Monographs 2020

Monographs is a new series of commissioned essays on Asian cinema by the Asian Film Archive (AFA). Conceived during a time of uncertainty amid the global COVID-19 outbreak, the inaugural edition is the institution’s response to the curtailing of film production activities and AFA’s own theatrical film screenings during an incredibly challenging year. As a means of engaging with the wider film community and continuing our mission to promote Asian cinema, the series hopes to offer an important space for writers and thinkers to discourse upon the moving image within the context of the region. In close consultation with eminent scholars of cinema, the 2020 edition of Monographs consists of twenty newly commissioned works, half of which are video essays – an audiovisual format of film criticism that has become ubiquitous as of late.

Drawing upon histories and archives, both personal and regional, these works reveal new vistas of inquiry; ruminations that evince the essayists’ personal connections to cinema, made more poignant by the fact that they were created during various states of isolation and solitude. Projected as an annual series, it is our aspiration for Monographs to build upon the AFA collection and serve as an important repository of critical thinking on the cinemas of Asia.

The inaugural edition of Monographs will have its world premiere at the Dharamshala International Film Festival held online from 29 October to 4 November 2020.

About the directors

Arnont Nongyao (1979) currently lives and works in Lamphun (TH) and Saigon (VN). He is an artist that is interested and has fallen in love with the sound and moving images. His works are sometimes difficult to categorize such as a weird man who’s playing with the wing of four ants. Some of his experimental films (vibration) screened at international film festivals including CORONA film festival (Sapporo, 2020), KLEX ExScreen 18 (KL, 2018), Papay Gyro Nights (Norway, 2017), International Film Festival (Rotterdam, 2016), and 16th Media Art Biennale WRO (Poland, 2015), etc.

Arnot Nongyao’s work A Weirdo Never Fever OveRry is described as “a weird Mekong travelogue about my personal history and stories”.

Kush Badhwar is an artist and filmmaker operating across media, art, cinematic and other social contexts. He is interested in the ecology of sound
and image across stretches of time and political change. He believes in the potential of listening and collectivity, and to this end has worked closely with wala, Word Sound Power, Frontyard Projects and Khanabadosh. Selected screening or exhibition of his work includes at Addis Video Art Festival, the Flaherty Seminar, Tallinn Photomonth Biennale, Five Million
Incidents, Experimenta Bangalore, Sarai Reader 09, Videobrasil, and Forum Expanded, Berlinale. He has also undertaken’s Fellowship for Experiments with Video Archives and India Foundation of the Arts Archival Fellowship.

Renu Savant graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. She received two National Film Awards, a Student National Award among others, for her short film projects while at the film institute. She made her first long documentation film, called Many Months in Mirya (250 mins), during an Early
Career Fellowship from the SMCS, TISS, Mumbai. This film received the John Abraham National Award from Kerala State Chalchitra Academy in 2017, had a preview screening at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016-17 and recently, invitation to be part of the Yokohama Triennale, 2020. Her next film in the Mirya village in Maharashtra, India, a documentary called
Mod Bhaang, was made through a film fellowship from the PSBT, New Delhi and was selected at various festivals including the 62nd DOK Leipzig. Her work has centered on methodologies of documentation and the limits of fiction in film and video.

Kush Badhwar and Renu Savant‘s work Brave Revolutionary Redubbed, explores the way a scene from Brave Revolutionary (1994, dir. Mehul Kumar) has been remixed and recontextualised in the social media age, blurring the line between authorship and authority.

Maja Korbecka is a freelance writer, translator and film studies researcher with the focus on Sinophone cinemas. She is a contributor to and EKRANy magazine, and an alumni at the Berlinale
Talent Press 2020 and Far East Film Festival Campus 2017. She obtained the Film and New Media Studies BA & MA and Far East Studies BA at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, during which she completed a student exchange at the National University of Singapore and two one-year Chinese language scholarship programmes in Shanghai and Taipei. After graduation, she worked as a programmer for the Five Flavours Asian Film Festival in Warsaw. She is currently pursuing a PhD in the Graduate School of East Asian Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin with the dissertation focusing on film festivals in China.

Saved by the Party-State is Maja Korbecka‘s exploration of the relation between the films Blush (1995, dir. Li Shaohong) and Sisters Stand Up (1951, dir. Chen Xihe) with the Partystate agenda as well as the consequences of contradictions embedded within the women’s liberation in 1949-1966 China through

A philosophy graduate, Maung Okkar’s first documentary: Charcoal Boy screened and competed at 16 international film
festivals such as Munich International Festival of Film School. In 2017, he started working as a project director for Save Myanmar Film together with his friends with the aim of saving old Myanmar films which are being neglected. In 2018, with great effort from Save Myanmar Film, the oldest silent film from Myanmar, The Emerald Jungle (1934) was successfully inscribed as UNESCO Regional Register for Asia Pacific Region. Since then, Okkar has been leading the project and continuing film preservation efforts for the existing old Myanmar films. In June 2019, Save Myanmar Film was awarded as the “SEAPAVAA Best Archival Project in the Region Award”. Currently, Okkar is working on two film restoration projects with The Film Archive (Public Organization) Thailand and National Film Archive Japan.

Having grown up around filmmakers, Maung Okkar’s piece Reminiscences is a personal family story about filmmakers in Myanmar indirectly reflecting old Myanmar Cinema, and those working in film during difficult times in the past.

Pam Virada (b. 1993, Bangkok), based in Amsterdam, is interested in the notions that lie between the realms of architectural space, memory, and mnemonic devices. Drawn into the creations of oxymorons, her practice often explores the concepts of personal and collective memory, colliding subjective realms with physical spaces, the circumstances in-between ‘placement’ and ‘displacement,’ fact and fiction. Often, she utilizes
mixed media installation, moving images, and photography as the medium. Virada holds a B.A. in Communication Design from the Faculty of Architecture, Chulalongkorn University. Additionally, she has participated as a guest student in Class Prof. Florian Slotawa at Kunsthochschule Kassel
and is currently part of the Studio for Immediate Spaces, Sandberg Instituut. Virada was selected as one of the artists in “Early Years Project #4:
Praxis Makes Perfect,” Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (2019) and has participated in solo and group shows domestically and internationally. She received the Grand Prix and the Diane Wen Goldberg Award, Wonder Foto Day, Taipei (2018), the judge and reviewers award, Unknown Asia, Osaka (2017).

Casting a Spell to Alter Reality reflects on Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s coming-of-age trilogy and is part of Pam Virada’s ongoing research to explore and retrace the Chinese diaspora and the collective consciousness through the representation of films

Born in 1984 in Manila, Philippines. Raya Martin
has directed several features and short films – fictions, documentaries, and installations. He was a resident of the Cannes Cinéfondation and the Berlinale Residency programs, and an alumni of the Berlinale Talents.
Screening in the Un Certain Regard competition of the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, Martin’s breakthrough feature Independecia (supported by the Berlinale World Cinema Fund) was hailed as a singular mix of Filipino history and Hollywood fantasy. He co-directed the urban noir Manila that was also screened as Out of Competition in the same year, marking the first time a Filipino director had two films in the official selection of the Cannes festival.

Raya Martin is a recipient of the prestigious Thirteen Artists Awards in the Philippines. He was named one of the 50 most important filmmakers under 50 by Cinema Scope Magazine. In 2012, his films were presented at the Documenta 13 in Kassel, and a program of his films has been shown at the Museum of Modern Art and Museum of the Moving Image (New York), Centre Pompidou (Paris), and the Korean Film Archive (Seoul). He has also started working in performance arts with commissioned works by the Asian Culture Center in Gwangju, South Korea. Martin’s most recent feature films include the crime drama Smaller and Smaller Circles based on the best-selling first Filipino crime novel by F.H. Batacan, and the coming-of-age Death of Nintendo supported by Film Independent.

“How do we watch movies without cinema?” Raya Martin asks, in the making of Spirit Film, while thinking about his two uncles and aunt who passed away from COVID-19. “What are they watching from beyond? And how are those images made? There’s always been collectivity, even before, and after cinema.”

Riar Rizaldi works as an artist and amateur researcher. Born in Indonesia and currently based
in Hong Kong. His main focus is on the relationship between capital and technology, extractivism, and theoretical fiction. Through his works, he questions the notion of image politics, materiality, media
archaeology and unanticipated consequences of technologies. Riar has also curated ARKIPEL Jakarta International Documentary & Experimental Film Festival — Penal Colony (2017), Internet of (No) Things (2018) at Jogja National Museum and cocurated Open Possibilities: ‘There is not only one neat way to imagine our future’ at JCC, Singapore & NTT ICC, Tokyo (2019-2020). His works have been shown at Locarno Film Festival, BFI Southbank London, International Film Festival Rotterdam, Times Museum Guangzhou, NTT InterCommunication Center Tokyo, and National Gallery of Indonesia amongst others.

Ghost Like Us is Riar Rizaldi‘s attempt to investigate how media technology
liberates the ontology of cinema through the observation of horror films in Indonesia and its trajectory. It also reflects several issues varied from ideological state apparatus to cinematic elsewhere that embodied in the history of horror film in Indonesia.

Saodat Ismailova (b. 1981 in Tashkent) is one of the representatives of a new generation of artists from
Central Asia who came of age in the post-Soviet era and have established cosmopolitan artistic lives while remaining deeply engaged with their native
region as a source of creative inspiration. After graduating from State Art Institute of Tashkent, she was granted a residency in Fabrica, a research and communication centre based in Treviso, Italy where she directed Aral: Fishing in an Invisible Sea that won Best Documentary at the 2004 Turin Film Festival. In 2005 she was awarded DAAD – Artist in Residency program in Berlin where she developed the script of her debut award wining feature film 40 Days of Silence. She participated in Venice Biennale, 2013 with her video installation Zukhra. In 2017, Ismailova was an artist in residence in OCA (Office of Contemporary Art, Norway) where she developed The Haunted, an award wining short film. In 2018, she graduated from Le Fresnoy, France’s National Studio of Contemporary Arts. In March 2018, her multimedia performance Qyrq Qyz was presented at
BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in New York, and Museum quai Branly in Paris. In 2020, she is running Laboratory from the Center for Contemporary Arts in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She is currently working on her second feature film Barazgh.

Her Five Lives is Saodat Ismailova‘s look into the history of Uzbek cinema by analysing representation and transformation of Uzbek female heroines within almost a century (1925 – 2015).

Truong Minh Quý was born in Buon Ma Thuot, a small city in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. Quý lives and works here and there in the vibrancy of memories and present moments, his narratives and images, lying between documentary and fiction, personal and impersonal, drawing on the landscape of his homeland, childhood memories, and the historical context of Vietnam. In his films, he has experimented with combining abstract concepts-images with realistic improvisations during shooting. His films have been selected for international film festivals and exhibitions such as Clermont-Ferrand, Oberhausen, Rotterdam, Busan, Les Rencontres Internationales Paris & Berlin. He is the alumnus of 2012 Asian Film Academy (Busan International Film Festival) and 2016 Berlinale Talents (Berlin International Film Festival). He won the main art prize at the 20th Video Brasil, Sao Paulo in 2017. His second feature film, The Tree House (2019), premiered at the 72nd
Locarno Film Festival (Filmmaker of the Present Competition), where it was regarded as “Three of the festival’s best premieres” by Mubi and “an ode to
memory and filmmaking” by The Film Stage. The film continued to screen in 57th New York Film Festival, Viennale, Festival Des 3 Continents, Rotterdam International Film Festival and CPH:Dox.

Death of Soldier by Truong Minh Quý is a found-footage film compiles scenes that portray the death of soldiers in different Vietnamese propaganda war movies. It looks at how these war films have established
a distinct cinematic tradition that enjoys strong public adherence and serves manipulative purposes in the socio-political context of Vietnam.

Maryam Tafakory (Iran) works with a collage of textual and filmic fragments, interweaving poetry, auto-ethnography, aural archive, and cryptic forms of narrative. She is based in London and Shiraz. Interested in fictions of non-fiction, her broader research explores plural subjectivities, the self/other binary, as well as depictions of absence/erasure,
secrecy, untouchable and unspoken prohibitions. She completed her masters at Oxford University and her work has exhibited internationally including, Rotterdam IFFR; Edinburgh EIFF; Zurich Film Festival; Melbourne MIFF; ZINEBI; Hamburg IKFF; ICA London; BFI London; Ji.hlava IDFF; Kurzfilmtage Winterthur; Barbican Cinema London; UnionDocs NY; Anthology Film Archives NY; Whitechapel Gallery. Her work has been nominated for Tiger Award
and Found Footage Award at 47th IFFR, Best Short Award at 67th MIFF and she has received several awards, including the best short film at
Documenta Madrid, and was recently invited as the Flaherty/Colgate Distinguished Global Filmmaker in Residence.

Using films (made between 1986-2016), Maryam Tafakory‘s video Irani Bag is a split-screen video, questioning the innocence of bags in Iranian cinema. Using excerpts from twenty-four films made between 1990 and 2018, and drawing from a large codified vocabulary, as well as objects employed as surrogates to communicate the unmentionable, and to touch the untouchable, this video focuses primarily on what I call ‘the handbag technique’ in post-revolutionary Iranian films.

About the Writer