100 Asian movies you cannot miss (2016) – Part 4


We present the last part of our list of Asian movies & documentaries you cannot miss.

For those readers that are visiting us for the first time or those who wish to read more about how this list was made please visit Part 1 (HERE). We hope you find this selection interesting. We want to thank all the people that share these articles and comment on your publications. Thanks you.


Singing in Graveyards

Singing in Graveyards by Bradley Liew – Malaysia, Philippines | 2016 – 143 min.

Pepe, a 68-year-old impersonator of a Filipino rock legend, lives alone on the borders of reality, imagination and mysticism. One day, he is finally given the chance to open for the rock legend’s concert but he must do something neither of them has done before-write a love song.




Tharlo by Pema Tseden – China | 2015 – 123 min.

‘I know who I am. Isn’t that enough?’ says Tharlo (played exquisitely by Shide Nyima), when a local policeman tells him to get a photo ID card. This simple process leads him to see his own life with fresh eyes, aided by his growing affection for local hairdresser Yangchuo (Yangshik Tso). Her intentions, however, are not as pure as they initially appear. This fourth feature film from Pema Tseden comments incisively on the clash between tradition and modernity that defines life in contemporary Tibet. A slow-burning heartbreaker that unfolds with fable-like simplicity, Tharlo demands to be seen on a big screen for its austere, enveloping beauty.




The Apology by Tiffany Hsiung – Canada | 2016 – 104 min.

The Apology follows the personal journeys of three former “comfort women” who were among the 200,000 girls and young women kidnapped and forced into military sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. Some 70 years after their imprisonment in so-called “comfort stations”, the three “grandmothers—Grandma Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Grandma Adela in the Philippines—face their twilight years in fading health.




The Bait (Tope) by Buddhadeb Dasgupta – India | 2016 – 88 min.

Dasgupta Buddhadeb, one of India’s most well-known independent film directors over the last 40 years, displays lyrical and cinematic charms in his most recent work, which reminds us of Fellini’s surrealistic mysticism and Makhmalbaf’s ethnographic illusionism. The Bait adopts a mythical symbolism based on India’s locality and self-reflexive modernist aesthetics. The four groups of people in the film represent India’s magnificent diversity: A poor family living on circus tricks; a village lord, in pursuit of a tiger, lives in the glory of his past and is accompanied by a young and lonely wife who dreams of sex; a documentary film crew trying to capture a tiger hunting prey; and finally a postman who gets tired of his tedious life and climbs up a tree to become friends with monkeys. These stories intersect with one another. Elaborately directed mise-en-scene and plots rich with allegory create a phenomenal film-viewing experience. The contrasts between the poor aspiring to be rich and the rich indulging in weird enterprise, between the young longing for success and the old who tire of the everyday are carefully used as devices to project the complexities of contemporary Indian society. (Minah JEONG BIFF Catalogue 2016)




The Boy and the Beast by Mamoru Hosoda – Japan | 2015 – 119 min.

One day, a lonely boy Kyuta encounters a Beast, Kumatetsu, and decides to become the Beast’s apprentice in order to get strong. They clash about everything at first, but their shared experience helps both of them mature. Gradually a bond develops between them just like a real father and son. The story of fathers who celebrate the growth of children.



The Cat in the Closet

The Cat in the Closet by Tseng Ying-Ting – Taiwan | 2016 – 82 min.

The sudden death of their son prompts the couple to shut themselves up in their own worlds. The mother begins to spend more and more time feeding the stray cats on the street while the father pretends that nothing is wrong. Eight years after the incident, their daughter comes home, forcing the family to face their pain again.




The Handmaiden by Park Chan-wook – South Korea | 2016 – 144 min.

In Korea during the Japanese colonial period, heiress Hideko loses her parents when she is young and lives with her uncle, a con man, as her guardian. He and maid Sukhee start living with her in her mansion hoping to snatch her inheritance. Sukhee is attracted by Hideko’s good looks and Hideko opens herself up to her. Among the deception, they make their best decision.

Based on the British novel, Fingersmith, The Handmaiden has the plot of a heist film. Sukhee is the main focus of the first act, while the second act has Hideko in the central spot, so this film can be viewed differently, depending on who is followed. Ocean’s Eleven and The Big Swindle exploit the charm of twists in this kind of structure. The Handmaiden not only offers the pleasure of a perfect crime and revenge story, but it overturns the sexual fantasies of both men and women: men getting turned on by listening to passages from erotic novels read by women, and men becoming the targets of derision for considering a woman an easily-conquered object. (BIFF Catalogue 2016)



The last insurrection

The Last Insurrection by Liao Jian-Hua – Taiwan | 2015 – 62 min.

In 1991, four years after the martial law was lifted in Taiwan, four young people were arrested by the Bureau of Investigation. This incident evoked memories of the “White Terror” and triggered huge demonstrations in the country. Through in-depth interviews and researches, The Last Insurrection reconstructs the Taiwan Independent Association (TIA) Incident in 1991.



The Mountain

The Mountain by Su Hung-En – Taiwan | 2015 – 73 min.

For hundreds of years, Taiwan had been under different colonial rules. From the Dutch, the Spanish, the Japanese and the Republic of China, each regime left their footprints on the island. The Taiwanese indigenous people are those who truly experienced the changes in the process. Through the life of a Truku elderly, we see the history of aboriginal recertification movement.




The Return by Green Zeng – Singapore | 2015 – 83 min.

Wen, a political detainee, is released after many years of imprisonment. Arrested for being an alleged communist, he returns, an old man, to an uneasy reunion with his children. Has his sacrifice come at too great a price? Wen wanders through the city to see how his homeland has transformed into a shining metropolis. He is ready to move on but unforeseen circumstances force his journey to take a tragic turn.



The Road

The Road by Zhang Zanbo – China, Denmark | 2015 – 95 min.

This documentary provides an astonishingly revealing picture of the construction of a section of China’s massive Xu-Huai Highway, as seen by dislocated locals, exploited migrant workers and the embattled construction company.




The Road to Mandalay by Midi Z – Taiwan, France, Germany, Myanmar | 2016 – 108 min.

Lianqing is a 23-year-old Burmese. To find work, she and many others from Myanmar follow a secret route down the Mekong River and on into Thailand. Since she has no work permit, she starts out washing dishes for a low wage in a rundown restaurant. Guo, who illegally crossed the border with her and has fallen in love with her, brings her to a textile factory where she can earn a higher wage. They work together there, but Lianqing hopes to eventually get the necessary legal documents and find better work in Bangkok or Taiwan. Even though she keeps getting cheated by people who profess that they can help her, she never gives up—a stubbornness that Guo just can’t understand. In order to make more money to pay for the documents, Lianqing becomes a prostitute, and when Guo finds out, he becomes incensed. When Lianqing finally gets her hands on the permits, Guo confronts her…with a knife in his hand. This is a rare, slow-burning and realistic drama about the Burmese migrants and their life in the slums. (KANG Naeyoung BIFF Catalogue 2016)




The Silence by Park Soo-nam – Japan | 2016 – 90 min.

In May 1994, 15 grandmothers, carrying rice and kimchi with them, left for Japan to make their voice heard on the issues of negotiation. This film is the record of struggles carried on by the victims of comfort women who broke themselves off from the half-century long silence to retain dignity and to recover tarnished reputation.



The Wailing (Goksung) by Na Hong-jin – South Korea, US | 2016 – 156 min.

Mysterious events following the appearance of a stranger throws a village into utter chaos. The police provisionally conclude that it is down to a mass poisoning caused by wild mushrooms, but paranoia and rumor point the finger at the stranger—and it’s escalating. Policeman Jonggu becomes convinced by the stories when, first, a woman claims to have witnessed something, and then his daughter Hyojin gets sick with similar symptoms to the other villagers. In his desperation he has an exorcism performed on the stranger by shaman Ilgwang.

The Wailing is not the kind of horror film that shocks and scares without reason; it sticks to the rules of the genre but uses them in a less than conventional way. Director Na Hong-jin utilizes this spooky scenario as a canvas on which he paints people’s fates, which is clearly unavoidable no matter what path they choose. Neither Jonggu nor the young priest is to blame for the awful consequences; they just fall into tragedy as Jonggu tries to save his daughter and the priest’s compassion become the root of his suspicion.



Ang babaeng humayo

The Woman Who Left (Ang Babeng Humayo) by Lav Diaz Philippines – 226 min.

Horacia has spent the last thirty years in a women’s correctional facility. A former elementary school teacher, she leads a quiet existence helping others practice reading and writing. When another inmate confesses to the original crime, Horacia is released and seeks out her estranged family. While searching for her missing son Junior, she discovers that the homeland of her memory – the Philippines of the late 90s – is overrun by corruption and rampant kidnappings. Gradually, her kind demeanour begins to decompose into something vengeful and malicious.




The World of Us (Woorideul) by Yoon Gaeun – South Korea | 2016 – 95 min.

Sun is a quiet girl from a poor family, always chosen last for sports teams at school and picked on by her classmates despite her agreeable and kind nature. As luck would have it, she bumps into Jia, a new transfer student, on the last day of the term and they spend the summer break together. As Sun shows Jia around the neighborhood and they play at each other’s houses and share secrets, they become best friends. Sun is fascinated by exciting stories of Jia’s affluent jet-setting family, while Jia admires Sun’s skilled fingers, her braided bracelets and the nail polish she makes herself from crushed flower petals. But when the new school year begins, everyday reality puts their relationship to the test.



Their Distance

Their Distance by Rikyia Imaizumi – Japan | 2015 – 106 min.

Young Leon works as an apprentice shoe repairman, and avoids contact with other people. One afternoon, he comes across a drunk woman named Suna sleeping on a park bench, and for some reason finds himself unable to forget her. Leon and Suna are only two of the seven characters in Rikiya Imaizuma’s film about the complexity of feelings.



There is No Lid on the Sea

There is No Lid on the Sea by Toyoshima Keisuke – Japan | 2015 – 84 min.

Mari leaves the city to return to her hometown. There, she meets a troubled burn victim, Hajime. Together, two girls find new life in a dying town. Missing her hometown by the coast, Mari quits her job in the city and returns home to start a business making shave ice, a dessert she loves. One day, she finds herself taking in a spiritually and physically wounded young woman named Hajime, who has burn marks on her face and has recently lost her beloved grandmother. Mari takes Hajime on to help with the shop, but opens to very few customers. Mari senses a growing rift between her and the locals who have watched their town’s fortunes sour. This summer story is about two girls looking for a fresh start.




Thithi by Raam Reddy – India | 2015 – 123 min.

When Century Gowda – having earned the name for passing the 100-year mark – dies, respectful plans are made for his funeral and 11-day memorial, or ‘thithi’. But other plans are underway too. Century’s grandson Thamanna plots to sell off the family land to make a quick buck, but discovers that the land now belongs to his father Gadappa, whose sole interests are booze and cigarettes. Meanwhile Abhi, the youngest of the clan, tries to seduce an attractive shepherdess. Quite unlike the Indian cinema we’re accustomed to, Thithi is a cleverly written and comical look at desire, materialism and freedom, featuring fantastic performances from a mostly non-professional cast.




Troublers by Lee Young – South Korea | 2015 – 98 min.

“You do not belong to this world!” I encounter people crying out against me and LGBTQ people. It is a time of hatred in South Korea. LGBTQ people are the easy targets for hatred. Being dangerous to nation’s safety and future, we are branded as ‘Pro-North Korean Commies’. In searching for what makes a marginalized life livable, I embark upon a journey. I encounter a double life of Lee Muk, a 70-year-old Korean “Mr. Pants” and precarious lives of a Japanese lesbian couple, Ten and Non, after 3/11.




White Sun (Seto Surya) by Deepak Rauniyar – Nepal | 2016 – 89 min.

Strife between supporters of the monarchy and the Maoist faction is explored as a microcosm within a village shortly after the civil war, when peace talks are being instituted for governmental reforms. Hearing of the death of his father, the chief of a Nepali village, Agni journeys back home to assist in the burial rights after many years away fighting with the Maoists. He strives to reconcile with Durga, his wife who is plotting to leave the village with her daughter Pooja, but is confronted with the anti-Maoist sentiments of the villagers and his estranged brother.

White Sun trots through the scars that remain from the civil war with dramatic tension and surprising moments of absurdist comedy, all the while churning the wheels towards reconciliation through the eyes of the young and innocent. (SGIFF Catalogue 2016)




Yellow Flowers on the Green Grass by Victor Vu – Vietnam | 2015 – 103 min.

The film is set in 1989 in a small Vietnamese farming village surrounded by rich nature. A 12 year-old boy lives with his younger brother and parents. He is respected by his younger brother who always wants to be with him. One day the house of a girl he has a faint crush on, catches on fire…The film is a cinematic gem youthfully depicting human patterns and moments of wavering hearts, all seen through the eyes of two young boys in a rural landscape setting full of green nature and sunshine.



Yen’s Life

Yen’s Life by Dinh Tuan Vu – Vietnam | 2015 – 107 min.

According to the marriage arrangement of parent, Yen had to get married when she was only 10 years old. Since then, her life closed to the ups and downs of her husband’s family.




Your Name. by Shinkai Makoto – Japan | 2016 – 107 min.

The much-anticipated new animated film from Shinkai Makoto, hailed by some as even the “Post Miyazaki Hayao”. It features an all-star line-up of filmmakers, musicians, and voice actors including character designer Tanaka Masayosi, animation director Andou Masashi, the rock band RADWIMPS, and voice performers Kamiki Ryunosuke and Kamishiraishi Mone.

Two high school kids who’ve never met, Taki, a city boy from Tokyo, and Mitsuha, who lives in the country, start inhabiting one another’s dreams, with Taki dreaming he’s Mitsuha and Mitsuha dreaming she’s Taki. This seemingly simple fantasy story about teenagers expands to an unimaginable dimension when a comet falls in the mountain village and completely reverses time and space.

Any yearning for the natural or the urban vanish, the comet sending a crushing blow to Taki and Mitsuha’s fateful encounter. It’s as if this reflects the director’s wish to restore nature to the people who either died or disappeared in the March 11 tsunami that hit Japan. In the end, as always, Shinkai Makoto’s miniature paintings draw awe-inspiring emotions. (BIFF Catalogue 2016)




Yourself and Yours by Hong Sang-soo – Japan | 2016 – 86 min.

The mother of the painter Young-soo is gravely ill. He hears that his girlfriend Min-jung drank with a man and fought with him. They argue that night, and Min-jung leaves, saying they shouldn’t see each other for a while. The next day, Young-soo looks for her, but can’t find her. Meanwhile, in Yeonnam where he lives, Min-jung, or some woman who looks identical to her, goes around meeting different men. Young-soo wanders around and fights with himself, which is the same as fighting with the world; while Min-jung or the other woman, resembling the image of her in his fears, wanders around seeking the “good man” she’s never met.



100 Asian Movies

Go to Part 1
Go to Part 2
Go to Part 3

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.