AsianFilmFestivals present a list of 80 Asian Films, Docs & Shorts you cannot miss. Today we start with the first fifteen films and documentaries.
About the list
After covering lots of festivals in these first months of 2016 we decided to publish a list of 38 Asian films, 17 documentaries & 25 shorts you cannot miss. The list was made taking into account fifty-six festivals that took place from January – June (2016). After reading lots of catalogues we decided to highlight films we consider interesting to watch. We try to be fair and cover all genres.
To make it more organized we decided to publish the list in different post. Also to make it more accessible for future reads we created a new section in the Top Menu called “80 Asian Films” there you will find all the post we create related to this list. We hope you like our selection of films and as always we are open to any comments.
Note: the films were order alphabetically
FILMS & DOCS (1-15)
A Copy of My Mind by Joko Anwar – Indonesia, South Korea | 2015 – 116 min.
Sari (Tara Basro), when not working at the salon, spends her spare time watching monster movies on pirated DVDs. When she complains about dodgy subtitles on one of her discs, she’s introduced to the man who ineptly subtitles them, Alek (Chicco Jerikho). What starts as a fun, erotic, yet decidedly peculiar affair is quickly jeopardized. The couple’s lives are put in grave danger when they discover that a disc stolen by Sari contains evidence of government corruption. Joko Anwar’s fifth film (his debut, Joni’s Promise, screened at SFF 2005) masterfully shifts gears from charming, low-key romance to a suspenseful and immersive depiction of urban Jakarta and Indonesia’s political climate.
A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery (Hele sa Hiwagang Hapis) by Lav Diaz
Philippines | 2016 – 485 min.
Andrés Bonifacio y de Castro is considered to be one of the most influential proponents in the struggle against Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines during the late nineteenth century. Today, he is still celebrated as the father of the Philippine Revolution. Director Lav Diaz examines this myth and undertakes another expedition into the eventful history of his native land. The film’s various loosely interwoven narrative threads are held together by an exploration of the role of the individual in history and their involvement in political and social developments. Bonifacio’s widow is searching for her husband’s missing dead body; as she and her followers stumble deeper into the jungle, they become entangled in the dense thicket of their own guilt and responsibility. The Spanish governor tries to play off the various rebel factions and their utopian visions against each other. At the same time, a badly wounded companion of Bonifacio reflects upon the victims a revolution inevitably creates. The film’s high-contrast black-and-white photography makes the journey into the past abstract. Mythology, facts and a vibrant sense of history merge.
After Spring, the Tamaki Family by Huang Yin-Yu
Taiwan, Japan | 2016 – 96 min.
In 2015, Grandma Tamayo and her family, an immigrant family on Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, go back to Taiwan, where they lived before the WWII. These Taiwanese have been swinging in different countries and regimes for sixty years and are now living in Japanese society. It’s a tale of the forgotten people in the history of East Asia.
After the Storm by Koreeda Hirokazu – Japan | 2016 – 117 min.
Dwelling on his past glory as a prize-winning author, Ryota wastes his money on gambling and can barely pay child support. Renewing contact with his initially distrusting family, Ryota struggles to take back control of his existence and to find a lasting place in the life of his young son until a stormy summer night offers them a chance to truly bond again.
Afternoon (Na ri xiawu) by Tsai Ming Liang – Taiwan | 2015 – 137 min.
In the ruins of a house one afternoon, director Tsai Ming Liang meets Lee Kang Sheng, with whom he has shared his life for 20 years. The result is an original documentary shot in one take about an improvised meeting between two men who open up in front of the camera about their personal lives and about the back story behind long years of working together.
Apprentice by Boo Junfeng – Singapore | 2016 – 96 min.
Selected for Cannes Un Certain Regard, Boo Junfeng’s second feature is an emotionally and psychologically astute film about a Singaporean correctional officer who serves as the apprentice to the chief executioner. Aiman is a 28-year-old prison guard who lives with his sister in modest circumstances. When he is transferred to a new prison, Aiman becomes fascinated by an older warden named Rahim, who turns out to be the long-serving chief executioner of the prison. Soon Rahim asks Aiman to serve as his apprentice. Aiman harbours a secret however; one that has had a profound effect on his family life, and will certainly impact on his new career path. Superb cinematography (partly shot at the decommissioned facilities of Maitland Gaol and Parramatta Correctional Centre in New South Wales) and clever sound design create an eerie sense of darkness and loss at the prison. Apprentice powerfully surveys the impact of capital punishment on death-row prisoners, their families, and the executioners themselves. Filled with conflict and tension, this is a complex and rewarding film.
Behemoth by Liang Zhao – China, France | 2015 – 90 min.
Behemoth is a biblical monster, the beast of an invincible country. Today, the beast could be seen as man himself, raping the earth to obtain its wealth. He is unaware that the destruction of the land is far from over. The beast eventually begins to devour itself. This film operates as a cinematic parable, training its focus on Chinese mines, with their giant machines, noise, dirt, destroyed nature, sick and dying miners. It leads to a newly built city, where nobody lives. The allegory relies on the power of images and words from Dante’s Divine Comedy, the inspiration for the filmmakers.
Cecilia by Pankaj Johar – India | 2015 – 84 min.
An affluent couple from New Delhi – a filmmaker and a lawyer – have a quiet family life; at least until they learn about the mysterious death of the daughter of their maid, Cecilia. She comes from the poorest parts of Bengal, where child slave labour is sadly commonplace. The couple begins to investigate the circumstances of the tragedy, motivated among other things by the guilt they feel in sharing in the whole perverse system as “end customers”. Soon it is clear that Cecilia’s daughter had been a victim of human trafficking. Is Cecilia willing to speak out against her home community? Will she fight for the truth, to protect other children who might end up like her daughter?
Cities of Sleep by Shaunak Sen – India | 2015 – 74 min.
Cities of Sleep takes us into a heady world of insurgent sleeper’s communities as well as the infamous ‘sleep mafia’ in Delhi where securing a safe sleeping spot often becomes a question of life and death for many people. The film trails the lives of Shakeel, a renegade homeless who has slept in a diverse range of improvised places, and Ranjeet, who runs the ‘sleep-cinema’ community.
City of Jade by Midi Z – Taiwan | 2016 – 98 min.
In the war-torn Kachin State in Myanmar, waves of poor workers flock to dig for jade, dreaming of getting rich overnight. The director, Midi Z, is the protagonist’s youngest brother. Midi tries to find out why his brother became a drug addict and abandoned his family. Moreover, the film depicts how people struggle for survival in the darkest corners in Myanmar.
Crosscurrent by Yang Chao – China | 2016 – 116 min.
Gao Chun, a captain of a cargo ship sailing up the Yangtze River, disembarks at every port in search of love. However, he gradually realizes that the women he meets at different ports appear to be the same person. Bewildered, Gao Chun soon finds out where she appears trace back to a collection of poems. Obsessed with her, Gao Chun tries to unveil the mysteries.
Don’t look at me that way by Uisenma Borchu – Germany, Mongolia | 2015 – 88 min.
Single mother Iva lives with her 5-year-old daughter, Sophia, and is struggling to make ends meet. One day they meet their new neighbour, the mysterious Hedi, who does what she likes and is not afraid of how the others see her. Slowly, Hedi works her way into Iva’s life, and the two women start a relationship.
EDSA by Alvin Yapan – Philippines | 2015 – 76 min.
Three stories, one day in EDSA. An opportunistic entrepreneur (Hayden Kho) develops a bond with a street kid (John Manalo) trying to help him get to his business meeting in Makati, after losing his cellphone to a snatcher. A teacher (Sue Prado) from the province haggles with a former OFW, turned taxi driver (Allen Dizon), whether the country should follow world standards in basic education requirements. And a snatcher (Aljur Abrenica) trying to reform himself with the help of a nurse (Kris Bernal) by trying to return what he stole. Three stories all asking the same thing: what matters most, the collective or the individual gain?
Fireflies in the Abyss by Chandrasekhar Reddy – India | 2015 – 88 min.
The dangerous lives of laborers making their living in an Indian coal mining boomtown are brought into focus through the indomitable spirit of an 11-year-old boy determined to escape the dark abyss and return to school.
Fourth Place by Jung Ji-woo – South Korea | 2015 – 119 min.
A young athlete has the misfortune to be an excellent swimmer. For the time being, however, he has yet to win a medal, and so the boy’s coach and his mother decide on tough training and physical punishment. Visually polished, the film has a small-scale feel, but underneath, it criticizes a system that primarily praises performance.
Go to the 80 Asian Film to see the complete list