We present a list of 100 Asian movies & documentaries you cannot miss!
Continuing with the list of “80 Asian movie” we publish on July we decided to add more films we discovered later last year. We can now present a list of 100 movies and documentaries (from 2016) you cannot miss. So if you have the opportunity don’t doubt it and go see them. The list was made after watching lots of film festival catalogues and reading lots of synopsis. We try to be fair and cover all genres from all the countries we cover. Since this are the films we discover last 2016 there could be some movies from 2015. Finally to make things a little bit easy we divided de list in four parts, you can check the whole list in the “100 Asian Films” section (top-right part in our website). As always we hope you like our selection. Please feel free to share this article with your cinephiles friends and leave a comment below. Thanks
2 Cool 2 Be 4Gotten by Petersen Vargas – Philippines | 2016
Felix is a friendless achiever in high school whose life changes after the arrival of the half-American Snyder brothers, entangling him in their dark ambitions.
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.
Baka Bukas by Samantha Lee – Philippines | 2016
Alex, is a twenty-something year old creative based in Manila. She is out to most people except her best friend- Jess who she has been secretly in love with since they were kids. When Jess discovers the truth about Alex, they are forced to confront the feelings they have for each other.
Bangkok Nites by Tomita Katsuya – Japan, France, Thailand, Laos | 2016 – 183 min.
A captivating film set against the open yet secretive world of red-light districts. Japanese Self Defence Force veteran Ozawa first came to southeast Asia many years ago, then eventually ended up frequently roaming around Bangkok’s red light districts. Luck, thanks to her beauty and cleverness, has become the most sought-after hostess at the bar where she works. Although she considers prostitution a part of her family history, she’s saving money in the hopes of opening a European style restaurant in her northeastern Thailand hometown. When Ozawa is commissioned to visit Laos, she accompanies him to introduce him to her family and childhood friends.
Tomita Katsura is an independent Japanese film director well known for his previous film Saudade(2011). The rough-around-the-edges feel of Bangkok Nites, his fourth, is primarily due to its low budget, but it is effectively used to reflect the jungle-like reality of his subject. Yet Asia, still reeling from World War II and colonialism, is depicted in a painful yet humane way. The Laotian grassland scene, in which one sees evidence of this painful history, aptly sums up this three-hour tour de force. (BIFF Catalogue 2016)
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.
Boy Meets Girl by Jang Eun-yeon – South Korea | 2015 – 70 min.
Ha-jin, a North Korean middle school girl, comes to South Korea to do homestay at the house of Woo-young who is same age with her. Losing his own room, Woo-young works on the project to send her back. However, he unintentionally falls in love with her and even runs away from home by leaving for Seoul to help Ha-jin who wants to meet her father. This makes them separate again but after a long wait, Woo-young’s pure and dearest wish comes true.
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?
Chronicles of Hari (Harikatha Prasanga) by Ananya Kasaravalli – India | 2015 – 105 min.
Chronicles of Hari begins with two young documentary filmmakers interviewing Yakshagana artists. Yakshagana is a type of Indian folk theater in which all the characters are played by men. The documentary crew wants to research Harishandra, known to have killed himself despite his popularity in playing female roles. His story shows how a society with strong prejudices toward gender roles can destroy a talented person.
Harishandra played female roles on stage at night but lived as a man during the day, but soon the boundaries between night and day, the stage and reality became blurred. The resulting an identity crisis and social prejudices made looking into his own desires an impossibility. Because he played female roles, he was excluded from heterosexual relationships and marriage. When he tried to cross gender roles by wearing a skirt in everyday life, people who had admired him started to despise him. This mockumentary appropriately conveys his fragmented and fluid life as he spans the gender divide as well as art and daily life via an episodic structure based on various interviews.
Cinema Travellers by Shirley Abraham and Amit Madhesiya – India | 2016 – 96 min.
Cannes prize-winning The Cinema Travellers is a journey with the traveling cinemas of India, which bring the wonder of the movies to faraway villages annually. Seven decades on, as their lorries and cinema projectors crumble and film reels become scarce, their audiences are lured by slick digital technology. Filmed over five years, The Cinema Travellers accompanies a shrewd exhibitor, a benevolent showman and a maverick projector mechanic who bear a beautiful burden – to keep the last traveling cinemas of the world running.
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.
Creepy by Hiroshi Fukasawa – Japan | 2016 – 130 min.
Detective Takakura quits the police force after a traumatic incident at work. To start fresh, he relocates to a quiet suburb with wife Yasuko and starts teaching at a university. Life at work is pleasant, unlike his former high-pressure job. With time in his hands, Takakura starts helping a former colleague on an unsolved missing person case.
Life at home is uneasy as Yasuko struggles to adjust to their unfriendly neighbourhood. When she finally befriends their socially awkward neighbour, Nishino, the tension and strangeness creep closer into the couples’ lives.
Fresh off Cannes Film Festival with the award-winning drama Journey to the Shore, director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is back in his element with Creepy. He directs a stellar cast who capture the mystery with quiet ferocity and gripping intensity.
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.
Destruction Babies by Mariko Tetsuya – Japan | 2016 – 108 min.
Mitsuhama, a small and boring port city in Japan. Abandoned by their parents, Taira and Shouta Ashiwara, two teenage brothers, live in a shipyard by the sea. Taira often fights with students from other parts of the town, but one day, he disappears after being beaten up. While Shouta keeps looking for him everywhere, Taira begins a violent journey through the streets of the city, looking for tough men to beat up, driven by his obstinate ego that refuses to lose. Will he ever stop fighting?
Diamond Island by David Chou – Cambodia, France | 2016 – 101 min.
Diamond Island is a symbol of Cambodia’s future – a sprawling, ultra-modern paradise for the rich on the riverbank in Phnom Penh. Like many other country boys, Bora, 18, is lured from his village to work on the construction of this property developer’s dream. In Diamond Island, he forges new friendships and is even reunited with his charismatic older brother Solei, who disappeared five years ago. Solei introduces Bora to the exciting world of Cambodia’s privileged urban youth, with its girls, its nightlife and its illusions.
Die Beautiful by Jun Robles Lana – Philippines | 2016 – 120 min.
Trisha, a transgender woman who makes a living as a beauty contestant, dies unexpectedly. Before she died, her one last wish was to remain beautiful even in death. This moving work, filled with laughs, is the latest effort by Jun Robles Lana.
Trisha, a Filipino transgender woman, suddenly dies while being crowned in a beauty pageant. Her last wish was to be presented as a different celebrity on each night of her wake, but her conservative father wants to bury her as a man. Trisha’s friends are left with no choice but to steal her body and hold the wake in a secret location. And as Trisha is transformed to look like different celebrities, they also look back at the colorful and extraordinary life that she has led – being a son, a sister, a mother, a friend, a lover, a wife, and ultimately, a queen.
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.
Forbidden Memory by Teng Mangansakan – Philippines | 2016
Forbidden Memory summons remembrances and memories of the fateful days in September 1974 when about 1,500 men from Malisbong and neighboring villages in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat were killed while 3,000 women and children were forcibly taken to naval boats stationed nearby where they encountered unspeakable horror. For 40 years, the survivors lived in relative silence. Now they tell their stories.