Asian Cinema Digest #44

This issue of the Asian Cinema Digest focuses on Southeast, East and West Asian cinema. Delve into the works of Vietnamese filmmakers such as Nguyễn Trinh Thi and Trinh Thi Minh Hà, and film and video installations of Tulapop Saenjaroen. To celebrate the Lunar New Year, revisit some works from Hong Kong Cinema  available on Criterion Channel. Also featured are the works of West Asian directors Bahram Beyzaie, Otar Iosseliani and Sergei Parajanov. 



Images de Chine (1901-1904) by Auguste François

Shot at the end of the Qing dynasty, French consul, Auguste François (aka 方苏雅) captured people’s daily life in the streets of Kunming, Yunnan, using a camera given by Léon Gaumont. Cinémathèque Française and the CNC heritage department have scanned the nitrate films footage captured by François. Stream it now on Cinémathèque Française’s online platform, Henri.  


Suzhou River (2000) by Lou Ye

Lou Ye’s impeccable international breakthrough, Suzhou River is streaming on Mubi. Dazzlingly restored, Lou Ye’s seductive neo-noir casts a mysterious spell over Shanghai, where industrialization and myths dreamily collide. Echoes of Vertigo ricochet through this love story, an urban fairytale haunted by wandering city slickers, beautiful lookalikes, and shimmering mermaids.


Image still from Infidels (Kofar) (2003, Bahman Kiarostami)

Reflections from the Future: Featuring works by Hadi Afarideh, Bahman Kiarostami, Gelareh Kiazand and Reza Sayah

Artearchive has curated a showcase of Iranian short films that explores continuities and transformations over the last two decades within Iran’s cultural landscape. The series features the short films of Bahman Kiarostami (Infidels (Kofar), 2003), Gelareh Kiazand (Preserving Taste, 2023), Hadi Afarideh (The Afar, 2015; The Story of Gordafarid, 2008) and Reza Sayah (Comeback, 2018). Pre-orders open now, with streaming starting on 25 February.


Image still from The Heroic Trio (1993, Johnnie To)

Hong Kong Hits

Criterion Channel has assembled a series of genre films from Hong Kong that were Lunar New Year box office hits in their time.The line-up consists of Jackie Chan’s films (Police Story, Police Story 2 (1985, 1988)), Jeffrey Lau’s The Eagle Shooting Heroes (1993) and Chinese Odyssey 2002 (2002), Johnnie To’s films (The Heroic Trio, Executioners (1993), Sammo Hung’ My Lucky Stars (1985) and Infernal Affairs (2002).


Majalah Filem Melayu Lama (2022) directed by Ridhwan Saidi

An essay film composed of images found in Malay film magazines from the 1950s to 1970s, the works divided into three parts: 1. Elements of horror and fear in Malay cinema, 2. Marriage of literary texts and film images, and 3. Articles and behind-the-scenes photos from the studio era.


Nguyễn Trinh Thi’s How to Improve the World (2021) 

Kadist is streaming Nguyễn Trinh Thi‘s How to Improve the World (2021), which is part of its online curation Indra’s Net: Imagining New Forms of Interconnection. The essay film provides a stark contrast between the intelligence of sound and sight as the filmmaker embraces the sensorial world of human consciousness and its waning relevance satirically questioned in the title of the piece. 



Echoes of Illusions: Mythical Reverberations: Exploring Folklore and Ta’zieh in Ballad of Tara

A nuanced piece of writing on Bahram Beyzaie’s Ballad of Tara. Amir Hossein Siadat’s essay focuses on the significance of folklore and Tazieh, a traditional Iranian form of passion play that commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, and how it shapes the narrative and theme of the film. The essay also reflects on the enduring power of folklore and Tazieh in Iranian cinema, as exemplified by Ballad of Tara.


Gazing into the Abyss: An Interview with Wei Shujun

Maja Korbecka interviews Wei Shujun on his new film, Only the River Flows. Wei Shujun talks about his thematic inspirations, emphasizing the concept of “gazing into the abyss” in his work. Shujun discusses his approach to filmmaking, focusing on authenticity and realism, while reflecting on the challenges and rewards of independent filmmaking in China. He also hints at his future projects and aspirations in the interview.


The Industrial Nightmare of Tetsuo: The Iron Man

Malachy Lewis’s essay explores the industrial nightmare depicted in Shinya Tsukamoto’s masterpiece Tetsuo: The Iron Man. It analyses the film’s themes of body horror, technology, and urban decay, examining its impact on Japanese cyberpunk cinema. The essay delves into the film’s surreal imagery, kinetic editing, and experimental soundtrack, highlighting its enduring influence on cult cinema.


Image still from Reassemblage (1982, Trinh T. Minh-ha)

Tuning in to the Music of the World

Stoffel Debuysere’s essay looks at the musicality in Trinh T. Minh-ha’s films. Trinh T. Minh-ha is a Vietnamese filmmaker, writer and scholar best known for her films Reassemblage (1982),and Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1985). In this essay, Stoffel invites Trinh T. Minh-ha to talk about music and the thinking in musical terms at the heart of her work. 


Face the Music: Hamaguchi Ryusuke on “Evil Does Not Exist”

Cinema Scope interviews Hamaguchi Ryusuke on his critically acclaimed new film, Evil Does Not Exist. Ryusuke discusses the creative process of the film and its exploration of morality, relationships, and the nature of evil. He delves into his creative process, emphasising the importance of collaboration and improvisation in filmmaking. 


Image still from Squish! (2021. Tulapop Saenjaroen)

Out of Time: The Videos of Tulapop Saenjaroen

Cinema Scope discusses the video works of Tulapop Saenjaroen, exploring themes of time, memory, and cultural identity. Jesse Cumming examines Saenjaroen’s distinctive visual style, characterised by slow pacing, long takes, and minimal dialogue. This essay embraces Saenjaroen’s unique approach to filmmaking and his ability to provoke introspection and engage viewers in a dialogue about the complexities of existence.


Ordinary Magic: Review on Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell

Film Comment reviews Pham Thien An’s Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell, which won the Asian Feature Film Competition at the 34th Singapore International Film Festival. Critic Genevieve Yue talks about the cinematic form of the film and its resemblance to Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Ordet (1955). She writes on how the film stands as a poignant exploration of familial bonds, loss, and resilience in the face of adversity.

Lucid Transitions: A Conversation with Pham Thien An

Mubi Notebook interviews Pham Thien An on his debut feature film, Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell. Lukasz Mankowski and Pham Thien An talk about Pham’s approach to storytelling, cinematic language and the poetics of the cinema. Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell is now streaming on Netflix.


Soviet language poster for Ukrainian Rhapsody (1961, Sergei Parajanov)

Movie Poster of the Week: Sergei Parajanov at 100

To celebrate the 100th birthday of Armenian director, Sergei Parajanov, Mubi Notebook Column has compiled a series of posters of Parajanov’s works, including some of the posters of his earlier films. Revisit the piece written by Redmond Bacon on Parajanov’s early films.


Image still from Gardens in Autumn (2006, Otar Iosseliani)

The Unorthodox Poetry of Indolence: Remembering Otar Iosseliani

To commemorate the passing of the Georgian filmmaker last December, Mubi Notebook published an essay to discuss the works of Otar Iosseliani. The writer concludes that: “The cinema of Otar Iosseliani quietly flourished in the sarcastic distance between the neuroses of consumer modernity and the divine stasis of indolence, guarding the beauty life casually offers to those slow enough to notice.”

SGIFF Film Review: Tedious Days and Nights

NTU Film Society content creator Phyllis Chan writes a moving and powerful rumination on the Chinese docudrama Tedious Days and Nights, directed by China independent filmmaker Guo Zhenming, which exposes the current lives of former poet-activists in Mainland China. The film had its world premiere at the last edition of the Singapore International Film Festival, but the director was banned from traveling to Singapore to present his film. 



Image still from Karnal (1983, Marilou Diaz-Abaya)

Marilou Diaz-Abaya: Moral

Deep Cut, a film podcast that carries out in-depth discussions on international, arthouse, and independent films, features Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s 1982 film Moral in its latest episode. Moral, part of the loose trilogy of feminist films including Brutal (1981) and Karnal (1983) by Abaya, is a coming-of-age film that follows three fresh female graduates over the course of several years.  The team discusses the scriptwriting and  the editing of the film.  



Nguyễn Trinh Thi: 47 Days, Sound-less

47 Days, Sound-less is the latest film installation by the Vietnamese filmmaker and video artist, Nguyễn Trinh Thi. The film explores the relationships between sound and silence, vision, language, colours and their absences. The film combines natural landscapes, movie soundtracks, and visuals to challenge the construction of narratives and soundscapes, and the ways of seeing a film. The installation is on exhibit at the Singapore Art Museum, Tanjong Pagar Distripark, until 14 Apr 2024.


Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger

Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger is a mid-career survey of the renowned Singapore artist-filmmaker. By using different mediums such as films, paintings, video installations, theatrical performances etc., Ho’sworks attempt to examine the construction of history and memory, the narrative of myths, and the plurality of identities. The exhibition is co-organised by Singapore Art Museum and Art Sonje Center and ison view at the Singapore Art Museum, Tanjong Pagar Distripark until 3 March 2024.



Call for Submissions: Singapore Shorts ’24 

Singapore Shorts is an annual showcase organised by the Asian Film Archive that celebrates the boldness and diversity of Singapore short films. The programme will feature a broad range of new works chosen by an esteemed selection panel. There will be online discussions with the filmmakers, critical writings, as well as a special guest curated programme. Submissions close Tuesday, 12 March 2024.


Call for Applications: Purin Pictures Production and Post-production Grant Spring 2024

Purin Pictures opens the applications for Production and Post-production Grant for Spring 2024. The production fund for fiction films is a 30,000 USD cash grant, while the production fund for documentary films is a 15,000 USD cash grant. For the post-production fund, fiction projects will be provided with a services package valued at 50,000USD; 35,000USD for documentary projects, all will be offered in partnership with White Light Studio. The deadline for the application is 1st March, 2024. To read about the regulations for application, please see here.


Call for Submission: 26th Shanghai International Film Festival 

Shanghai International Film Festival is calling for entries for its 26th edition. The categories include the main competition, the Asian New Talent, Documentary, Animation, and Short Film sections for the Golden Goblet Awards, along with Film Panorama. The submission deadline for entries is March 31, 2024. For terms and conditions please refer here.


Call for Submission: 18th Xining FIRST International Film Festival 

Xining FIRST International Film Festival is calling for submissions for its 18th edition which will be held from July 20th to 28th, 2024. The deadline for the submission is 24:00 on April 28, 2024, UTC+8. For more information on the submission and terms and conditions, please see here


Call for Submission: 20th Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival 

Open to Filipino filmmakers, the Cinemalaya Independent Film Festival is calling for short film submissions  to compete for the coveted Balanghai awards. Refer to the mechanics of the contest before submitting your film here by 8 March 2024.


Open Call: Film Programmers Lab 2024

Initiated by Asian Film Archive and Objectifs, the Film Programmers Lab is a 6-month (30 March – 31 August 2024) developmental platform for emerging film programmers based in Singapore. The programme will provide 4 selected participants with mentorship and a valuable support network. The participants will present 2 film programmes to the public at the end of the workshops. See here for more details before submitting the application by 29 February 2024, 23:59 SGT.


This edition of the Asian Cinema Digest was compiled by Lee Peng Ming. The Asian Cinema Digest is a monthly compilation of content taking place internationally involving Asian cinema and the moving image. Featured programmes are not representative of AFA’s views and are unaffiliated to the AFA unless otherwise stated.

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