Asian Cinema Digest #5

A before and after restoration comparison of Bambaru Avith (The Wasps Are Here, 1978)

This past month brought some good news for us at the Asian Film Archive. One of AFA’s restored films was selected to screen at Cannes Classics for the first time. Bambaru Avith (The Wasps Are Here, 1978) by Sri Lankan director Dharmasena Pathiraja together with other great titles form the Cannes Classics 2020 lineup. On 31 July 2020 we resumed screenings at the Oldham Theatre after more than five months of closure. We are grateful for these milestones that spur us to carry on our mission as a film institution, even during these uncertain times. 

In this edition of the digest, we bring to your attention new online initiatives by independent cinema, The Projector and the Korean Cultural Centre UK; interviews with the filmmakers of recent award-winning films The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) and The Cloud in Her Room; as well as re-appraisals of world cinema stalwarts Satyajit Ray, Hong Sang Soo and Abbas Kiarostami.


Asian Film Archive Presents: For the Record

The AFA’s new programme, brings together bold musical acts from across Asia in a series of documentaries that focuses on a particular breed of musician and the different odds they have to fight against in order to make their music.

All ten films in For the Record will screen exclusively at the cinema from 31 July – 23 August 2020 before being made available on AFA’s Vimeo On Demand page from 24 August to 6 September 2020. 

Currently only available for Singapore-based viewers

Restored Singapore Films on Netflix 

In conjunction with Singapore’s National Day on 9 August 2020, two films that have been restored by AFA, Mee Pok Man (Eric Khoo, 1995) and The Teenage Textbook Movie (Philip Lim, 1998), join over 100 Singapore films and television series on the Netflix platform.

The Northeast India AV Archive 

Established in 2019, The Northeast India AV Archive is an audiovisual public archive at the Department of Mass Media, St. Anthony’s College, Shillong, India. The collection includes over 500 videos which comprise documentary films, amateur footage, interviews and newsreels, some of which can be accessed for free on the archive’s website. 

Thai Film Archive Presents: The King of the White Elephant (1941)

Set in the ancient Kingdom of Ayutthaya, this English-language Thai film was made to promote the message of peace as World War II raged in Europe. Restored in 2005, it is Thailand’s oldest surviving feature film in its complete form. 

Gong Li in Raise the Red Lantern (1991), directed by Zhang Yimou

The Projector Plus 

Singapore-based independent cinema The Projector, newly-launched virtual cinema platform contains a diverse slate of films which includes a Zhang Yimou & Gong Li showcase

Currently only available for Singapore-based viewers. 

Trapped! The Cinema of Confinement, Korean Film Nights 2020

A collaboration between the Korean Cultural Centre UK and the Birkbeck Film Programming and Curating MA course, Trapped! The Cinema of Confinement, is the latest installation of Korean Film Nights, a year-round programme of film screenings, mini-lectures and discussions. 

The films in the programme are 301/302 (Samgong-il Samgong-i, 1995), Eunuch (Naesi, 1968),  Transgression (Pagye, 1974) and, Sopyonje (Seopyeonje, 1993). From 30 July – 27 August 2020, each film will be paired with special introductions and discussions.

Image Makers – Singapore Photographers 

Co-presented by photographer Tan Ngiap Heng, film and photography institution Objectifs and production house The Creative Room, Image Makers is a series of documentary shorts, each directed by different filmmakers as they uncover the processes and motivations behind internationally renowned photographers from Singapore.

HowlRound TV Presents: Subtitling Subtleties 

The English subtitler of Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, Darcy Paquet assesses the intricate art of subtitling with Linda Hoaglund, a bilingual film director and producer and the subtitler of 250 Japanese films, including Miyazaki’s Spirited Away and Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, and award winning writer-director Xiaolu Guo (She, a Chinese, UFO in Her Eyes) who responds from a filmmaker’s perspective.


Sounds on Screen: Hong Kong New Wave

An hour-long mixtape featuring the excerpts of music and sounds from films such as John Woo’s The Killer (喋血雙雄, 1989) and Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express (重慶森林, 1994). 


Dossier: Hong Sang Soo 

Taking inspiration from the name of Abbas Kiarostami’s main subject in Close-up (1990), Sabzian, based in Belgium, is an online platform for writings on cinema and visual culture. Their recently collated dossier features articles and interviews with director Hong Sang Soo from 2003-2017.

Labyrinth of Cinema (2019), directed by Nobuhiko Obayashi

Where to begin with Nobuhiko Obayashi

A guide to navigating the delirious coming-of-age fantasias of House (Hausu, ハウス,  1977) director Nobuhiko Obayashi.

Tall Man Out

Experimental news, arts and culture magazine Popula explores the cultural history and Western curiosity of Satyajit Ray’s “colossal height”, revealing Ray’s own feelings about being the tall man out.

Water and Vessel: The Kung-Fu Movies of Bruce Lee  

A study of Bruce Lee’s career through the artistry of the martial arts films that he was most known for. 

Sight & Sound Magazine: Anime Special 

Sight & Sound Magazine’s Summer 2020 issue is dedicated to Japanese anime. The online version of the magazine includes a listicle of 50 key anime feature films since 1943; an exploration of the origins of anime; and a critical look at the role of women in the anime industry. 

Why Funeral Parade of Roses is a Landmark of Japanese Queer Cinema

Writing for the British Film Institute (BFI) Tamsin Cleary firmly places Toshio Matsumoto’s cult film within the international canon of queer cinema. The newly-restored version of Funeral Parade of Roses can be viewed on MUBI with a membership. 

Noir Meets Nawathe: Close-Up on “Gumnaam”

Bedatri D.Choudhury spotlights Raja Nawathe’s 1965 film Gumnaam, a musical adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None that plays with the mixture of Western conventions and Hindi melodrama.

Anocha Suwichakornpong’s Memories of Unrest 

Writer Tash Aw reflects on the intersections of national and personal traumas via Anocha Suwichakornpong’s By the Time it Gets Dark (2016)

The Action Scene: Breaking Tradition in Tsui Hark’s “The Blade” 

The latest addition to the MUBI Notebook’s The Action Scene – a column exploring the construction of action set pieces in films – is a breakdown of the climactic fight scene of Tsui Hark’s 1995 wuxia film. 

Ryuichi Sakamoto Finds a Melody for the Unnameable 

The Seed and the Sower, the underappreciated song composed by Ryuichi Sakamoto for the soundtrack of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (1983) is the subject of this article that appraises the emotional heft and complexity that the track lends to the film.

Taste of Cherry: Stay Near the Tree

Winning the Palme d’Or in 1997, Taste of Cherry brought filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami into international prominence. Critic A.S. Hamrah ruminates on the lasting legacy of this elliptical and meandering classic of world cinema. 

Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Parisian Rendezvous 

An interview with Kore-eda on his most recent work, The Truth. Helmed by acting heavyweights Juliette Binoche, Catherine Deneuve and Ethan Hawke, the film marks his first-time directing outside of Japan and not in his native language.

The Land Demands Your Effort: C.W Winter (and Anders Edström) on The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) 

Shot for a total of 27 weeks, over a period of 14 months, in a village of 47 inhabitants in the mountains of Japan’s Kyoto Prefecture, The Works and Days is an 8-hour feature film that won the top prize in the Encounters section of the 2020 Berlin International Film Festival. Filmmaking duo C.W. Winter and Anders Edström are interviewed by Cinema Scope about their process.

The Unbearable Object of Liminality: A Conversation with Zheng Lu Xinyuan 

An interview with the Chinese filmmaker of the melancholic and intimate, The Cloud in Her Room, that won the Tiger Award at International Film Festival Rotterdam 2020.

Full Strike (2015) directed by Derek Kwok & Henri Wong

“To All Beautiful Losers”: Political Pessimism and the Hong Kong Sports Movie 

From the newest edition of Senses of Cinema, this article finds political and societal resonances within the recent trend of sports movies coming from Hong Kong. 

Ten Years After 

27 pieces of writing commissioned by NANG Magazine that respond to the question —“What films, filmmakers, performances, sounds, images or moments in Asian cinema have you loved over the last decade (2009-2019)?” 

Southeast Asia on Screen: From Independence to Financial Crisis (1945-1998) 

Edited by film scholars Gaik Cheng Khoo, Thomas Barker and Mary Ainslie, Southeast Asia on Screen is a new academic publication by the Amsterdam University. It addresses the histories, trends, technologies and sociopolitical events that have moulded the art and industry of film in the Southeast Asian region, post-World War II.

Open Calls 

MEMORY! Film Festival: Myanmar Script Fund 2020 

Myanmar Script Fund is a programme for emerging Myanmar filmmakers developing their 1st or 2nd narrative feature films. Applications close on 31 October 2020. 

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