situation in the Philippines, the integral role of communities and De Leon’s next film. 

Reviewing the current Museum of Modern Art’s retrospective of De Leon, Vogue critic Raymond Ang converses with series curator Josh Siegel, Filipino filmmaker Isabel Sandoval and actress Charo Santos-Concio about their collaborations and encounters with De Leon on and off-set. 

Image still from Stonewalling (2022, dir. Huang Ji, Ryuji Otsuka)

On Stonewalling: A conversation between Huang Ji & Ryûji Otsuka

Published in conjunction with Sabzian’s State of Cinema programme, Chinese director Wang Bing selects Stonewalling (2022) by Chinese-Japanese filmmaking duo Huang Ji and Ryûji Otsuka for this edition’s programme. Reflecting on their complementary relationship as director and cinematographer, Huang and Ryuji explain how their workload was divided when creating their latest film.  

Image still from Beirut, My City (1983, dir. Jocelyne Saab)

Jocelyne Saab: the Stars of War

For BAMPFA’s current programme on the New Lebanese Cinema of the 1970s and 1980s, a translation of Nicole Brenez’s 2013 portrait of Lebanese reporter, screenwriter, director and visual artist Jocelyne Saab is published on Sabzian. Wielding the medium as an apparatus for activism, Jocelyn Saab relentlessly articulates and analyses political conflicts in and beyond Lebanon including Palestine, Iran, Turkey and Egypt. 

Image still from Children of the Wind (1937, dir. Hiroshi Shimizu)

Full Bloom: Climbing Trees in Two Films by Hiroshi Shimizu

MUBI’s Full Bloom column reconsiders the representation and symbolism of plants in cinema. Writer Patrick Holzapfel highlights two Japanese movies from the 1930s that capture the insouciance, hopefulness, and rebellion of children climbing on trees.

Image still from Lust, Caution (2007, dir. Ang Lee)

Tang Wei: The Look of Love

“If Tony Leung Chiu-wai has been praised for his ability to act with his eyes, Tang Wei shows an uncanny ability to embody that ineffable state of being looked at.” The abundance of discourse around Park Chan-wook’s Decision to Leave continues in Metrograph’s portrait of the film’s lead actress Tang Wei and her alluring power to tease out the eroticism of a gaze. 

Image still from Happy Hour (2015, dir. Ryusuke Hamaguchi)

2022 Wrapped: The Year of Hamaguchi

“The ultimate secret of Hamaguchi’s sublime cinema is how he photographs and edits such scenes in a very precise if peculiar manner, engaging the viewer’s subconscious with changing perspectives.” On Verso Books, Greg Gerke navigates Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s career-spanning filmography, from his critically acclaimed 2021 film Drive My Car to his five-hour breakthrough feature Happy Hour (2015). 

Notes on In the Mood for Love

Invoking a stream-of-consciousness mode of writing, novelist Charles Yu provides his insight into the production of Wong Kar Wai’s delicately mannered and visually extravagant romantic drama In the Mood for Love (2000). 

Image still from I Am Not Madame Bovary (2016, dir. Feng Xiaogang)

A Growing Influence – Hollywood in China: Behind the Scenes of the World’s Largest Movie Market

Reviewing eminent Chinese cinema studies scholar Ying Zhu’s latest book Hollywood in China, acclaimed academic Dina Iordanova studies how Zhu provides a balanced assessment of two powerful film industries, Hollywood and China, and deconstructs their respective influences on international film cultures. 

Leonor Will Never Die’s’ wonderfully weird salute to Filipino exploitation flicks

“Equal parts midnight movie, psychodrama and reality-tripping goof, Leonor Will Never Die counts as one of the year’s most wonderfully offbeat debuts.” Robert Abele at the Los Angeles Times reviews Filipino writer-director Martika Ramirez Escobar’s Leonor Will Never Die and evaluates how the 70s and 80s Filipino exploitation flicks are imbued into Escobar’s nostalgically pulpy cinematography and melodramatic narratives.  

Akira, pattern no. 700, final production background by Toshiharu Mizutani,

An Exhibition Unearths Rare Production Drawings from the Futuristic Neo Tokyo of the Anime Classic ‘Akira

Shown publicly for the first time, architectural museum Tchoban Foundation presents an exhibition Akira: The Architecture of Neo Tokyo, featuring 59 production backdrops, layouts, concepts and storyboards that brought Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 sci-fi classic Akira to life. The collection includes iconic futuristic cyberpunk works by art director Toshiharu Mizutani and a slate of collaborators that conceptualised the neon-infused post-apocalyptic metropolis seen in the anime. 

Directors Wu Nien-jen, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, Chen Kuo-fu, and Chan Hung-chih of the Taiwanese New Wave

Taiwanese New Waves in New York 

Responding to New York Film Forum’s Taiwanese programme “New Waves: Rediscovering Taiwanese Cinema of the 1980s”, The Daily columnist David Hudson compiles reviews and feature essays from various publications and critics including Film Comment, Chicago Reader, New York Times and Reverse Shot that have analysed the works of Taiwanese New Wave directors Edward Yang, Ang Lee, Tsai Ming-Liang and Hou Hsiao-Hsien. The article gives a wide-ranging perspective on how this new generation of filmmakers emerged and left indelible marks on Taiwan’s cinematic spheres. 

Image still from Ju-On: The Grudge (2002, dir. Takashi Shimizu)

The Curse that never ends: exploring the Ju-On film series

Alongside Hideo Nakata’s Ringu (1998), Western fascination with Japanese horror films started with Takashi Shimizu’s iconic cinematic series Ju-On and is still expanding with Netflix’s 2020 television series Ju-On: Origins. EasternKicks writer Niina Doherty outlines every Ju-On film in the series and explores the reasons it still entices horror fans until the present day. 


Call for Shorts: Hong Kong On Screen Film Festival Call for Shorts

Advocating inclusive, diverse and progressive cinematic storytelling about the Hongkonger identity, Hong Kong On Screen Film Festival (HKOSFF) invites filmmakers to submit their short films by 31 December 2022. Full guidelines can be found here

Call for Papers: 2023 North American Taiwan Studies Conference

Dedicated to being a platform that can exhibit the diverse perspectives and values of Taiwan and Taiwan studies, the North American Taiwan Studies Conference is accepting proposals for papers. The deadline for submissions is 1 January 2023. Full guidelines can be found here.

Call for Papers: The Cinema of Ann Hui: Aesthetics, Politics, and Philosophy 

Assembling an edited collection exploring Ann Hui’s oeuvre as a multifaceted entity of historical importance in Chinese cinemas and women’s filmmaking on the global screen, the book calls for chapters from multiple perspectives. The deadline for proposals is 31 December 2022. Full guidelines can be found here.

Call for Film Proposals: Media Talent Progression Programme

The Infocomm Media Development Authority in Singapore opens its call for submissions for the Media Talent Progression Programme. The application deadline for the short-form content grant is 27 December 2022. For more information, visit IMDA’s website

This edition of the digest was compiled by Jolie Fan

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