Asian Cinema Digest #7

Cinema season in Singapore is out in full swing in October—albeit with a shorter lineup and a greater online presence—this October with new programmes  by Asian Film Archive, National Gallery Singapore, Perspectives Film Festival and Singapore Chinese Film Festival

This eclectic edition of the digest features Interviews with artist-filmmakers Cao Fei (China) and Sung Tieu (Vietnam/Germany); new music inspired by Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Millennium Mambo as well as a playlist that takes its cue from 1980s Tamil movie soundtracks
AFA joins archives and heritage institutions around the world in the observance of UNESCO World Day for Audiovisual Heritage on 27 October 2020. A policy dialogue entitled Documentary Heritage at Risk: Policy Gaps in Digital Preservation will take place on the day via ZOOM. Registration is free via this link. The entire event will also be livestreamed on UNESCO’s YouTube channel, and available for viewing at any time.


Reframe: The (In)Hospitable World 

Presented by the Asian Film Archive and guest curated by academic Kiu-wai Chu, this film programme explores the power of cinema to represent, reflect, and envision life in the Anthropocene and especially amidst the current pandemic. 

Available theatrically at Oldham Theatre and on VOD from 9-22 November 2020. 

Restored: Kaki Bakar (1995)

Part of the AFA’s collection, U-Wei Bin Haji Saari’s acclaimed work on class conflict and defiance in rural Malaysia underwent a new video restoration in 2020. 

The film will screen exclusively at Oldham Theatre from 10-31 October 2020. 

Singapore Chinese Film Festival 2020

After its untimely cancellation in May 2020, the 8th edition of the festival returns in a hybrid form with online and theatrical screenings from 1-11 October 2020 featuring contemporary and classic cinema from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. 

Perspectives Film Festival 2020

Organised annually by the undergraduates of the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information (WKWSCI) at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the 13th edition of the festival, presented under the theme Truth, will be held virtually from 23 October – 1 November 2020. 

Painting With Light 2020

National Gallery Singapore’s annual film festival is dedicated to films that explore artistic practices, art institutions, and moments in art history that resonate in the present. This year marks a special edition featuring a collection of short films on the stories of Southeast Asia. 

All films available online for free from 2 – 26 October 2020.

The Elephant and the Sea (2007, Woo Ming-Jin)

Spotlight on Woo Ming-jin

A focus on four features by the independent Malaysian filmmaker whose lo-fi and offbeat films shine a light on the unseen lives of Malaysia’s rural poor.

The Meiji Period of Film

Initiated as a joint research project between the National Film Archive of Japan and the National Institute of Informatics to commemorate the 120th anniversary of the birth of Japanese cinema, this website contains rare archival films from Japan’s Meiji Era (1868-1912).

ArtScience on Screen: Sonorous Sketches – Visualising a Field Recording Dubplate

A collaboration between artists Zai Tang (Singapore) and Rei Hayama (Japan), Sonorous Sketches is an animated short film comprising experimental visualisations of soundscapes recorded in the Singaporean wild. A recording of a livestream discussion and Q&A with the artists is also available to view. 

No Gods, No Masters (2017) 

Originally presented as part of an installation, artist-filmmaker Sung Tieu’s work, dealing with American involvement in the Vietnam war, is featured on Vdrome as a single-channel video from 29 September – 12 October 2020.

This work was a featured artwork at AFA’s State of Motion: Fear of Monsters programme in 2019.

Asian Three-Fold Mirror 2018: Journey 

Co-produced by The Japan Foundation Asia Center and Tokyo International Film Festival, the second installment in the Asian Three-Fold Mirror omnibus project deals with the theme of travel beyond time and space, featuring cast and crew from China, Myanmar and Japan. The film is available to view until 30 November 2020. 

Two Prisons: a Chinese Dissident’s Story

A short documentary that details Beijing activist and dissident Wang Zhongxia’s account of political persecution and paranoia at the hands of Beijing police.


Millennium Mambo (2001, Hou Hsiao-Hsien)

A Pure Person

A tribute album to Taiwanese musician Lim Giong’s iconic track from Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Millennium Mambo (that plays as Shu Qi runs across an overhead bridge), will be released on 15 October 2020. The album introduces “new melodic and philosophical interpretations” of Lim’s original song. 

Paradise Bangkok Mix (August 2020) 

London-based writer and musician Chris Menist investigates the similarities between 1980s Tamil movie soundtracks, and Jamaican bashment music.


Prisons with No Walls: Cao Fei Discusses “Prison Architect”

The Chinese multimedia artist discusses her 2018 film, which examines Hong Kong’s colonial history through questions of captivity. 

Walker (2012), Tsai Ming Liang

Walking with Tsai Ming-liang and Lee Kang-sheng

A companion piece to Living Still Life: A Tsai Ming-liang Double Bill, which features two films from Tsai’s Walker series. 

Tsai’s 2006 feature, I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone will be screening at Oldham Theatre on 21 November 2020 as part of Reframe: The (In)Hospitable World.

The Terrorizers (1986), Edward Yang

Taiwan Stories: The New Cinema of the 1980s 

An introduction to the youthful, modernist, and engaged films by Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-hsien, and others who re-invented Taiwanese cinema. 

Cure (2001), Kiyoshi Kurosawa

Where to Begin with Kiyoshi Kurosawa 

A guide to the multi-genre cinematic oeuvre of Kiyoshi Kusosawa, whose film To The Ends of the Earth (2019) is now available on VOD.

Manji (1964), Yasuzo Masumura

Immodest Proposals: Celebrating the Lunatic Films of Yasuzo Masumura

A tribute to a key figure in Japanese New Wave cinema. 

The Home and the World: Three Films by Ruchir Joshi 

A close look into selected works by experimental Indian filmmaker and writer Ruchir Joshi. 

Dragon Inn (1967), King Hu

King Hu’s Deserted Forts and Isolated Inns

An article that reflects on the power of place in the prolific filmmaker’s Dragon Inn (1967) and A Touch of Zen (1971). 

After the Curfew: A Nation of Dead Ends 

Written in conjunction with The Criterion Collection’s latest release of Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project Vol. 3, this essay delves into Usmar Ismail’s 1954 drama of Indonesian society’s postcolonial struggles. 

The Money Pit: Uttam Kumar in The Hero 

A study of the leading Bengali actor’s performance in Satyajit Ray’s 1966 psychological drama. 

Race and Singapore Short Cinema Webinar

Co-hosted by Objectifs and University of Toronto, this webinar is part of Mediating Race, Reimagining Geopolitics, a series of lectures and film screenings featuring scholars and creators of cinema and media who investigate how moving image media contribute to formations of race, racism, and racialization from global perspectives.


A research initiative into independent Southeast Asian film production. Started by Thailand-based film fund, Purin Pictures, there are now two editions of reports based on films made in 2016 and 2017

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