Motifs is part of Monographs 2020. The video essays will be on AFA’s Vimeo channel from 7 December 2021.
Motifs consists of twelve essays which critically engage with Asian cinema and the relational networks and structures they are embedded in, including the political and topographical. By employing internal and external systems of interpretation, the films are both taken on their own terms, with attention paid to idiosyncratic aesthetics and narratives, and placed in conversation with other classifiers such as genre, space and oeuvre. Through referencing diverse sources including propaganda archives, social media clips and anthropological texts, the essays locate the filmic within a dynamic range of cultural and historical signifiers, contradictions and hierarchies, while offering potentiality for recomposition.
Riar Rizaldi examines the trajectory of Indonesian horror films, from its roots as propaganda in service of the authoritarian New Order regime, to a subversive tactic that repositions rural filmmakers and audiences beyond the dominant framework of mainstream theatrical release.
This found-footage essay compiles scenes of soldiers’ deaths in various Vietnamese propaganda war movies in an effort to understand the public adherence to—and manipulative purposes of—this distinct cinematic tradition.
A survey of the ways in which Mehul Kumar’s Hindi action film, Brave Revolutionary (1994) has been remixed and recontextualized in the age of social media, blurring the line between authorship and authority.
Journalist and film studies researcher Maja Korbecka juxtaposes two features depicting the early days of Communist rule in China—Li Shaohong’s Blush (1995) and Chen Xihe’s Sisters Stand Up (1951)—to examine the relationship between film narrative and the Party-state agenda, as well as the contradictions embedded within women’s liberation in 1949–1966 China.
Acclaimed artist and filmmaker Saodat Ismailova examines the changing role of female heroine archetypes in Uzbek cinematic history, situating filmic representations of women in a broader context of social and political transformation.
[This video essay is currently unavailable to view]
Irani Bag by Maryam Tafakory
Using excerpts from 24 Iranian films from 1990 to 2018, Maryam Tafakory’s split-screen video essay playfully interrogates the “handbag technique” in Iranian cinema, in which a wearable item becomes a surrogate for bodily contact between performers of the opposite sex—an act prohibited by Iranian censors.
Curator, film distributor and cultural activist Sonali Joshi reflects on the spatial, temporal and mnemonic practices that intersect both cinema and architecture by surveying a broad range of films set in Asian cities such as Bangkok, Taipei and Phnom Penh.
Film scholar, critic and educator Patrick Campos maps the place-making strategies of three films set in Mindanao, the southern region of the Philippines, as an alternative perspective against the category of ‘national cinema’. Instead of regarding the category as static and hierarchical, Campos calls for a repositioning of indigeneity and alterity within the category of the nation.
In this appraisal of the understated intuitive films of Naruse Mikio, programmer and writer Kiki Fung focuses on the role of art and artists in Mikio’s oeuvre, and examines their recurrence in constructing both social realism and sublime virtuosity.
Matt Turner, a writer and curator in non-fiction and artists’ moving image meditates on the relationship between subject, filmmaker and space in Kaori Oda’s experimental documentary practice including self-reflexive autobiographies and immersive landscape studies.
Researcher, film activist and lecturer Tazeen Ahmed observes how Bangladeshi filmmaker, Yasmine Kabir challenges the macro-level narrative of development through her short documentaries which focus on individual experiences with war, labour conditions and migration.
Curator and programmer Bunga Siagan speculates on the remnants and multiple analytical potentialities of leftist films in 1950s and 60s Indonesia, many of which were erased during the anti-communist coup d’etat.