Asian Cinema Digest #28

October 18, 2022, 12:14am

October’s cinema digest features a trove of thrilling content and screenings – a close-up of vampires and demons in Asian cinema, a podcast delineating Hong Kong’s cinematic history, an online panel discussion on Japanese storytelling and an interview with the director of a Singapore-Korea co-production. 

Despite a growing recovery of physical events and activities, international film festivals have continued to adopt hybrid formats through streaming platforms, providing us with an avenue to watch them across the world. Catch a Seattle-based South Asian Festival and an Oregon-based independent film festival in the comfort of your own home. 

Watch

Image still from A Cloud Messenger (2022, dir. Rahat Mahajan)

BFI London Film Festival Online Screenings

From 14 – 23 October 2022, BFI London Film Festival presents  an online film lineup, featuring emerging Asian voices such as Violet Du Feng’s cross-generational documentary Hidden Letters (2022), Ahsen Nadeem’s spiritual journey Crows Are White (2022) and Rahat Mahajan’s mythological romance A Cloud Messenger (2022). Adjacent to the main programme, a series of short films is also streaming for free, including Yue Li’s I Have No Legs, and I Must Run (2022). Catch these features and shorts on the BFI Player

Image still from Thirst (2009, dir. Park Chan-wook)

Vampires: Thirst (2009) and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)

In celebration of Halloween, the Criterion Channel spotlights cinema’s most iconic vampires, from Park Chan-wook’s erotic K-Horror Thirst (2009) to Ana Lily Amirpour’s exhilarating ghost-town thriller A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014). 

Image still from Wood and Water (2021, dir. Jonas Bak)

Wood and Water (2021) by Jonas Bak

Gorgeously shot on 16mm, this road movie follows a single mother on her search for her estranged son as she travels in solitude from the forests of Germany to the protest-ridden streets of Hong Kong. Forging connections with various locals and activists, she finds herself caught in the rattles of social unrest, struggling to make sense of the world around her. 

For further reading on the film, filmmaker Jonas Bak breaks down his process in an introduction of his film on MUBI Notebook. 

Image still from The Night (2021, dir. Tsai Ming-Liang)

The Night (2021) by Tsai Ming-Liang

Newly released by MUBI in anticipation of the director’s U.S. tour, The Night is a mesmerising short documentary by Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-Liang, capturing Hong Kong’s nocturnal rhythms and neon vignettes with a quiet allure. Prowling along soulless alleyways and overpasses, the film’s sentimental tribute to its sleepless city is amplified by its soundtrack – a 1940s Chinese song that inspired the documentary’s title. Read Tsai’s introduction to this film on MUBI Notebook. 

For further exploration into the director’s oeuvre, Tsai’s critically-acclaimed sophomore feature Vive l’amour (1994) makes its streaming premiere on the Criterion Channel.

Image still from 7lbs 8oz (2021, dir. Yoo Lee)

Short Stop-motion Animation: 7lbs 8oz (2021) by Yoo Lee

Korean-American filmmaker Yoo Lee mines her own experience of moving across states in the U.S. to explore the tides of urban movements and gentrification. Hand-crafted in detailed miniatures and shot in stop-motion, Lee’s animation oozes warmth and authenticity. Catch this animated showpiece on the New Yorker Screening Room

Image still from Ghost in the Shell (1995, dir. Mamoru Oshii)

Video Essay: “Techno-Orientalism” and Hollywood’s Fear of Asia

Navigating the genre of cyberpunk, posthuman and dystopian cinema, this video essay interrogates the racialised impulse embedded within Asian stereotypes around hypercapitalist technologies and their rapid advancements. From the ranks of Blade Runner 2049 to Cloud Atlas, the appropriation of Asian aesthetics in these sci-fi films often reveal deep-seated Western anxieties about the East. Watch the video essay on YouTube

Image still from Howl’s Moving Castle (2004, dir. Hayao Miyazaki)

Video Essay: The Conflicting Ideals of Hayao Miyazaki

In this video essay, Quality Culture discusses the masterful films directed by renowned animator Hayao Miyazaki, delving into his personal beliefs and philosophies. Evinced through media interviews and a close reading of 11 feature films, the essay extends a window into the colourful world of Miyazaki and what makes his art so meaningful across the decades. 

Image still from In Front of Your Face (2021, dir. Hong Sang-soo)

In Front of your Face (2021) by Hong Sangsoo 

A recent addition to South Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo’s growing anthology of quiet meditative films, In Front of Your Face (2021) illustrates the troubled profile of a former actress who attempts to reconnect with her estranged sister in her hometown after spending several years abroad. Lee Hye-Yeong’s mesmerising performance elegantly complements Hong’s distinctive style steeped in long takes, slow zooms, lengthy awkward conversations and bittersweet encounters. Now Streaming on BFI Player for a fee. 

Accompanying this film, critic Thomas Flew writes for Sight and Sound on Hong’s evocation of everyday beauty. 

Image still from HIDEO, It’s me, Mama (1983, dir. Mao Idemitsu)

E-flux Online Programme: Takeover curated by Julian Ross

Spanning from 22 September – 15 December 2022, E-flux Video & Film unravels an online programme featuring films and videos by filmmakers and artists across Asia. October’s chapter of Takeover covers the politics of translation as seen in Taiwanese artist Su-Chen Hung’s linguistic exploration East/West (1984-1987) and the boundaries between cognitive obsession and spiritual possession tackled by Hsu Che-yu’s experimental moving image short Rabbit 314 (2020) and Mako Idemitsu’s psychological melodrama HIDEO, It’s me, Mama (1983). Catch them for free in E-flux’s virtual Screening Room

Image still from The Red Suitcase (2022, dir. Cyrus Neshvad)

BendFilm Festival 2022 Online Screenings

An Oregon-based independent film festival is currently streaming a slate of Asian titles, including Iranian filmmaker Cyrus Neshvad’s The Red Suitcase (2022), Clementine Malpas’ documentary on Afghanistan women activists With This Breath I Fly (2022) and Nancy Scendsen’s biopic of the first Nepali woman to summit Mount Everest Pasang: In the Shadow of Everest (2022). Catch these films on Eventive

Image still from Sirens (2021, dir. Rita Baghdadi)

International Documentary Association (IDA) Online Screening Series 

Screening through 24 November 2022, International Documentary Association showcases six crucial and unique Asian voices in their online collection. From David Siev’s real-time portrait of a Cambodian-American family torn between the past and present to Rita Baghdadi’s unapologetic study of Lebanon’s first all-woman thrash metal band Slave to Sirens, these films represent salient forces within the region that demands social action and awareness. Catch them on-demand on IDA’s website.

Image still from Winter by the River (2021, dir. Chen Shuyao)

Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2022 Online Screenings

In partnership with the 35th Tokyo International Film Festival, Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia 2022 presents six special selections of Asian features and shorts from 29 September – 23 October 2022. Notable films in their collection include Lebanese filmmaker Dania Bdeir’s award-winning short Warsha (2021), India-based director Vikas Khanna’s Barefoot Empress (2021) and Chinese writer-filmmaker Shuyao Chen’s Winter by the River (2021). Available online with a festival pass.  

Listen

Image still from Rouge (1988, dir. Stanley Kwan)

Hong Kong On Screen Podcast: Second New Wave, Stanley Kwan, Rouge

Exploring the cinematic history of the Hong Kong Second New Wave, Hong Kong On Screen Podcast singles out Stanley Kwan’s alluring phantasmal romance Rouge (1988) for discussion. Couching the film as the centrepiece within the movement, the podcast chronicles its defining characteristics, its stark departure from the First Wave and the new generation of filmmakers that arose from the transformation.  

Image still from Foragers (2022, dir. Jumana Manna)

Docs in Orbit Podcast: Foragers with Jumana Manna

Conversing with Palestinian artist filmmaker Jumana Manna, Docs in Orbit examines her striking new hybrid documentary Foragers (2022) which recently premiered at Visions du Rèel. In this episode, Manna explains the Palestinian customs of herb foraging in Jerusalem and the inspirations that determined her choice of subject matter. 

New Books Podcast: Dancing Women – Choreographing Corporeal Histories of Hindi Cinema

Introducing South Asian cinema studies scholar Usha Iyer’s latest book Dancing Women: Choreographing Corporeal Histories of Hindi Cinema, New Books Podcast sits down with her to analyse the cultural production and representation of film dance in popular Hindi Cinema, its popularity and its complex relationship with gender, sexuality and bodily politics. 

Image still from What Rules the Invisible (2022, dir. Tiffany Sia)

The Film Comment Podcast: On the Critical Attitude

“Is criticism always a response to art, or can it be a form of art-making in itself?” Hosting a panel of directors including Tiffany Sia, Laura Poitras and Elvis Mitchell, Film Comment editors Devika Girish and Clinton Krute broach the question of criticism, its value and its role in filmmaking practices.

Image still from Better Luck Tomorrow (2002, dir. Justin Lin)

Open Form Podcast: How MC Hammer Helped a Classic in Asian American Cinema Get Made

Hosted by a distinguished writer Mychal Denzel Smith, ‘Open Form’ is a podcast where an author chooses a film they find salient for debate. Smith talks to Taiwanese-American author Elaine Hsieh Chou about Justin Lin’s 2002 classic Better Luck Tomorrow and the funding of Asian-American films in the industry. 

Image still from Onibaba (1964, dir. Kaneto Shindo)

Sounds on Screen: Demons

In anticipation of Halloween, NTS Sounds on Screen introduces 60 minutes of chilling soundscapes and uncanny excerpts from Asian horror films, including Onibaba’s (1964) theme song composed by Hikaru Hayashi, Cho Young-Wuk’s soundtrack album for Oldboy (2003) and Joe Hisaishi’s stirring composition “The Demon God III” in Princess Mononoke (1997). Listen to the full tracklist on NTS

Read

Image still from Invisible (2021, dir. Joy)

Three Myanmar Shorts: On Diaspora, Freedom and Loss

Responding to three Myanmar shorts curated by filmmaker Moe Myat May Zarchi for the Asian Film Archive’s special programme Radical Whispers: Asian Shorts and Documentaries, artist Phoo Myet Che (Pearl) offers an immensely comprehensive breakdown of the oppressive contexts these shorts emerged from, wrestling with the social and political scars left by a despotic military regime. 

Image still from A Night of Knowing Nothing (2021, dir. Payal Kapadia)

Memory, Longing and Rebellion in Payal Kapadia’s films

Programmer and writer Sofia Begum gives her personal account of Payal Kapadia’s feature documentary A Night of Knowing Nothing (2021) alongside 3 of her shorts The Last Mango Before The Monsoon (2015), Afternoon Clouds (2017) and And What is the Summer Saying (2018). Featured in the Asian Film Archive’s programme Radical Whispers: Asian Shorts and Documentaries, Kapadia’s images of India resonate profoundly with Begum, prompting memories and recollections of a shared history. 

Image still from The Wandering Princess (1960, dir. Kinuyo Tanaka)

A Guide to Retrospective: Kinuyo Tanaka

Accompanying the Asian Film Archive’s retrospective of the celebrated actress-director Kinuyo Tanaka, AFA’s programmer Viknesh Kobinathan provides a useful guide to appreciating Tanaka’s fascinating career with four crucial films from her directorial and acting oeuvre. 

On Wayne Wang’s Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart (1985)

“Wayne Wang’s Dim Sum: A Little Bit of Heart is an unapologetically derivative homage to Ozu that deals with the understated relationships going on among Chinese-American families in San Francisco.” Journalist Bryan Cebulski reflects on the mythical American Dream and ponders the notions of home and belonging in Wayne Wang’s Chinese-American family drama. 

Image still from Daughter of the Dragon (1931, dir. Lloyd Corrigan)

Anna May Wong and Sessue Hayakawa: Racial Performance, Ornamentalism, and Yellow Voices in Daughter of the Dragon (1931)

In Camera Obscura, a culture and media studies journal published by Duke University Press, film scholar Xin Peng conducted a comparative study of two popular Asian-American Hollywood stars during the early sound era of the 1930s, Anna May Wong and Sessue Hayakawa, charting their rare collaborations on screen and the Orientalist personae they had to partake in. Through voice and accents, Peng demonstrates how Hollywood commodifies Asian traits and voices to differentiate films within the market. 

Image still from Tandav (2021, dir. Ali Abbas Zafar)

When the Hindu Right Came for Bollywood

“Even if Bollywood possesses this liberal fibre, the rightward swing in Indian politics has gnawed away at it.” Despite Bollywood’s seemingly secular ideals and crowd-pleasing fares, the massive film industry has taken a nationalist turn. Journalist Samanth Subramanian draws an incisive link between Bollywood’s unfavourable portrayal of Muslims and the rise of right-wing politics in India. 

Image still from The Living Skeleton (1968, dir. Hiroshi Matsuno)

All Aboard the Ghost Ship: Hiroshi Matsuno’s Folk Phantasmagoria The Living Skeleton

In an in-depth reading of Hiroshi Matsuno’s The Living Skeleton, film critic Adam Nayman engages with the film’s transnational aesthetics that combine images from Japanese folklore with the tropes of American low-budget horror movies. 

Image still from The Novelist’s Film (2022, dir. Hong Sang-soo)

Hong Sang-soo: The Novelist’s Film (2022) and Walk Up (2022)

Writing for Criterion Current’s The Daily column, film journalist David Hudson compiles critical and audience reception from various publications for South Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s two latest features The Novelist’s Film (2022) and Walk Up (2022). Over at Screen Slate, critic Kit Duckworth assesses the similarities and differences between Hong’s two films. 

Image still from Rhythms of Lost Time (2021, dir. Anisa Sabiri)

Persian poetry: the rise and fall of Tajikistan’s post-Soviet film culture

Tajik filmmaker and director Anisa Sabiri explains the history of post-Soviet Tajik film under the influence of Iranian “poetic cinema” and how the nation’s filmmakers are increasingly at risk of political reprisal. Her film Rhythms of Lost Time (2021) is currently streaming on Klassiki.  

Image still from Ajoomma (2022, dir. He Shuming)

Ajoomma Director He Shuming on how Korean and Singapore Film Crews Bonded Over Food and Golf

In an interview with Variety, Singaporean director He Shuming shares insight about the cross-border production, working with a full Korean cast, translation challenges and various inspirations that led to the film’s regional success. 

Attend

Pailaya, Pailawod: Two Films by Aiess Alonso and post-screening Q&A 

Held on 29 October 2022, Elsewhere Cinema Club will be screening a double-bill of shorts, Katapusang Labok (Last Strike) (2013) and the unreleased Habitat (2015), by Filipino traveller-filmmaker Aiess Alonso. Curated by film scholar and programmer Patrick F. Campos, the programme explores the movement of land and sea in film, its push and pull and its contradictory yet inseparable natures. A Q&A with Alonso will take place following the online screening. Register for free here

Creation of stories all around Japan: Panel Discussion

On 23 October 2022, Short Shorts Film Festival & Asia presents a panel discussion with four Japanese short story writers that convey authentic and unique perspectives through film and literature. The panellists include literary scholar Masamii Kakinuma, author Kento Norikane, poet Bin Sugawara and filmmaker Kazuhiro Taira. 

Image still from All That Breathes (2022, dir. Shaunak Sen)

17th Tasveer South Asian Online Film Festival 

Happening online from 3 – 20 November 2022, the 17th Tasveer South Asian Film Festival is showcasing a total of 102 South Asian films from regions spanning Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India. Notable films include Ravi Kapoor’s Four Samosas (2022), Abinash Bikram Shah’s Lori (2022) and Shaunak Sen’s All that Breathes (2022) 

The Future of Film Festivals: Trends in Programming

Held over zoom on 28 October 2022, Film Fatales is organising an online discussion about the ups and downs of film festival programming, the current trends on the festivals circuits and the curatorial processes with industry experts Celeste Wong (Mill Valley Film Festival), Faridah Gbadamosi (Tribeca Film Festival) and Lily Yasuda (Slamdance). Register for free on Eventbrite.

Submit

Call for Papers: Intermediality and Transmedia Storytelling in Chinese Independent Cinema

Preparing for a special issue on transmedia storytelling, the Chinese Independent Cinema Observer Journal has called for papers that focus on experimental forms of Chinese Independent cinema which infuse different mediums, genres and narratives into filmmaking. The deadline for papers is 30 October 2022. More information on eligibility can be found here

Call for Submissions: 8th Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival

Organised by Thailand’s Ministry of Culture to promote Southeast Asian films, the 8th Bangkok ASEAN Film Festival is calling for short film entries across Southeast Asia. The deadline for submissions is 24 October 2022. Guidelines can be found here.

Call for Submissions: Tokyo Anime Award Festival 2023

Cultivating new talents and creators within the animation industry, the Tokyo Anime Award Festival 2023 is accepting short and feature animated films for competition. The deadline for entries is 31 October 2022. Full guidelines can be found on their website.

Call for Projects: Hong Kong Asia Financing Forum

Recognised as one of the most important film financing platforms in Asia, The Hong Kong – Asia Financing Forum (HAF) is currently accepting projects at any stage of production. The deadline for submissions is 31 October 2022. Rules and regulations can be found here.

Call for Submissions: 6th Asia Web Awards
The first web series festival in Korea and Asia, the 6th Asia Web Awards is calling for web series, shorts and film entries across Asia. The deadline for submissions is 1 November 2022. Read the full submission guidelines here.

This edition of the digest was compiled by Jolie Fan