Asian Cinema Digest #38

August’s digest revisits arthouse festival favourites, with the arrival of Asian auteurs on popular streaming platforms, and the publication of interviews and podcasts packed with keen insight. Deep-dive into the challenges of film archival and restoration with readings on the afterlives of cinematic treasures. For those with a more experimental palette, check out a short film by Locarno awardee Nelson Yeo or read about Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Quartet 1



Mary, Mary, So Contrary (2019) by Nelson Yeo 

If you enjoyed Plastic Sonata (2022), here’s your chance to get acquainted with another work by Singaporean director Nelson Yeo (whose debut feature recently clinched the Golden Leopard and Swatch First Feature Awards at Locarno). Mary, Mary, So Contrary (2019) weaves together classic films, creating a shimmering, multidimensional narrative of a Chinese farmer who dreams that she is another woman named Mary. Now streaming for a fee on CathayPlay. 

Check out a video essay on Mary, Mary, So Contrary that was produced under the Singapore International Film Festival’s Youth Critics Programme. 


Saturday Fiction (2019) by Lou Ye 

In the lead-up to the attack on Pearl Harbour, a famous actress named Jean Yu returns to Shanghai to covertly negotiate the release of her ex-husband, stepping into a web of tangled allegiances. Better known for Summer Palace (2006), a dramatisation of the Tiananmen Square incident which led to a five-year filmmaking ban by the Chinese government, director Lou Ye unfurls a “frenzied thriller of espionage and infiltration” in his black-and-white film Saturday Fiction (2019), holding up a mirror to the role of artists under a tyrannical regime.

Catch the 4K restoration of Lou’s Suzhou River (2000) showing at AFA’s September programme, Y2K DreamZ, a window onto the hopes and anxieties at the turn of the new millennium. Tickets here!


Still from Right Now, Wrong Then (2015, Hong Sang-Soo)

Metrograph At Home: Hong Sang-soo Focus 

If you were struck by Hong Sang-soo’s precise, artful vignettes of everyday minutiae at AFA’s screenings of in water (2023) in July, check out Metrograph At Home’s Hong Sang-soo Focus. Committed to “illustrating human foibles via deceptively slight, seriocomic narratives”, Hong has drawn a sizeable following with his distinctive style, which threads through the six films in the programme, including Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (2000) (which screened in Un Certain Regard at Cannes 2000). 


Image still from Goodbye Dragon Inn (2003, Tsai Ming-Liang)

Metrograph At Home: Three by Tsai Ming-liang

Metrograph complements their focus on Hong Sang-soo with a trio of films by Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang, whose “richly ruminative” films cut to the heart of contemporary urban isolation. Featuring the iconic Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003); Days (2020), a meditation on the relationship between a man with a chronic illness and his young caretaker; and Afternoon (2015), which documents an incisive conversation between Tsai and his long-time muse, Lee Kang-sheng.  

Don’t miss Tsai’s “strikingly prescient piece of pandemic pop artThe Hole (1998), screening as part of AFA’s Y2K DreamZ at Oldham Theatre in September 2023.

The Witches of the Orient (2021) by Julien Faraut 

Assembled from a group of factory workers, the members of Japan’s women’s volleyball team—and winners of the gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics—earned the title “witches” for their undefeated total of 258 consecutive wins. Julien Faraut’s documentary interweaves archival footage of their practices and matches, anime clips, and interviews with the surviving members, drawing together a compelling portrait of the unforgettable team. Screened theatrically by AFA back in 2021, the film is now streaming on


Aloners (2021) by Hong Sung-eun 

Moving between her call centre job, microwave dinners, and mindless screen-time, a young woman grapples with losing her mother. Aloners (2021), South Korean filmmaker Hong Sung-eun’s feature directorial debut, turns its gaze on the rise of unattended deaths and single-person households in South Korea, asking what it means to be human in an increasingly disconnected and hyper-capitalist society.


Image still from: Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (2003)

Accented Cinema: The Impact of Tony Jaa 

Inspired by the beauty and heroism of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan’s action films, a young boy from northeastern Thailand began training in Muay Thai at the age of 10. Tony Jaa later starred in the hugely successful Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior (2003) and Tom-Yum-Goong (2005). Accented Cinema’s video essay takes a close look at Tony Jaa’s incredible kicks, risky stunts, and unrivalled long takes, which brought greater realism, explosiveness, and dynamism to action filmmaking across the globe. 


Nina’s Heavenly Delights (2006) by Pratibha Parmar

When Nina returns to Glasgow for her father’s funeral, she finds herself tasked with the mission of saving his Indian restaurant by winning the Best of the West Curry Competition, together with her childhood friend Lisa—with whom she soon falls in love. Catch the film on demand as part of Queer Screen Film Fest (geoblocked to Australia). 


Image still from Riceboy Sleeps (2022, Anthony Shim)

Asian films on TIFF Bell Lightbox

For audiences in Canada, a selection of Asian films will be made available via the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)’s digital streaming platform Bell Lightbox. The films range from Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s animated documentary about an Afghanistan refugee, Flee (2021), to Anthony Shim’s sensitive portrait of the immigrant experience Riceboy Sleeps (2022), Hirokazu Kore-eda’s unexpected “family” drama Broker (2022), Ali Abbasi’s crime thriller Holy Spider (2022), and the Daniels’ seven-time Academy Award winner Everything Everywhere All at Once (2022)



Image still from The Teenage Textbook Movie (1998, Philip Lim)

Money No Enough, Passion Needed Too: Restoring Classic Singaporean Films 

AFA’s Senior Archivist Chew Tee Pao reflects on how the restoration of Eric Khoo’s seminal Mee Pok Man (1995) kick-started the search for the negatives of other iconic Singaporean films. Released in 1998, Money No Enough, Forever Fever, and The Teenage Textbook Movie ushered in the revival of Singapore cinema, after three relatively quiet decades. 

From combining film elements stored in archives around the world, to repairing signs of physical wear and digitising old films, the restoration process is one that is arduous but ultimately rewarding for both audiences and filmmakers alike. 

Money No Enough, Forever Fever, and The Teenage Textbook Movie are screening in August 2023 at Oldham Theatre. Get your tickets here


Exploring Past Images in a Digital Age: Reinventing the Archive

In conjunction with Amsterdam University Press, Eye Filmmuseum has published a new open-access book on issues surrounding film archival in light of the “ongoing digital turn”. Bringing together voices from across the field, this anthology of essays confronts a host of challenges faced by archivists, researchers, and filmmakers, ranging from digitisation, to artistic appropriation and scholarly reinterpretation. Download a PDF copy of the book here


Image still from The Flute Player (Buddhadeb Dasgupta, 2012)

An Idle Cinema = A Free Cinema?

Inspired by Philippine filmmaker’s Kidlat Tahimik’s creative approach, which departs from conventional valuations and definitions of “work”, the editorial team behind photogénie’s latest and 19th issue has assembled a dossier of essays which explore how a more “idle” cinema might offer forms of resistance against capitalism’s endless drive for productivity. 

Delhi-based writer Kanika Katyal analyses how filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s stories of “misfit” characters depart from realist conventions, challenging preconceived social ideals, focusing on four shorts from Dasgupta’s 13-film anthology Trayodashi (Quartet 1) (2012), which is based on Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry.


Hong Kong New Wave classics: Nomad and The Story of Woo Viet 

Writing for the South China Morning Post, film critic Richard James Havis delves into Patrick Tam’s Nomad (1982)—a portrait of urban ennui inspired by the director’s reading of Nietzsche and Deleuze—and Ann Hui’s The Story of Woo Viet (1981)— a “taut crime thriller” which follows a South Vietnamese refugee’s journey to Hong Kong. Together, the films gesture to the rich diversity of Hong Kong New Wave cinema, writes Havis. 

Nomad screens August 26 and September 2, 2023, at Oldham Theatre. Tickets here!


Revisiting Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Millennium Mambo (2001) 

With the restoration and re-release of Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Millennium Mambo (2001), Metrograph features a newly-translated interview with the Taiwanese director at Cannes 2001. Hou delves into his aesthetic choices from using long lenses, to having the actors invent their dialogue onset, and to working with the “real Vicky”. Check out this evocative excerpt by Kore-eda Hirokazu on the things he learned from Hou

Catch the 4K restoration of Hou’s iconic film in all its gorgeous neon glory in August and September 2023 at Oldham Theatre. Tickets here!


Image still from Kisses (1957, Yasuzo Masumura)

The Beauties and the Beasts of Yasuzo Masumura 

“Whether you arrive on the tip of a blade or the cusp of a kiss, there is no wrong place to start with Yasuzo Masumura,” writes Jessica Kiang in a spirited introduction to the expansive, eclectic oeuvre of the postwar Japanese director, featured in MUBI Notebook. Weaving in “responsive social critique”, while treading the fine line between an eroticised gaze and heroines who refuse male dominance, Masumura’s films play on genre expectations while restlessly subverting them. Kiang delves into Masumura’s retrospective at the 2023 Karlovy Vary Film Festival in another article for Variety


An Unexpected Conjunction: An Interview with Laura Mulvey About Douglas Sirk and Tanaka Kinuyo

Laura Mulvey delves into the works of Douglas Sirk and Japanese filmmaker and actress Tanaka Kinuyo in a conversation with film critic Sofie Cato Maas. Originally published in the second issue of Outskirts Film Magazine, the interview looks into Tanaka’s widely hailed feminist classic Forever a Woman (1955), which portrays the life of poet Fumiko Nakajō (1922–1954) with astonishing boldness and complexity.


Image still from Heliography (1998, Yamazaki Hiroshi)

Yamazaki Hiroshi: The Solar Connection

Writing for Chute Film-Coop, Matteo Boscarol introduces the work of experimental photographer and filmmaker Yamazaki Hiroshi. Charting Yamazaki’s fascination with jazz music and “perpetual dialogue between still and moving images”, Boscarol looks at his experimental films, for instance, Heliography (1978), which traces the movement of the Sun with one frame captured every four seconds by a camera on a tripod and an equatorial mount.


A Scene at the Checkpoint: Remembering Ryuichi Sakamoto

Originally published in Kinema Jyunpo (Japanese Film Magazine) in June 2023, director Stephen Nomura Schible’s reflection on his documentary, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (2017), has been newly translated. Fondly recalling the composer’s unflinching activism, and the images that continue to haunt him, Schible touches on how his first encounter with Sakamoto left seeds that would eventually germinate into the film.



Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi and writer Min-Jin Lee

Evil Does Not Exist Director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi & Min Jin Lee on Drive My Car, Grief, and Silence

With director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s new film, Evil Does Not Exist (2023) premiering at the 61st New York Film Festival later this year, the Film at Lincoln Center Podcast presents an archival conversation between Hamaguchi and journalist and author Min Jin Lee. Speaking about his much-acclaimed Drive My Car (2021), Hamaguchi touches on the work of adapting the Haruki Murakami short story that inspired the film, the grief of love lost, performance as a necessity, insanity as a form of healing, and the power of fiction in uncovering truth.


A.C. Film Club #114: Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy (2013)

Asian Cinema Film Club podcast hosts Elwood and Stephen delve into Thai director Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy (2013). Based on 410 consecutive tweets by user @marylony, the coming-of-age comedy-drama follows the escapades of a high-school senior tasked with assembling her graduating cohort’s yearbook. Weaving in superimposed tweets that veer from arbitrary to vaguely poetic (“I want to keep a jellyfish”; “I’ve been looking for others, now I’ve lost myself”), the film offers a spirited take on the vicissitudes of growing up in a hyper-mediated age.



Wong Kawaii by T.T.O.O 

Wong Kawaii is a month-long art exhibition created by culture-pushing art duo T.T.O.O (@t.t___o.o) that combines Wong Kar Wai’s visual style with art, fashion and tech, turning them into kawaii products for sale and consumption. Using a blend of AI-generated images of film stills that mimic Wong Kar Wai’s iconic films like Fallen Angels, In the Mood for Love, Happy Together etc, and using digital manipulation to turn them into “kawaii-fied” original artworks, the pair created a collection of items ranging from lingerie to bathmats for every Wong Kar Wai and Kawaii fanatic. All the items and original artworks are featured in the Wong Kawaii exhibition from 12 August to 2 September at Spadesroom Singapore.


Image still from Red Persimmons (2001, Shinsuke Ogawa)

Image Forum (Tokyo): Summer School 2023

The Image Forum Institute of Moving Image (Tokyo) is holding a special course titled “Summer School 2023”. Conducted in Japanese, the sessions include a film discussion held from August 28 to September 2, featuring researchers, programmers and curators as speakers. Register for the programme here

Still from India Cabaret (1985, Mira Nair)

Open City Documentary Festival: The Invisible Self 

Held from September 6 to 12 across London, the Open City Documentary Festival presents The Invisible Self, a programme of feminist films made between 1985-1991. Curated by founding director of Experimenta India Shai Heredia, the programme “journeys through the lives of women who challenged traditional patriarchal structures in India,” featuring films by Deepa Dhanraj, Nilita Vachani, Reena Mohan and Mira Nair. 

Responding to the films, writer Arshia Sattar reflects on how despite less-than-ideal screening conditions, the act of watching these films and others like them in India was, at the time, a “political act of solidarity and revolution.” Read her short essay here



Call for Applications: Purin Pictures Short Film Camp 2023 

Organised by Purin Pictures and held in Bangkok, Short Film Camp 2023 is an intensive workshop for emerging filmmakers from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand. 12 teams of producers-directors aged 35 or under will be selected for the training programme, which will culminate in a final pitch of their short film project. Four winners of the final pitch will receive funding of 5,000 USD and a post-production package. Read the regulations and apply by Wednesday, September 20, 2023, 23:59 (GMT+7).


Call for Submissions: International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) 2024 

Taking place from January 25 to February 4, 2024, IFFR 2024 is now accepting completed features, shorts, Art Directions and Immersive Media, plus projects for CineMart and IFFR Pro Immersive. Deadlines range from August 23 to September 20, 2023. Find out more here.


Call for Submissions: 2024 Sundance Film Festival 

Submissions to the 2024 Sundance Film Festival are now open! Deadlines for New Frontier Projects, Short Films, Episodic Content and Feature Films range from September 1 to September 25, 2023. Read the detailed rules and regulations here and submit your films via FilmFreeway.  


Call for Applications: Asian World Film Festival (AWFF) Short Film Program

With the aim of supporting new and emerging Asian, Asian-American, and multiracial-Asian filmmakers globally, the Asian World Film Festival (AWFF) Short Film Program calls for submissions of narrative films of no more than 16 minutes. Submit your film via FilmFreeway by August 31, 2023. 


Call for Submissions: 28th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK)

Established in 1996, the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) presents a competition section exclusively for films from Asian, African and Latin American countries, alongside a selection of the best of World Cinema and Malayalam Cinema. IFFK is now accepting films completed between September 1, 2022 and August 31, 2023. Read the regulations here and submit through Eventival by September 11, 2023. 


Call for Submissions: 54th International Film Festival of India

The 54th edition of the FIAPF-accredited International Film Festival of India will be held from November 20 to 28, 2023, in Goa, India. The festival is now accepting feature film submissions of more than 70 minutes. The deadline is August 31, 2023. Submit your entries via FilmFreeway


Call for Submissions: 11th QCinema International Film Festival

Organised annually by the Quezon City Film Development Foundation, the QCinema International Film Festival presents the first edition of its Southeast Asian short film competition. Submissions are welcome until September 1, 2023. Read the guidelines here and complete the application form here.


Call for Submissions: 20th Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival

Hosted by the State Administration of Radio, Film and TV and Guangdong Provincial Government, the Guangzhou International Documentary Film Festival, China (GZDOC) is accepting submissions of micro, short, feature-length, and series documentaries. The deadline is August 31, 2023. Read the rules and regulations here and apply here


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

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