Asian Cinema Digest #46

This edition of Asian Cinema Digest focuses on East and Southeast Asian cinema. Check out films from East and Southeast Asian auteurs such as Makoto Shinkai, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, and Ho Tzu Nyen. Discover energetic and refreshing perspectives by young and emerging filmmakers from Myanmar. Highlighting the Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival 2024, this issue compiles some texts from the festival that re-examine the development of documentaries in Asia.



Image still from Your Name (2016, Makoto Shinkai)

Directed by Makoto Shinkai

Criterion Channel showcases essential works by one of the most prominent Japanese filmmakers, Makoto Shinkai, including 5 Centimeters per Second (2007), Your Name (2016), The Garden of Words (2013). As an anime filmmaker, Shinkai is known for his wildly imaginative visual style and stories that focus on the estranged and alienated human state in modern society. What is fascinating about Shinkai’s works is the presentation of time between two characters in love that adds to the melancholy and dramatic plot of his films.

Image still from Comrades: Almost a Love Story (1996, Peter Chan Ho-Sun)

Hong Kong in New York 

Who will we be when we migrate to another country? Criterion Channel’s latest program Hong Kong in New York centered on the diasporic experience of Hong Kongers in New York in the pre-handover years providing audiences a route to think about Asian diasporic experiences in the West. The program consists of Clara Law’s Farewell China (1990), Stanley Kwan’s Full Moon in New York (1989), Mabel Cheung’s An Autumn’s Tale (1987) and Peter Chan Ho-Sun’s Comrades: Almost a Love Story (1996). 


Image still from Midwives (2022, Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing)

TIDF: Metaphor of the Times: The Reality Named Myanmar

Taiwan International Film Festival returns with an exhilarating line-up , including Metaphor of the Times: The Reality Named Myanmar. The programme presents 26 films that focus on the political upheavals of the past two decades, including titles such as Midwives (2022), Myanmar Diaries (2022). In both literal and abstract forms, depictions of ‘reality’ in these works serve as responses to and metaphors of the times. Cinema, seen through this lens, transcends its medium to mirror the essence of Myanmar’s reality.


Image still from Wheel of Fortune & Fantasy (2021, Ryusuke Hamaguchi)

Hamaguchi I & II

Film at Lincoln Center is having a selected retrospective of Ryusuke Hamaguchi, the prolific Japanese auteur. The retrospective covers the major works of the auteur like Happy Hour (2015), Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (2021), Drive My Car (2021), and GIFT, the silent version of Evil Does Not Exist with live accompaniment by Eiko Ishibashi’s (music composer of Drive My Car and Evil Does Not Exist) score. From these selected works, the audiences could trace the development of Hamaguchi’s style that evokes the theatrical aesthetic of Jacques Rivette, the intimacy of Eric Rohmer and the expressive formalism of Shinji Somai—in a rarely successful balancing act. 

Ho Tzu Nyen’s The Cloud of Unknowing (2011)

Ho Tzu Nyen’s experimental short film, The Cloud of Unknowing is streaming on Kadist. The film is based on a 14th century mystical text that uses clouds as a metaphor for the nonsensical and the spiritual. The short film is set in a soon-to-be demolished HDB where the characters in it have lived hermetically and absurdly until the moment of demolition. Then, a mysterious cloud appears, connecting their seemingly disjointed life. Ho’s artwork challenges fundamental myths and historical geopolitical narratives while dismantling the notion of modernization through Western influence or benevolence, presenting viewers with a paradox.



Q&A: Thunska Pansittivorakul

Returning to the latest edition of TIDF with his latest essayistic documentary Damnatio Memoriae, it’s time to revisit an interview with one of the most underrated filmmakers in Thailand, Thunska Pansittivorakul. Desistfilm interviewed Thunska upon the release of The Terrorist in 2012. Thunska expounded his filmmaking philosophy, which is often considered radical, provocative and sexually explicit. This interview offers the audience a glimpse of the rationale of his provoking visual style that stems from his pursuit of democratic freedom and contemplation of the political situation in Thailand.


“Transcending Mere Political Analysis”: Midi Z Discusses ‘The Clinic’

Sevara Pan from Documentary Magazine interviews Midi Z, who returned to IDFA with his latest documentary The Clinic, which was also nominated for the best documentary in the 60th Golden Horse Film Festival. In this interview, Midi Z talked about the genesis of the film and expressed his concern about the political turmoil in his home country for the past decade. The clinic in the documentary works as a double metaphor to examine the life and death of the Myanmar people and their traumatised daily life in the civil wars. 


Interview: Zhang Mengqi on Documentary ‘Self-Portrait: 47KM 2020’

Natalie Ng presents a comprehensive and informational interview with Zhang Mengqi, an independent female filmmaker from China. In this interview, Zhang shares about the production of Self-Portrait: 47KM 2020, the eleventh installment of her ongoing ‘Self-Portrait’ series. Her intention for this series is to collect oral histories and prevent narratives of history from being forgotten. To her, the ‘Self-portrait’ series is more than a documentation of the change in the village, it is also a documentation of her filmmaking journey, a way for her to learn about her relationship with the village, the place she dwelled. 


Image still from The Night’s Wife (1930, Yasujiro Ozu)

This Second Is Eternal: Shiguéhiko Hasumi on “Directed by Yasujiro Ozu”

Mubi Notebook talks to Shiguéhiko Hasumi, one of the most influential film scholars and writers in Japan, on the English translation of his book Directed by Yasujiro Ozu. He situates Ozu not as a Japanese director but as a true auteur who does not belong to any nation and delineates his reading strategy on Ozu films. He shares his view on Japanese cinema and his obsessions with classical Hollywood films. This is the first time that Hasumi’s book has been translated into English in its entirety. 


Image from On and Off-Screen Imaginaries by Tiffany Sia (Primary Information, 2024)

Interview: Tiffany Sia on On and Off-Screen Imaginaries

How can an exile reconfigure his/her identity in a foreign land? As part of the Hong Kong diaspora, Tiffany Sia answers this question in her newly-published book, On and Off Screen Imaginaries. In her conversation with Catherine Quan Damman, Sia speaks about the disappointment of the current political state in Hong Kong. The way she fights the disappointment is through cinema, a place where she can understand Hong Kong history by engaging in film criticism of the recent Hong Kong post-demonstration documentary, but also as models of 21st-century practices with the camera in the context of a surveillance state.


Basel Adra and Yuval Abraham in No Other Land (2024 Basel Adra, Yuval Abraham, Rachel Szor and Hamdan Ballal)

Interview: Yuval Abraham & Basel Adra on No Other Land

Devika Girish interviews the Palestine-Israel filmmaker duo, Yuval Abraham and Basel Adra on their critically acclaimed documentary, No Other Land.  The film tells the story of Basel Adra, a Palestinian activist, who films his community of Masafer Yatta being destroyed by Israel’s occupation, as he builds an unlikely alliance with an Israeli journalist. The duo explains their belief in documentary filmmaking and what informs their aesthetic choices. Working through difficulties in funding, they continue to maintain independence and objectivity in their work.


Image still from The Runner (1984, Amir Naderi)

The Runner: Cycles and Circles of Desire

Accompanying The Criterion Collection’s release of Amir Naderi’s The Runner in a brand new restoration, the co-director of Il Cinema Ritrovato and filmmaker Ehsan Khoshbakht writes a detailed account of Naderi’s career along with a critical analysis of the film. Ehsan guides the readers through the world of the lesser-known Iranian filmmaker by providing a historical and political context of the era Amir Naderi was in. He also maps out the relationship and cinematic influence of Naderi with other masters of cinema. 


Image still from Fresh Kill (1994, Shu Lea Cheang)

Eco Cybernoia: An Interview with Shu Lea Cheang

Ayanna Dozier interviews the Taiwanese-American artist and filmmaker, Shu Lea Cheang to celebrate the 30th anniversary of her experimental film Fresh Kill. The film tells the story of a lesbian couple who finds out the conspiracy of a big company through contaminated sushi and fish. They hack a multinational corporation, fighting for justice in a world of cyber warfare. Cheang shares about the making of the film, the restoration process, and the representation of sex on screen and its political motivation. At the end of the interview, she elucidates that her obsession with sci-fi films is to escape a painful reality, to cut across the past and the future to say something about our present experiences. 

Image still from Ishanou (1990, Aribam Syam Sharma)


The second volume of the post-festival publication of the Singapore International Film Festival Youth Jury & Critics Programme, Atlas, is out . This issue consists of articles and interviews written by the youth critics who participated in the programme to share their fresh perspectives on films. Rhea Chalak writes about Ishanou, a film included in the Landmark section, a collaborative programme with the Asian Film Archive. Shariffah Ili Hamraa interviews the director and actress of Maryam Pagi Ke Malam, to share about their creative process and censorship in Malaysia.


Image courtesy of Marina Bay Sands ArtScience Museum

Goddess: Brave. Bold. Beautiful.

Visit the insightful and fun exhibition on the Goddess in Asian cinema. ArtScience Museum reinvigorated the exhibition first curated by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) with an Asian lens. The Goddess exhibition put the legendary female stars such as Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Anna Tsuchiya, Saloma and Fann Wong in the spotlight, to celebrate the glamorous female stars that challenged the narratives, defied expectations and transcended boundaries. 


Viknesh Kobinathan: Film Programming at the Asian Film Archive & the Projector | Chapalang Film #13

A local film podcast, Chapalang Film Podcast, had a conversation with AFA’s film programmer, Viknesh Kobinathan, who recollects his journey from audience to film programmer and shared his philosophy of film programming. He also shared some behind-the-scenes stories of well-received film programmes at AFA such as the Coming of Rage series and the retrospective of Kinuyo Tanaka. 


Call for Submission: The Objectifs x Momo Short Film Incubator

The Objectifs is partnering with Momo Film Co to hold the Short Film Incubator, an initiative to assist selected filmmakers from Southeast Asia to develop their short film scripts. The programme is scheduled to run from 4 July to 25 August 2024 in a hybrid format. Refer to the website for more information. The submission will close on 30th April, 2359hrs.


Call for Submission: SeaShorts 2024 

The 8th edition of the SeaShorts Film Festival will be held in Kuala Lumpur in October 2024. Submissions of films up to  40 minutes and  completed after June 2022 are welcomed till 4 June 2024. 

Call for Submissions: Kaohsiung Film Festival 2024

Scheduled for 12 – 27 October, the Kaohsiung Film Festival is calling for short film entries from Asia and works that employ immersive technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR) and other pre-existing innovative technologies. The deadline for international short film entries is 12 June 2024 and the submission for the XR section will close on 31 May 2024.


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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