Asian Cinema Digest #31

The latest edition of the cinema digest welcomes the Lunar New Year with online screenings of Chinese and Taiwanese cinema, an action-packed podcast on classic Hong Kong blockbusters and a riveting portrait of one of Hong Kong’s Second Wave directors. 


Image still from Mountains May Depart (2015, dir. Jia Zhangke)

Metrograph At Home: Lunar New Year

In celebration of the Lunar New Year, Metrograph At Home launches a special collection of independent Chinese cinema. Eschewing conventional blockbusters and feel-good family dramas in favour of tackling themes of solitude, home, migration, urban reform and class struggles, catch Liu Jiayin’s two-part documentary Oxhide (2005/2009), Lixin Fan’s Last Train Home (2009) and Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart (2015) on Metrograph with a subscription. 

First Films First: Mysterious Object at Noon (2000)

Streaming under MUBI’s special collection which showcases filmmakers’ directorial debuts, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Mysterious Object at Noon (2000) demonstrates the celebrated Thai auteur’s early cinematic visions and experimentations, launching his career as one of Southeast Asian cinema’s crucial voices. Watch his restored debut feature on MUBI with a subscription.

Other Asian films in MUBI’s First Films First collection include Jia Zhangke’s directorial debut Xiao Wu (1997)

Image still from The Bread and Alley (1970, dir. Abbas Kiarostami)

Abbas Kiarostami’s Childhood Films

A recurring subject matter present across his oeuvre, Criterion Channel’s latest collection features renowned Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami’s three-decade-long string of films made about or for children. His first cinematic work The Bread and Alley (1970), produced during his time at the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, alongside underseen early features such as The Traveller (1974) and Experience (1975), point to Kiarostami’s perceptive gift ofunravelling heavy truths about society, ethics and morality through the lens of a child. 

4K Restoration: Millennium Mambo (2001) by Hou Hsiao Hsien

Metrograph presents the release of a new 4K restoration of the acclaimed Taiwanese New Wave centrepiece Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Millennium Mambo (2001). Steeped in the decadent underbelly of Taipei where restless youths swarm to underground raves and clubs, the film critically evaluates the listlessness and ennui of Taiwanese youth culture. 

Accompanying Metrograph’s exclusive streaming premiere, film critic Simon Reynolds carefully deconstructs the trance-like quality that permeates Millennium Mambo in his essay. Additionally, a newly translated interview with director Hou from 2001 is released in Metrograph’s Journal. 

Animating Archives with Emotion in Love, Dad

In a short semi-autobiographical documentary about a troubled family relationship, Vietnamese filmmaker Diana Cam Van Nguyen uses cuts, folds, and mixed media to bring old letters to life. Told through archival materials of intimate correspondence with her father while he was imprisoned, Love, Dad (2021) employs stop-motion animation and collage to bring angle and depth into the narrative while innovatively approaching its source material. Available to stream for free on the New Yorker. 

Asian Pop-up Cinema: Lunar New Year Free Online Screenings

Streaming between 22 January 2023 – 5 February 2023, Asian Pop-up Cinema spotlights a selection of independent Chinese films that foreground significant cultural and historical facets of modern China. The full line-up of films showcased for free will be revealed on 17 January 2023. 

Hair Tie, Egg, Homework Books (2021, dir. Runxiao Luo)

Berlin NewGen Film Festival 2022 Online Screening

Celebrating new and distinguished generations of Chinese cinema, CathayPlay revisits Berlin NewGen Film Festival’s impressively wide-ranging picks including Junyi Song’s Jenny (2020), Runxiao Luo’s Hair Tie, Egg, Homework Books (2021) and Xue Su’s Secrets At The Intermissions (2022). Available to stream with a subscription. Berlin NewGen Film Festival’s full lineup can be found on its website

An Island of Splendor – The Thousand Faces of Taiwan Cinema

Spanning 23 films hailing from the ranks of internationally acclaimed auteurs Ang Lee, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang and more, TaiwanPlus has launched a free online film festival showcasing 90 years of Taiwanese cinematic history from the 1930s to the 2000s. Catch Hou’s Cheerful Wind (1982), A Time to Live, A Time to Die (1985) and Yang’s Terrorizers (1986) among others, for free on TaiwanPlus

Image still from Seoul Station (2016, dir. Yeon Sang-Ho)

Video Essay: Yeon Sang-Ho’s Peninsula (2020) & Seoul Station (2016)

Widely known for his live-action debut Train to Busan (2016), South Korean filmmaker and animator Yeon Sang-Ho began his career as a stop-motion animator. In this video essay, Accented cinema critically analyses Yeon’s animated prequel Seoul Station (2015) and live-action sequel Peninsula (2020), dismantling the genre’s appeal to international audiences and the narrative pitfalls that detract from the plotline’s clarity. 

The Beauty Of Yi Yi

Spotlighting the poetic quietude permeating the cinematography of Edward Yang’s Yi Yi (2000), The Beauty Of meditates on cinematographer Wei-Han Yang’s elegant compositions and visual language. Complementing the narrative’s unfolding action, Yang’s cityscapes pack a subtle allure that draws the audience into its environment, enveloping its dynamic characters within a coherent space. 

Image still from Pebble (2019, dir. Qiao Jianqiang)

Second Run: First Film Festival Retrospective

Platforming young Chinese filmmakers and their voices, CathayPlay has selected 16 films that screened at previous editions of FIRST Film Festival held in Xining, China. Deeply humanistic and experimental, notable films include Yang Yishu’s One Summer (2015), Qiao Jianqiang’s Pebble (2019) and Guo Shuang’s Uncle Guo’s Dreamworks (2020). Available to stream with a subscription on CathayPlay


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

MUBI Soundtrack Mix: Sounds of 2022

Wrapping up 2022 with some of cinema’s most memorable soundtracks, MUBI unravels South Korean composer Cho Young-wuk’s thrilling collaboration with Park Chan-wook in his sensual murder mystery Decision to Leave (2022), the alluring soundscapes of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria (2021) and Martin Dirkov’s title track for Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider (2022). 

Image still from Parasite (2019, dir. Bong Joon-Ho)

Understanding Bong Joon Ho’s Brilliance

Writer Karen Han explains the process behind her new book, Bong Joon Ho: Dissident Cinema, a critical analysis of the South Korean director’s eclectic oeuvre. In this podcast, Han discusses the structure of the book, the artwork that accompanies it and the challenges faced in her writing process. 

In another podcast, Karen Han discusses her moviegoing memories in 2003 and her top five films of 2022. 

The Film Comment Podcast: No Bears by Jafar Panahi

While Panahi tragically remains imprisoned in Tehran since his arrest last July, Film Comment editors Devika Girish and Clinton Krute speak to the lead actress in Jafar Panahi’s No Bears (2022) Mina Kavani about her riveting performance as an Iranian exile in Turkey. 

In his review of No Bears, N+1 Magazine’s writer Mark Krotov references Jafar Panahi’s 2018 interview on his filmmaking ban to underscore the ominous complexity, the international scope and self-reflexive dread that permeates his latest film. 

Image still from Infernal Affairs II (2003, dir. Alan Mak and Andrew Lau)

EasternKicks Podcast: Infernal Affairs Trilogy

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs trilogy, film blogger Stephen Palmer joins Andy Heskins in a conversation about the series’ glossy modern production and the trilogy’s extensive world-building. 

Thoughts on Film Podcast: Whispers of Silence (2018)

With a focus on Burmese cinema, podcast host Fikri considers a short film Whispers of Silence (2018) by Zaw Bo Bo Hein and Mg Bhone and its social, political and religious contexts. Extending the conversation on filmmaking in Myanmar, the podcast discusses the impact of censorship on filmmakers in Myanmar and the role played by the Wathann Film Festival. 

Whispers of Silence (2018) can be streamed for free on YouTube


Film Quarterly’s new issue: The New Disability Media

Film Quarterly’s (FQ) Winter Dossier has arrived, featuring FQ editor Brian Hu’s interview with Asian-American filmmaker Grace Lee on dismantling the auteurist framework in documentary production, a book review by film researcher Fengyun Zhang on Mila Zuo’s latest book ‘Acting Chinese in the Global Sensorium’ and an interview with Chinese cinema studies scholar Jean Ma about her new book. 

Return to Seoul‘s behind-the-scenes tale of the reluctant movie star

“It was a raw, emotional force, between vulnerability and anger,” With no experience in acting, Return to Seoul’s (2022) lead actress Park Ji-min describes how the director Davy Chou convinced her to take on the role of Freddie, a young French-Korean woman whose identity straddles a difficult duality. Drawing on personal experiences, Park and Chou recall their first encounter, casting tests and script-reading that gave one of the year’s most acclaimed performances. 

What I Learned Translating Decision to Leave

Film critic, author and translator of Korean cinema Darcy Paquet expounds on his insights gained and challenges faced from creating the English subtitles for Park Chan-wook’s romantic mystery Decision to Leave (2022). 

Image still from Heroic Purgatory (1970, dir. Yoshishige Yoshida)

Yoshishige Yoshida obituary: leading light of the Japanese New Wave

At BFI’s Sight and Sound, Japanese cinema specialist Jasper Sharp pays tribute to an acclaimed auteur of the Japanese New Wave, Yoshishige Yoshida. Departing from the Shochiku company in 1965, Yoshida goes on to create his best-known films—  often referred to as ‘anti-melodramas’ —under the independent production company Art Theatre Guild including Heroic Purgatory (1970) and Coup D’Etat (1973). 

Anime: the little word that conquered the world

As Japanese animation continues to captivate audiences around the world from beloved classics like Akira (1988) to contemporary box-office hits such as Your Name (2016), film editor Nick Bradshaw charts the cinematic history of animated moving image production in Japan and its influence on global film cultures. 

Image still from Poetry (2010, dir. Lee Chang-Dong)

Director’s chair: Lee Chang-dong – Ten Tips for Aspiring Filmmakers

“Rather than looking for a big story suited to film, it is better to focus on the small stories that surround us, that capture us and linger in our minds.” Writing for BFI’s Sight and Sound, revered South Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong provides his ten recommendations for emerging filmmakers and his philosophy behind how to create an impactful story. 

Image still from The Moon is Fuller Here (1985, dir. Clara Law)

Filmmaker Clara Law on the Poetic Quest for Truth and Beauty that Defines her Career

One of Hong Kong’s most experimental filmmakers, Macau-born director Clara Law speaks to South China Morning Post on her approaches to film production, from her first feature film Moon is Fuller Here (1985) to her more established feminist piece Farewell China (1990) on migration and patriarchy.  

Ali Abbasi: The Timely Persian Noir of Holy Spider

Peeling back the layers of misogyny and political unrest in Iranian society, Holy Spider (2022) director Ali Abbasi examines the international reception of his film, censorship challenges and the cultural context that shaped the genre of Iranian film noir.  

Image still from Ikiru (1952, dir. Akira Kurosawa)

Akira Kurosawa Retrospective: EasternKicks Full Reviews and Interview

As BFI Southbank launches a complete retrospective season of the legendary Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, EasternKicks reviews his monumental filmography including Ikiru (1952), Seven Samurai (1954) and High and Low (1963). Recently, editor Phillip O’Connor sat down with the co-curator of the retrospective, Ian Haydn Smith, to discuss the programme and Kurosawa’s richly varied cinematic landscapes. 

Kumail Nanjiani in Eternals (2021, dir. Chloe Zhao)

How Kumail Nanjiani Got Huge

“If I’m playing the first South Asian superhero, I want to look like someone who can take on Thor or Captain America, or any of those people.” GQ profiles Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani and his physical transformation, from the beginning of his career as a stand-up comedian to his most recent role in Marvel’s superhero epic Eternals (2021). 


Call for Submissions – Odyssey: A Chinese Cinema Season

Showcasing the wide-ranging talents of emerging Chinese filmmakers,  Odyssey: A Chinese Cinema Season invites filmmakers to submit their films by 20 January 2023. Full guidelines can be found here

Call for Submissions: 24th Jeonju International Film Festival

Recognised as the window to avant-garde cinema in Asia, the  24th Jeonju International Film Festival is accepting films for competition. The deadline for submissions is 18 January 2023. Full guidelines can be found here.

Call for Shorts: 40th Busan International Short Film Festival

Hailed as the “Hub of Asian Shorts”, the 40th Busan International Short Film Festival opens its call for submissions. The application deadline for submissions is 20 January 2023. For more information on guidelines, visit their website

Call for Submissions: 13th Beijing International Film Festival

The Beijing International Film Festival is accepting films until 25 January 2023. Full guidelines can be found here

This edition of the digest was compiled by Jolie Fan

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