Asian Cinema Digest #37

July’s digest covers some of the many meanings of freedom – whether it be the freedom to experiment with filmic form, to speak out against injustice, or even to represent oneself and be represented on-screen. 

Experimental shorts across the genres of documentary and animation act as playgrounds for creativity, while an acclaimed director’s fascination with visual art lends an edge to his filmic meditations. 

Screenings from West Asia shed light on the social climate of the respective filmmakers’ homelands, pointing to the camera’s political potencies, as do readings on the exilic character of contemporary Hong Kong cinema.

Stories by Asian Americans and speculative futures dominated by artificial intelligence challenge us to look more closely at how Asia figures in the Western cinematic imagination. 


Image still from A Time for Drunken Horses (2000, Bhaman Ghobadi)

Iranian Cinema at the Virtual Tin Pan Theater

The Virtual Tin Pan Theater’s Take 4 is a series of Iranian films including Abbas Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us (1999), Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces (2018), Bhaman Ghobadi’s 2000 Caméra d’Or winner A Time For Drunken Horses, a spare, moving chronicle of a Kurdish family struggling to survive on the Iran-Iraq border; and Mehrdad Oskouei’s Starless Dreams (2016) which takes a piercing look into the lives of teenagers incarcerated in an all-female correctional facility. Streaming for a fee. 


Image still from Ana Beirut #9 (2021, Sherine Raffoul)

Ana Beirut: Experimental Shorts from Lebanon 

Glimmering with poetic immediacy, Ana Beirut is a series of experimental portraits exploring the city. Created by 9 Lebanese audiovisual artists in an intuitive film lab program by the humanitarian arts association Home of Cine-Jam, the short films are available for free on Visual Container TV


Image still from My Friend Freddie (2023, Jonathan Ki Lindhult)

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival 

Throughout July, audiences in Australia can enjoy Asian films featured in the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival’s online programme. The lineup includes a focus on Iranian female documentary directors who tackle a wide range of subjects, from the life of a blind woman working in a rehab centre to the decision not to have children—a subject that cannot be publicly discussed in Iran. Other Asian films include a documentary about the famous “napalm girl”, whose photograph catalysed the anti-Vietnam war movement.


Elsewhere, Everywhere (2020) by Isabelle Ingold and Vivianne Perelmuter

Assembling text messages, phone conversations and an immigration office’s questionnaire, Isabelle Ingold and Vivianne Perelmuter’s documentary Elsewhere, Everywhere (2020) reconstructs the journey of a 20-year-old who flees Iran alone, seeking asylum in Europe. Streaming for a fee on


Image still from The Recorder Exam (2011, Kim Bo-Ra)

Nowness Asia’s Origins: First Taste

Check out Origins: First Taste, a curated playlist of exceptional short films by acclaimed directors which showcase their formative inspirations and styles. Delve into Kim Bora’s The Recorder Exam (2011), “essentially a prequel” to Kim’s indie sensation and meditation on female adolescence House of Hummingbird (2018). 

Don’t miss out on Sorayos Prapapan’s Death of the Sound Man (2017), Trần Anh Hùng’s film school graduation short The Married Woman of Nam Xương (1989), and Darling (2019) by director Saim Sadiq, whose debut Joyland won awards at Cannes 2022. 


Image still from Dear Mother, I Meant to Write About Death (2022, Siyi Chen)

Asian American International Film Festival (AAIFF) Virtual Screenings

From July 26 to August 6 2023, a wide selection of Asian films will be available to audiences in North America via the AAIFF’s virtual on-demand platforms. The programme includes Dear Mother, I Meant to Write about Death (2022), a documentary about an ageing physician and her daughter; exceptional works by student filmmakers from the City University of New York; and a variety of short film programmes spanning horror, thriller, coming-of-age, and sci-fi. 


Image still from After Yang (2021, Kogonada)

The Criterion Channel: AI

With artificial intelligence becoming an uncanny reality, Criterion’s AI series “gathers rogue robots, uncannily human software, and thinking, feeling androids for a survey of one of science fiction’s favourite themes”. Asian films comprise a good deal of the programme—from the unforgettable cult classic Ghost in the Shell (1995), to Wong Kar Wai’s 2046 (2004), Kogonada’s sci-fi adoption drama After Yang (2021), and Ian Cheng’s anime Life After BOB: The Chalice Study (2021). 

It’s also worth looking into how cinematic images of Asia are deployed in envisioning a technological future. Writing for The New Yorker, Jane Hu looks into how After Yang engages with the genre of techno-Orientalism, “in which the future is often figured as Asian, and Asians are often figured as robots.” Read more about Kogonada’s film here, and delve deeper into how techno-Orientalist treatments across various media representations “reduce Asian bodies to machines and holograms”. 


The Great 14th (2019) by Rosemary Rawcliffe

On the occasion of the Dalai Lama’s 88th birthday on July 6, 2023, Frame of Mind Films presents a special screening of The Great 14th: Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama In His Own Words, an oral autobiography of the Tibetan spiritual leader and activist. Available for a fee on Eventive


The more you look: Hong Sang-soo and Paul Cézanne 

But, for me, Cézanne is different—always fresh, always something more,” the Korean auteur once said in an interview, relating how he was struck by a painting of apples which revealed an entirely compelling way of “proportionalising the abstract and the concrete”. Juxtaposing Hong Sang-soo’s filmography with Paul Cézanne’s seminal oil paintings, this video essay by the BFI draws parallels in their attention to the beauty and poetry of the mundane. 

Shot almost entirely out-of-focus, Hong’s latest feature in water (2023) takes his interest in painterly abstraction to new heights. The film is screening at Oldham Theatre through July 2023. Don’t miss out and get tickets here

For more on the South Korean director, check out this dossier compiled by Sabzian


Image still from The Fourfold (2020, Alisi Telengut)

Experimental animation: the textures of paint, riso-printing and mini DV footage

Check out these deliciously tactile animated shorts by artists of Asian descent. Alisi Telengut’s The Fourfold (2020) draws on shamanic ritual practices from Mongolia and Siberia, using a mix of handcrafted materials to evoke a richly textured natural landscape. Hiromu Oka’s STUTS – Wisteria combines grainy risograph textures with the compression artefacts of mini DV footage, while Kolkata-based visual artist Reya Ahmed uses riso-printing to explore childhood memory, ritual and language in this vivid, pop art-inflected animation.


Image still from The Ballad of Narayama (1983, Shohei Imamura)

MUBI: Shohei Imamura Double Bill 

One of nine filmmakers to have been awarded the Palme d’Or twice, Shohei Imamura plunged into the depths of human nature with his unflinching depictions of postwar Japanese society. Coming to MUBI at the end of July 2023 is a double bill by Imamura: The Ballad of Narayama (1983), which explores ubasute, the legendary practice of leaving elderly to die in remote places, and Black Rain (1989), a piercing look at the aftermath of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima. 


Image still from Rouge (1987, Stanley Kwan)

Stanley Kwan’s New Wave Melodramas 

If you missed “5 Films by Stanley Kwan” at Oldham Theatre in May 2022, here’s your chance to stream four of the acclaimed Hong Kong auteur’s melodramas. Rouge (1987), Love Unto Waste (1986), Center Stage (1991), and Lan Yu (2001) are now available on Criterion Channel



Image still from Joy Ride (2023, Adele Lim)

For Asian American Actors, Playing a Hot Mess Is Liberating

With Crazy Rich Asians screenwriter Adele Lim’s “unapologetically explicit” directorial debut, Joy Ride (2023), coming to theatres, The New York Times’ looks at the rise of film and TV projects which showcase different dimensions of Asian American-ness. Breaking model minority stereotypes, these stories give airtime to the “weird, bad and raunchy parts” of the Asian American experience.


Film Quarterly: Asian American Cinema 

Two articles in the latest issue of Film Quarterly shine a light on the burgeoning visibility of Asian American cinema and what it entails. 

Released twenty years apart, Chan Is Missing (1982), Better Luck Tomorrow (2002) and Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022) each embody the hybrid, eclectic multiplicity of Asian American-ness, writes Renee Tajima-Peña

Diving into a detailed analysis of the filmic multiverses in EEAAOJason Coe argues that genre is a mode of cultural creation that allows the intimate public of Asian American cinema to know and recognise one another in potentially affirming and healing ways.


Image still from Revolution of our Times (2021, Kiwi Chow)

The Hong Kong Free Cinema Manifesto

Signed by over thirty film professionals and released in July 2022, the Hong Kong Free Cinema Manifesto is a call-to-action for a new generation of filmmakers to “build upon the legacy of our predecessors to forge new paths” in the face of growing persecution. Film Quarterly has republished it here


Image still from Blue Island (2022, Chan Tze-woon)

New Territories: Reconfiguring Publics in Former and New Hong Kong Cinema

In the same Film Quarterly dossier, filmmaker and writer Tiffany Sia reckons with the overwhelming nostalgia for golden age Hong Kong cinema among global art-house audiences. Looking at hostile conditions in present-day Hong Kong which have led many political filmmakers to exile, the article examines an emerging counterpublic and a new generation of fugitive films which grapple with the persistent past.


Image still from Love with an Alien (1958, Mitsuo Wakasugi, Tu Gwang-qi and Chang-geun Jeon)

History of Korea-Hong Kong Co-Production 

Featuring film clips, photographs and posters from the Korean Film Archive (KOFA), this online exhibition looks into the long history of cross-cultural collaboration between the South Korean film industry and Chinese-language film industries in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia. 


Image still from I Was Born, but… (1932, Yasujiro Ozu)

I Was Born (in Hawaiʻi), But…

With a retrospective of Yasujirō Ozu screening at Film Forum, critic Emerson Goo contextualises the Japanese master’s work in view of the developing film culture between Japan and America in the early 20th century. Looking at Japanese studios, where “aspiration and curiosity toward Hollywood was systematised into film production”, and at the role of the benshi, or silent film narrator, Goo sees in Hawai’i a middle ground for rich cinematic exchange. 


Image still from Insiang (1976, Lino Brocka)

Female Rage in Filipino Films 

From Lino Brocka’s classic Insiang (1976) to more recent films like Rory Quintos’s Anak (2000), vengeful, destructive and unhinged women channel deep-seated social frustrations, revealing larger patterns of domestic violence and oppression, writes Rappler intern Sophie Gonzaga.


Strange Pleasures: Audition (1999) by Takashi Miike 

Writing for the Metrograph’s new column on unconventional desires, Beatrice Loayza looks back at Takashi Miike’s enduring cult classic, Audition (1999). Reflecting on the villain-heroine Asami’s monstrous rage at her past abuse and the sketchy morality of her new lover’s pursuit, Loayza ponders the genre of women’s revenge stories, weighing up their claims to female empowerment against manifestations of misogyny and the male gaze. 


She’s Lost Control: Davy Chou Discusses “Return to Seoul”

French-Cambodian filmmaker Davy Chou discusses Return to Seoul (2022) with MUBI,  now streaming his vibrant drama of a Korean adoptee’s search for her biological parents. Chou delves into the film’s absorbing temporal structure, his cinematic influences (Hong Sang-soo, Yasujirō Ozu, the Safdie brothers), and what it was like working with first-time actress Park Ji-min to create a compelling female character and “agent of chaos”.


Photo by Md. Farhad Rahman, collected from Dhaka University Film Society’s archive

Sharing is Transgressing: Piracy, Film Societies and Independent Filmmaking in Dhaka

Filmmaker and researcher Imran Firdaus delves into how pirated digital technology contributed to a growing film culture in Dhaka in the 1980s, as film clubs and societies programmed thematically and formally transgressive films, inspiring a new generation of audiences and filmmakers.



Image still from Pakeezah (1972, Kamal Amrohi)

NTS Radio – Bollywood Special 

Featuring some of Hindi cinema’s all-time best vocalists (Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Mukesh), NTS Radio presents an hour of DJ Shama Anwar’s favourite Bollywood tracks from the 1950s to the 1980s. Check out the playlist here.


The Cinematologists: Plan 75 (2022)

This episode of the Cinematologists begins with a Q&A on Plan 75 (2022) in collaboration with a symposium at Northumbria University, which brought together religious and humanist celebrants, death educators and palliative care specialists.  Elsewhere in the episode, podcast hosts and film academics Dr Dario Llinares and Dr Neil Fox delve into the themes of Chie Hayakawa’s quietly dystopian film, which imagines a future where elderly Japanese citizens are offered free euthanasia. 


Image still from Past Lives (2023, Celine Song)

The Film Stage Show: Past Lives (2023) 

Boston-based film critic Sarah G. Vincent joins the latest episode of The Film Stage Show to discuss Celine Song’s debut feature, Past Lives (2023), an aching drama about a pair of childhood sweethearts who reconnect in adulthood, crossing paths across continents. 



Image still from Tjoet Nja Dhien (1988, Eros Djarot)

11th Biennial Association for Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference (ASEACC)

The Association for Southeast Asian Cinemas Conference will be taking place August 29-31, 2023, at the University of the Philippines Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines. The thematic focus is on theorising Southeast Asian cinema in relation to global frameworks and transnational issues of migration, colonialism, and ecological change. Find out more here


Image still from 12 Storeys (1997, Eric Khoo)

Towards an Infrastructural Sublime: Recent Films from a Hub in the Global Supply Chain

In this recorded lecture held at the London School of Economics and Political Science, Professor Gerald Sim looks at how Singapore’s national cinema is entwined with its socioeconomic positioning, with recent films thematising “mobility, transience, transition and an openness towards the outside.” The presentation was followed by remarks from Professor Rosalind Galt. 



Call for Submissions: 34th Singapore International Film Festival

The largest and longest-running film event in Singapore, SGIFF is accepting feature and short film submissions from Asia and Southeast Asia. Applications to the Southeast Asian Film Lab, Asian Producers Network, and the Youth Critics Programme are also open. The deadline is August 6, 2023, 6pm (GMT +8). 

Call for Submissions: Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival 2023

The 18th Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival is accepting submissions of feature and short films not made before January 2022. Read the guidelines here and submit your film via FilmFreeway. The deadline is July 31.

Call for Submissions: Saigon Experimental Film Festival V

Founded in response to the limited visibility of boundary-pushing moving-image work in Vietnam, the Saigon Experimental Film Festival is a platform for abstract, experimental, non-narrative and documentary video works. Submit your short film (under 15 minutes) on FilmFreeway by August 1, 2023. 

Call for Submissions: 25th Bucheon International Animation Festival

Established in 1999 as the sole animation festival in Asia, the Academy Award qualifying  BIAF is now accepting feature film submissions to its international competition categories. Submit your film by July 31, 2023. 


Call for Submissions: The 26th Kyoto International Student Film & Video Festival Competition

Organised and run entirely by university students in Kyoto, KISFVF is Japan’s largest international student film festival. Awardees stand to win up to JPY100,000. Check out the rules and regulations and submit your film here by July 21, 4pm (JST). 

Call for Submissions: Jakarta Film Week International Film Festival

Hosted by Jakarta’s tourism department, the Jakarta Film Week International Film Festival will take place from October 25-29, 2023. Read the regulations and submit your film here.  

Call for Proposals: CCCL Film Festival 

Founded in 2019, Changing Climate, Changing Lives (CCCL) Film Festival offers a platform for emerging filmmakers in Thailand and Southeast Asia to share their stories of climate impact, resilience, inspiration, and innovation. Filmmakers in Southeast Asia are invited to apply with a short film proposal for production grants of up to 30,000 Baht. The deadline is July 23, 2023. More information here

Call for Proposals: Another Gaze

Another Gaze: a journal of film and feminisms invites submissions for its sixth print issue, slated for the end of 2023. More details here. Send your pitch of no more than 300 words to by midnight, BST, July 24, 2023. 

Call for Applications: Open City x Another Gaze Critics Workshop 2023

Open City Docs is seeking participants for their third Critics Workshop in collaboration with Another Gaze. Spanning five days, the workshop will delve into the methodologies and practice of politically-engaged film criticism. The 10 selected participants will enjoy free access to the festival programme. Application guidelines here. The deadline is July 23, 2023, 11.59pm (BST). 


This edition of the Asian Cinema Digest was compiled by Sheryl Gwee. 

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