Asian Cinema Digest #9

Seasons greetings from all of us at the Asian Film Archive!

This last edition of the digest for 2020 is chock-full of online and hybrid film festivals such as True Colours Film Festival, Cartoons Underground,and Forum Film Dokumenter, to name a few. Freshly-commissioned work by Apichatpong Weerasethakul and SAthecollective make their premieres, as well as the launch of a brand new grant aimed at supporting Southeast Asian short filmmakers.

We look forward to continually sharing interesting and stimulating Asian cinema content in the upcoming year!


Releases: Damp Season 

Chinese director Gao Ming’s debut narrative feature about love and loss in Shenzhen, Damp Season (2020) makes its Singapore premiere at Oldham Theatre from 12-27 December 2020. 

Restored: Blue Moon 

A classic of New Taiwanese Cinema, Ko I-Cheng’s romantic comedy Blue Moon (1997) is a 5-part film that can be screened in any order. With 120 unique narrative possibilities, no two screenings will be alike. Oldham Theatre will be screening the Southeast Asian premiere of the restored version from 11 December 2020 – 3 January 2021.  

Still from Ainedrag, courtesy of Mekyorke

Monographs 2020: Written Essays

With the Monographs video essays having made their debut recently, AFA is now proud to present the first of ten written essays that were also commissioned as part of the project. Kicking off this fortnightly series is a piece by filmmaker Amir Muhammad that looks into amateur horror filmmaking during lockdown in Malaysia. 

True Colours Film Festival 2020

Presented by The Nippon Foundation, this online film festival offers a selection of features, shorts and dialogues that reflects the theme: One World, One Family. Films are available to view for free in Asia Pacific countries from 3-12 December 2020. 

Japanese Film Festival 2020 (Singapore)

A long-running showcase of contemporary and classic Japanese cinema in Singapore, from 10-12 December 2020, the programme will adopt a hybrid approach, with online and physical screenings. 

Cartoons Underground 2020

Now in its 8th edition, this annual animation festival from Singapore features an international line-up with a special focus on local and regional works. It will take place fully online from 9-15 December 2020. 

Freedom Film Fest 2020 

Organised by the Freedom Film Network in Malaysia, this international human rights documentary festival embarks on its first-ever digital edition from 10-13 December 2020 under the theme: “RACE : HUMAN”. 

Key art from documentary Trembling Mountain (2016, dir. Kesang Tseten) one of the Tibetan films included in the DIFF showcase.

Tibet Films 

A new online initiative by Dharamshala International Film Festival (DIFF) and Drung Tibetan Filmmakers Collective,  showcasing films made by exiled Tibetan filmmakers will be available on VOD, from 3-13 December 2020.

Forum Film Dokumenter 2020 

Taking place annually since 2002, this Yogyjakarta-based platform is Southeast Asia’s first and longest-running documentary film festival. Films are available to view online from 25 November – 14 December 2020 in selected regional territories. 

Still from Kummatty (1979, dir. G. Aravindan)

Potato Eaters Collective Presents: Restored Indian Classics 

A not-for-profit leftist group of cinephiles based in India, Potato Eaters hosts a growing selection of rare and newly-restored feature films for free along with other shorts, documentaries and interviews. 

Peer to Peer: UK/ HK 

A digital programme and platform encouraging meaningful cultural exchange and forging enduring partnerships between the UK and Hong Kong’s visual arts sectors, the website currently hosts recordings of panel discussions as well as new and existing visual art and video works by artists from both regions.

October Rumbles by Apichatpong Weerasethakul 

A newly-created commission for Vancouver-based gallery The Polygon, this short film is a poignant response to this time of global crisis, and is accompanied by Apitchatpong’s writing.

Overseas by Yoon Sung-A

French-Korean artist and filmmaker, Yoon Sung-A innovatively observes a training centre in the Philippines for domestic workers. Screening exclusively on MUBI from 25 November – 24 December 2020, an introduction by the filmmaker is also available as a companion piece. 

Cat Sticks by Ronny Sen 

A debut feature by Bengali filmmaker Ronny Sen, Cat Sticks offers a bleak yet stunning portrait of drug addiction in Kolkata. 

Nakorn Saworn by Puangsoi Aksornsawang

Programmed by AFA in 2019 as part of the Singular Screens programme, this hybrid docu-drama from Thailand is now available worldwide on VOD

The Wandering by SAthecollective

A new commission by the Singapore International Festival of Arts, this interdisciplinary collaborative work brings together movement, music and the moving image, inspired by SAMSARA, the latest album by SAthecollective. Viewable online for free with registration from 18-20 December 2020. 

Still from Days (2020, dir. Tsai Ming-Liang)

Video Essay: Days Passed – Lee Kang-sheng Through the Eyes of Tsai Ming-Liang 

A video essay exploring the fragile passage of time through the shifting textures of Lee Kang-sheng’s face in the films of Tsai Ming-Liang.

Still from Naked Spaces – Living is Round (1985, dir. Trinh T. Minh-ha)

Naked Spaces – Living is Round by Trinh T. Minh-ha

Part of the film programme Speaking / Thinking Nearby, accompanying the exhibition, Trinh T. Minh-ha. Films. by NTU CCA Singapore, this online screening of Trinh T. Minh-ha’s 1985 ethnographic documentary film takes place from 29 November – 10 December 2020. 

Online Talk: From Taiwanese-language Films to the Future of Taiwan Cinema 

Hosted by IJTS (International Journal of Taiwan Studies) in collaboration with EATS (European Association of Taiwan Studies) and NATSA (North American Taiwan Studies Association), this online talk is the fourth in a series called The Future of Taiwan Studies in the post-COVID World


Sounds on Screen: Satoshi Kon

An hour-long mixtape of soundtrack moments and audio excerpts from the films of Satoshi Kon. 


Thresholds of Work and Non-Work in Tulapop Saenjaroen’s People on Sunday

Recently screened in-competition at the recent Singapore International Film Festival, Thai artist-filmmaker Tulapop Saenjaroen’s homage and reenvisioning of silent German film Menschen am Sonntag (1930), is the subject of this feature article.

Tsai Ming-liang’s The River in One Shot

Part of a series that seeks to find an essence of cinema history in a single image of a movie, this column touches on Tsai Ming-liang’s rhythmic portrait of urban malaise in his 1997 film The River

Objectifs Film Club Recap: Death of the Sound Man

A recap of the Objectifs Film Club session featuring Thai filmmaker Sorayos “Yossy” Prapapan discussing his short film Death of the Sound Man with Singaporean sound designer and foley artist Tingli Lim. 

Still from Vital (2004, dir. Shinya Tsukamoto)

The Softer Side of Shinya Tsukamoto 

A dark dive into two of Shinya Tsukamoto’s most compassionate films: Vital and A Snake of June.

Ozu’s frames: Form and narrative in Late Spring

An academic essay on space and movement in Ozu Yasujiro’s 1949 film. 

Still from Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984, dir. Hayao Miyazaki)

Hayao Miyazaki’s Viral Stories 

Writer Ryu Spaeth reflects on the “extraordinarily heroic and thoroughly ordinary” female lead characters in Miyazaki’s films.

Still from Namak Halal (1982, dir. Prakash Mehra)

Thinking Through Bollywood’s Class Consciousness

A personal essay that looks back at the career of Bollywood playback singer Asha Bhosle in the context of today’s culture and politics. 

Still from Apur Sansar (1959, dir. Satyajit Ray)

The World of Soumitra Chatterjee

A tribute to the renowned Bengali actor, director, playwright, essayist, and poet who passed away recently at the age of 85.

Still from Chungking Express (1994, dir. Wong Kar Wai)

Pop Music in Film 

The defining soundtracks of Chungking Express (1994) and Gumnaam (1965) come under close study as part of a special dossier in the latest issue of Senses of Cinema, 


Momo Distribution Grant 

Launched by Momo Film Co. in partnership with C47 Investment the grant aims to meet the gap in the short film distribution landscape and support emerging filmmakers from Southeast Asia. Applications open from 1 January 2021.

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