100 Asian movies you cannot miss (2016) – Part 2


We continue with our list of Asian movies & documentaries you cannot miss.

Time to present the second part of our list of 100 Asian movies you cannot miss from 2016. To know more about how we build this list you can check Part 1 (HERE).

fourth place

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.




Guilty by Meghna Gulzar – India | 2015 – 133 min.

Guilty is a fictional dramatization of the events revolving around the murder of Aarushi Talwar, which happened in the city near Delhi in 2008. The incident still resonates in the minds of the public, as there is no sense of closure in the case in spite of a guilty verdict – the parents of the murdered girl have been sentenced to life for killing her.




Hamog (Haze) by Ralston Jover – Philippines | 2015 – 92 min.

In the Philippines, street kids are called batang hamog, literally, children of the dew. Deprived of a happy childhood in a loving family, they resort to petty theft on highways just to scrape by. The film focuses on four of such kids. One is kidnapped after a foiled theft, and another gets run over by a car. The remaining two will stop at nothing to survive.



Lokah Laqi

Hang in There, Kids! (Lokah Laqi!) by Laha Mebow – Taiwan | 2016 – 90 min.

Watan, Chen Hao and Lin Shan belong to a indigenous tribe and live in the beautiful highlands of Taiwan. The trio spends their time selling peaches in town, accompanying tourists on treks and at their after school class conducted by their beloved wheel-chair bound teacher, Miss Lawa. They are full of life and mischief despite their troubled family circumstances. Their lives take a surprising turn when they go on a field trip to Taipei.



Happy Hour

Happy Hour by Hamaguchi Ryusuke – Japan | 2015 – 332 min.

Four women, all in their 30s, and three married, one divorced. They can tell each other everything. Or at least they thought they could… One day, after losing a divorce court battle, one of them loses hope and disappears. The three remaining women take a second look at their lives. They spend a long night wondering, “Am I really the person I wanted to be?”




Harmonium by Fukada Koji – Japan, France | 2016 – 118 min.

Toshio runs a blacksmith’s workshop and lives with his wife Akie and little daughter Hotaru, but he is strangely indifferent to his family. His old friend Yashaka visits him after he is released from prison and Toshio lets him stay at his house without telling the family. Yashaka is friendly and polite, unlike Toshio, so he captures Akie and Hotaru’s hearts. As Yashaka gets ever more deeply involved in Toshio’s family life, their peaceful routine is shattered.

Director Fukada Koji’s Harmonium calmly explores the desires and guilt hidden beneath peaceful everyday lives and the hell that guilt can inflict. He displays excellent directing skills in conveying the heavy theme through unflinchingly depicting this sometimes lascivious story. Harmonium was shown in the Un Certain Regard section and won the Jury Prize at the 69th Cannes Film Festival. (KIM Byeong-cheol BIFF Catalogue 2016)



Have a Song on Your Lips

Have a Song on Your Lips by Takahiro Miki – Japan | 2015 – 132 min.

Naka-Goto Junior High School is situated on an isolated island in Nagasaki Prefecture. Yuri Kashiwagi returns to her hometown for the first time in many years as a substitute for music teacher Mrs. Matsuyama who is taking maternity leave. The students are enthusiastic when they hear the beautiful Miss Kashiwagi was a renowned pianist in Tokyo. However, she has no intention of playing the piano for them. When Miss Kashiwagi grudgingly takes on the role of advisor to the choir, she assigns the students homework. ‘Write a letter to yourself 15 years in the future,’ in the hope that it will give them a deeper understanding of the set song.




Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait by Khyentse Norbu
Bhutan | 2016 – 95 min.

Deep in the dense forest of Bhutan, apart from secular society, a unique ceremony takes place every Year of the Monkey, which comes in every twelfth year in Buddhist monk and director Khyentse Norbu’s unconventional mystery drama. The people secretly chosen by the old monk wear masks throughout the entire fifteen-day ceremony to give complete anonymity. It is punished to unmask oneself or to try to figure out other’s identities, but everything else is free. This covert community is erotic but can be life threateningly dangerous. As the old monk says, “Being anonymous is intoxicating.” Humans may take drastic action without constraint. A young man with lots of curiosity as well as lots of fears joins the ceremony for the first time and becomes obsessed with a woman. Then his delusion leads him to do something that can never be reversed.

Hema Hema: Sing Me a Song While I Wait is a contemplation of human behavior and its karma in a flamboyant situation. Most characters never show their faces, but the flashed appearance of Tony Leung Chiu-wai and Zhou Xun, as well as the long final credit roll with names of crowd funders, gives enjoyment considering the solidarity among Asian filmmakers. (PARK Sungho BIFF Catalogue 2016)



Her love boils bathwater by Nakano Ryota – Japan | 2016 – 125 min.

The Sachino family used to run a bathhouse before the father disappeared. Futaba, a cheerful and determined mother raising her daughter alone, learns that she has only two months to live. She quickly makes a list of things she must do and immediately starts working on it. During her remaining time, family members encounter conflict and tension, but their ties also becomes stronger. And they commit to giving Futaba a loving send-off.




Hooligan Sparrow by Nanfu Wang – China, USA | 2016 – 84 min.

“If you film us, we’ll break your camera.” Intimidated and under surveillance from the Chinese government, first-time filmmaker Nanfu Wang becomes a target alongside her protagonist and human rights activist Ye Haiyan, a.k.a. Hooligan Sparrow. We follow Sparrow and her fellow activists as they travel to seek justice for six elementary school girls who have been sexually abused by their principal. The government reacts intensely, marking them as enemies of the state. Sitting somewhere between Citizenfour and Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Hooligan Sparrow is shot guerrilla-style in 3 months, using hidden cameras and secret-recording devices. Raw, energetic and a true act of cinematic bravery, Wang manages to smuggle her footage out of China to the big screen.




How to win at checkers (Every time) by Josh Kim
Thailand, US, Hong Kong, Indonesia | 2015 – 80 min.

After the loss of both parents, a young boy faces an uncertain future when his older brother must submit to Thailand’s annual military draft lottery. Unable to convince his brother to do whatever he can to change his fate, the boy takes matters into his own hands resulting in unexpected consequences. Based on the bestselling book “SIGHTSEEING” by Rattawut Lapcharoensap, “HOW TO WIN AT CHECKERS (EVERY TIME)” is the debut feature film of Josh Kim, which is set in the economic fringes of Bangkok and examines the joys and challenges of growing up in contemporary Thailand.



Inside The Chinese Closet

Inside the Chinese Closet by Sophia Luvara – China | 2016 – 72 min.

Andy devotes his days and nights to looking for a lesbian wife of convenience who could possibly bear his child; from online search to underground marriage markets, he is meeting all sorts of girls. Cherry has already married a gay man, but the quest for a baby proves to be a far more complex challenge. Will Andy and Cherry deny their own happiness and sexual orientation to satisfy their parents’ wishes?

Inside The Chinese Closet follows Andy and Cherry in their search. Along the way they clash with their parents’ hopes, their love partners and their partners of convenience. It is through these encounters that the film lays bare the challenges that confront gay people in China today.




Interrogation by Vetrimaaran – India | 2015 – 106 min.

Four immigrants are arrested by the police, tortured and forced to admit to a crime they have no knowledge of. When all hope seems to be lost, a policeman from their hometown speaks on their behalf at the court hearing, setting them free. The policeman asks for a return favour and the boys oblige, oblivious to the ill fate that awaits them. As they unwittingly bear witness to a political treason, the system seeks to silence them- at any cost. But one of them is determined to be heard.



Island City

Island City by Ruchika Oberoi – India | 2015 – 111 min.

The director uses contemporary Bombay as a backdrop for three stories evoking a range of moods. Anything can happen here – first, there’s an ordeal involving a dark vision of the future, then a naïve fad breaks out over a TV soap opera featuring Bollywood-style romance, and, finally, a young woman’s wistful disappointment, so reminiscent of the unhappy seamstresses of old melodramas.




Knife in the clear water by Wang Xuebo – China | 2016 – 93 min.

Wang Xuebo’s debut feature film focuses on the mutual understanding between a man and a cow. In a mountain village in Ningxia, China, where the Hui people live, old man Majishan’s wife passes away, and his family decides to do a purification ceremony called Nazer, which, following the tradition of Hui people, should happen 40 days after the funeral. In order to do this, they have to kill a cow, but Majishan doesn’t want to because the cow is almost one of his family. For the dead mother, Majishan’s son continues to insist on killing the cow as she is old now anyway. The cow stops eating as if she understands the situation or has foreseen her death and Majishan is sad to see this. During a hailstorm, he takes the cow to his wife’s grave and Majishan’s eyes, filled with sympathy and sadness, deliver stronger emotions than any spoken line. He relieves his sorrow and agony by reading the Koran for the cow. (KIM Ji-seok BIFF Catalogue 2016)




Lady of the Lake by Haobam Paban Kumar – India | 2016 – 123 min.

Loktak Lairembi” is about one of the last dwellers on Loktak Lake’s phumdi biomass is Tomba. He is a depressed fisherman. When Tomba finds a gun, it becomes his companion and makes him aggressive, cocky and quick to pick fights-until an old woman knocks on his door one night. Believing that the lady is the spirit of all evils, Tomba chases her and commits an unintended crime.



Life After Life2

Life after Life by Zhang Hanyi – China | 2015 – 80 min.

Among the eerily sparse landscapes of a soon-to-be-demolished rural village lives young Leilei (Zhang Li). He becomes possessed by the spirit of his late mother, who tells Leilei’s father Mingchun (Zhang Mingjun) that she’s returned to salvage the tree that stands outside their former home. Together they embark on an epic quest, navigating expansive forests, dilapidated houses and anonymous industrial wastelands in sequences marked by absurd humour and striking imagery. Sharing common themes of socio-economic upheaval and globalisation with producer Jia Zhangke’s (Still Life, SFF 2007) own dramas, Life After Life is a bold, formally daring film that marks the emergence of a fresh new talent in Chinese cinema.




Mad Tiger by Michael Haertlein and Jonathan Yi – Japan | 82 min.

Yellow and Red have been best friends, band mates, and business partners touring the United States in a performance-art punk band called Peelander-Z for the last fifteen years. When Red decides to quit, their relationship is tested by life beyond the band.




Ma´Rosa by Brillante Mendoza – Philippines | 2016 – 110 min.

The rain-swept streets of an impoverished area of Manila are the setting for a small-scale drama about convenience store owner “Ma Rosa” and her husband, who are arrested for selling narcotics. The corrupt police threaten them with prison and demand money for their release, an amount that far exceeds their resources. They have no alternative: They have to dispatch their children to get hold of the cash.



Miss Bulalacao

Miss Bulalacao by Ara Chawdhury – Philippines | 2015 – 92 min.

Miss Bulalacao is about a young drag queen, Dodong, who joins a barangay gay pageant to gain acceptance in his father’s community. He is instead met with hostility from his father, who chases him to a jungle, where he sobs to a lone bright star. What follows is the strangest night in his entire life, and an even stranger 9 months when he realizes he is pregnant. With only his stepmother, Lisa, as support, Dodong deals with ridicule from a barangay who does not believe him – until the rumors becomes a headline in a tabloid, “BAKLA, INA NG DIOS!”. (SIWFF Catalogue)




Mountains May Depart by Jia Zhangke – China, France, Japan | 2015

China, 1999. In Fenyang, childhood friends Liangzi, a coal miner, and Zhang, the owner of a gas station, are both in love with Tao, the town beauty. Tao eventually marries the wealthier Zhang and they have a son he names Dollar. 2014. Tao is divorced and her son immigrates to Australia with his business Magnate Father. Australia, 2025. 19-year-old Dollar no longer speaks Chinese and can barely communicate with his now bankrupt father. All that he remembers of his mother is her name… (Cannes Catalogue)




MRS by Adolf Alix, Jr. – Philippines | 2016

70-year-old Virginia shares the old ancestral house with Delia, her ever-loyal maid. Delia is marrying her long-time boyfriend, Rene, and tearfully confides to Virginia that she wants to go home to her parents in the province to start a new family life with him. Haunted by a past that Virginia tries to conquer—her only son Sonny Boy who disappeared years ago, what follows shows a portrait of a woman and a mother trying to juggle the sad realities of life in a cycle of life and death. (IMDB)




Museum by Otomo Keishi – Japan | 2016 – 132 min.

A body mauled to death by dogs is found, and other heinous murders follow. Mysterious notes are left at the crime scenes, hinting the killings were done to punish each victim and the bodies are presented as if they are meant to be found. The killer only appears on rainy days and is witnessed wearing a frog mask. Police detective Sawamura (Shun Oguri) is on the case and to his surprise he finds out that the next target of the Frogman could be his beloved wife and child. Sawamura tries to corner the Frogman, using clues, but is devastated to find out that everything is a trap.




Nagasaki: Memories of My Son by Yoji Yamada – Japan | 2015 – 130 min.

“Mother, you wouldn’t let me go so I had a hard time getting here, but I’ve finally made it.” August 9th, 1948, Nobuko, a midwife in Nagasaki, is stunned when she is suddenly visited by her son Koji, who she thought had died three years ago when an atomic bomb fell on the city. That same day, she had stood before his grave and told herself: “In that instant, he was gone. It’s time to let him go…”




Ned’s Project by Lemuel Lorca – Philippines | 2016 – 90 min.

An itinerant tattoo artist joins a talent reality show for lesbians in the hopes of winning the prize money that will enable her to get artificially inseminated and achieve her lifelong dream of becoming a mother. (IMDB)




Net by Kim Ki Duk – South Korea | 2016 – 114 min.

A North Korean fisherman breaks his boat engine by accident and drifts down to South Korea. After enduring brutal investigations in the South, he eventually gets sent back to North Korea. Before leaving South Korea, he notices the dark side of its society contrasting with its “developed“ image. There, he realizes that economic development does not spell happiness for the people. Although he makes it back home, he receives the same investigations as he did in the south. Then a grave sorrow hits him, trapped in the ideology between the two divided countries against his will.



100 Asian Movies

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