We present our list of 50 Asian Films & Documentaries from 2018 you cannot miss!!
Liway by Kip Oebanda – Philippines | 2018 – 100 min.
Dakip is a little boy who lives with his parents – Day and Ric – inside Camp Delgado, a makeshift prison inside a military camp for both rebels and criminals. Day does her best to shelter the child from the harsh realities of their life. She tells stories about an enchantress named Liway, with songs and imagination to help keep her boy from trauma. However, at the tail end of the Martial Law, her own dark past catches up on her and the lives of the detainees become increasingly difficult. She is confronted with the cruel possibility that the best interest of her child means never seeing her again. This is based on a true story. (Cinemalaya 2018)
Lying to Mom by Katsumi Nojiri – Japan | 2018 – 133 min.
When the eldest Suzuki son suddenly dies, he leaves a bereaved and bewildered family. The shock is so great that his mother loses her memory, and there is both sadness and humor in the attempt to recover. (Tokyo International Film Festival 2018)
Maggie by Yl Okseop – South Korea | 2018 – 88 min.
The discovery of X-ray photographs of sexual intercourse causes trouble at a hospital. The hospital administration is more interested in who might be in the x-rays than who took them. A nurse, Yeo Yoon-young, is writing her resignation because she thinks it might be her, but when she arrives at the hospital no one else is there except the deputy. While this hospital commotion is going on, strange sinkholes start to appear in Seoul. Young laborers, including Yoon-young’s boyfriend, are mobilized to fill these sudden sinkholes. Maggie is a film where one cannot easily summarize the plot. Since it does not confine itself to convention, the director’s unique imagination spreads everywhere. The director once expressed his intentions behind directing as follow: “I kept quiet even though I knew something was not true. Watching the growing misunderstanding, I felt that the world would adapt to that misunderstanding. Confidence is free from doubt, and so it can be very dangerous. My film describes the process of achieving confidence. But how should I behave after learning the truth?” (Nam Dong-chul)
Manta Ray by Phuttiphong Aroonpheng
Thailand, France, China | 2018 – 105 min.
In the forest are the graves of those who have lost their way. The dreams of those buried in the ground shine like various gemstones. One day, a fisherman who hears the sound of a buried gemstone saves a dying man while digging for it. The fisherman names him ‘Thongchai’- he who won’t or can’t speak, and teaches him how to breathe underwater with an ‘Mm’ sound. Could the fisherman hear the silent sound of Thongchai just like the sound of a gemstone? The forests of coastal villages where refugees die, troops stay, and people are buried in silence, are filled with the sounds of unfulfilled dream colors, and no one dares come to check the forests out when darkness sets in. It may be the breath of the dead who are still spouting away, the sound of the various gemstones filling the forest and crying. Can only manta rays of the sea come here to determine without fear the reality of the dreams of the buried? (Chai HeeSuk)
Memories of my body by Garin Nugroho – Indonesia | 2018 – 105 min.
Juno is just a kid when his father leaves him in their village of Center Java. Abandoned and alone, he joins a Lengger dance centre where men transform assuming feminine appearance and movements. But the sensuality and sexuality that come from dance and bodies, mixed with the violent social and political situation of Indonesia, force Juno to move from village to village. Though on his journey Juno gets attention and love from his dance teachers, his weird aunty, his old uncle, a handsome boxer and a Warok, he still has to face alone the battlefield that his body is becoming.
Miss Baek by Lee Ji-won – Korea | 2018 – 98 min.
A woman meets an abused little girl. Unable to turn away because of her own past pain, she tries to save the girl, but the mother stands against her. Han Ji-min from The Age of Shadows stars in this true-story drama.
Oda Sa Wala by Dwein Baltazar – Philippines | 2018
Sonya is an old maid stuck in a town that long ceased to recognize her existence but only until one fateful morning when a mysterious corpse arrives at the footsteps of their family owned funeral shop. Bringing forth strange luck and fortune, Sonya instantly gets drawn to the corpse’s mystique, reinvigorating not only her life but also that of her father Mang Rudy. But luck would eventually dry up, provoking further distress back to Sonya’s life. She faces the reality that her existence is nothing more that of the corpse, at the tail end of its mortality staring life wither away.
Our Body by Han Ka-ram – South Korea | 2018 – 96 min.
Preparing for the civil service exam for 8 years, Ja-young is getting exhausted by her continued attempts to pass it. After fighting with her mother who has been supporting her, she must stand on her own feet. Mentally and physically exhausted, Ja-young happens to meet a jogger full of vitality named Hyun-joo, and is tempted to be like her. Ja-young starts to run for the first time in her life. During the day, she works part-time at a company with her old friend Min-ji . At night she runs with Hyun-joo. Through this, she gradually regains her energy. She really admires Hyun-joo who has her own goals, dreams, and a good figure, but as Ja-young gets to know her better, she suspects Hyun-joo is harboring some secrets. One night while running together, Hyun-joo dies in a sudden accident and Ja-young enters into shock. Without knowing it, Ja-young soon develops a good figure that others envy, and her life still seems to be in place. After watching the movie with its impressive depiction of women’s’ physical and sexual fantasies, I think the audience will remember Our Body over Anarchist from Colony’s Choi Hee-seo. (Nam Dong-chul)
Our House (Watashi-tachi no ie) by Kiyohara Yui – Japan | 2017 – 80 min.
Two worlds in an old, odd-shaped house. Seri, nearly 14, knows her mother, Kiriko, has taken a new lover and plans to remarry. Sana, waking up on a ferry with no memory, stays with Toko, who keeps many secrets. Gradually the two worlds and the lives of the four characters subtly intertwine. Contriving a mystic world at once creepy, fascinating and touching, Kiyohara Yui, the PIA Film Festival Grand Prize Award winner, shows the hallmarks of creativity resembling her mentor, Kurosawa Kiyoshi. (HKIFF Catalogue)
Rainbow’s Sunset by Joel Lamngan – Philippines | 2018 – 110 min.
It tells the story of an old man who comes out as gay to his children in his senior years, to take care of his ailing lover.
River’s Edge by Isao Yukisada – Japan | 2018 – 118 min.
The shocking comic by Kyoko Okazaki portraying the desires and frustrations of youth comes to the silver screen. Opened Panorama Section at Berlinale 2018 and won the FIPRESCI award.
Season of the Devil (Ang Panahon ng halimaw) by Lav Diaz
Philippines | 2018 – 234 min.
In the late 70s, a gang of militias, under the control of the military, terrorises a remote village in the Philippines. The poet-teacher-activist Hugo Haniway decides to find out the truth about the disappearance of his wife. A love story and an unconventional music set in the darkest period of Philippine history, the Marcos Dictatorship, Season of the Devil is based on real events and real characters.
Shoplifters by Kore-eda Hirokazu – Japan | 2018 – 121 min.
A Japanese couple stuck with part-time jobs and inadequate incomes avail themselves of the fruits of shoplifting to make ends meet. They are not alone in this behaviour. The young and the old of the household are in on the act. This unusual routine is about to change from carefree and matter-of-fact to something more dramatic, as the couple opens their doors to a beleaguered teenager. The reasons for the family and friends’ habit and motivations, as a result, come under the microscope.
Signal Rock by Chito S. Roño – Philippines | 2018 – 127 min.
On a beautiful rocky island that looks like a giant abalone, young people sparsely sit and talk on their cell phones. One of them, Intoy, ends a call with his sister living abroad and returns to town. This rocky island is the best place to receive mobile phone signals. Set in Biri village in Northern Samar in the Philippines, the film tells the ironic story that although it could be the most beautiful island on Earth, it is part of the brutal reality the young villagers face. The most impressive element is the sense of reality the main character, Intoy, conveys. Rather than focusing on the frustration of a typical poor young man in the Philippines, the film focuses on how Intoy deals with the problems ahead of him. The movie shows how Intoy interacts with the villagers through his sense of balance and reality, solving the problems the village has. However, he cannot solve his problem. He can only realize that he has no choice but to endure in the face of the cold reality. (Park Jinhee)
Swimming through the darkness by Supriyo Sen – India | 2018 – 76 min.
Kanai Chakraborty, a blind swimmer who successfully completed the world′s longest swimming competition in the Ganges River wants to demonstrate the power of disabled people by challenging sports. Even when he visits his school for the blind, he insists that they should fight against the prejudice of society with their own strength in front of his juniors. But his family does not agree with him. They want him to help the poor family by begging for money. Poverty is a more difficult obstacle than the physical disability for him, who wants to continue to challenge swimming, loving the freedom he feels for a moment while swimming in the water. It is released after a long time by Supriyo Sen, an independent filmmaker representing India. The director captures the dynamic journey of a middle-aged man who has to walk a risky line between reality and dreams. (Huh Kyoung)
Ten Years Thailand by Aditya Assarat, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnnon Siriphol, Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Thailand, Hong Kong, Japan | 2017 – 93 min.
Ten Years Thailand is an omnibus film inviting four directors from Thailand to imagine their country a decade from now.
The Land of Seonghye by Jung Hyungsuk – Korea | 2018 – 117 min.
Seonghye, 29 years old, lives poor youth life. She studies preparing for the job in the afternoon, works as a part-time job at night. Her dreams are lost and future hope is not seen. How her life will flow (JIFF Catalogue 2018).
The Red Phallus by Tashi Gyeltshen – Bhutan, Germany, Nepal
Sangai, a teenage girl living with her father in a village of inland Bhutan, is not happy with her father, who makes wooden phalluses, believed to have mysterious power, and playing a festival clown with a red mask at a local festival. She reluctantly delivers the phalluses to neighbors but she is followed by dozens of men with red masks and costumes when walking through the hill. Conflict and tension grows between the father, who has concerns about his successor, and Sangai, who has a clandestine relationship with a married man. Set in the great mountains of inland Bhutan, the film is full of stunning images and mysterious symbols and metaphors. And trees with hanging phalluses and the men in red masks following Sangai might deliver quite a violent and strange impression on the audience. The film creates a unique space/world by combining reality and fantasy, and it contrasts the image of phallus and a little girl Sangai with calm but when she reveals her violent nature hidden in her silence, the moment is quite toppled over. It also questions the human nature and primitive instinct, illusions created by red masks and costumes, and the boundary between the illusion and the reality, the duplicity of human being. (Kim Young-Woo)
The Third Wife by Mayfair Ash – Vietnam | 2018 – 96 min.
In 19th century Vietnam, 14-year-old girl May is traveling on a flowery decorated boat through a beautiful valley. She is meant to become the third wife of a much older landlord. Red lanterns light up, and their first night unfolds well. Knowing how things will work out, Mai quickly befriends the other two wives and hangs out with the second wife’s daughter like sisters. As she is reaching adulthood and discovering her sexuality, she wants to give birth to a son in order to improve her status in the family. Things seem to be going well as she becomes pregnant, but then she finds out that the second wife is having an affair with the full grown son of the first wife. Mai herself feels an affection for the second wife as well. In an era where servants can be severely punished for getting pregnant without their master’s permission, multi-layered emotions concerning growth, taboo, freedom and extreme choices are aesthetically depicted. If seen only as Oriental eroticism, the girl’s coming-of-age theme, still very relevant today, might be under-looked. (Park Sungho)
Tracey by Jun Li – Hong Kong | 2018 – 119 min.
Tai-hung, in his 50s, lives happily with his wife. Informed of the death of his high school friend, Tai-hung’s secret past resurfaces. The feature debut from promising new Hong Kong talent Jun Li.
Tremble All You Want by Ooku Akiko – Japan | 2017 – 117 min.
A surprising foray into the world of Japanese Chick Lit and the women who read, live and hide there. Actress Matsuoka Mayu is marvelously engaging as the lonely Japanese office girl, Yoshika, who fantasizes about the guy she never interacted with in high school while ignoring the bumbling – ok, obnoxious – accountant in her office at her feet. Director Ohku proves deft in sensitivities, humor and insights that go beyond Wataya Risa’s popular novel or the genre itself.
Turning 18 Ho Chao-ti – Taiwan | 2018 – 87 min.
The two girls meet in a vocational training program. Growing up in a poor indigenous family, Chen had to take care of her seven brothers and sisters instead of her mother. Although she misses her mother while being separated from his family, Chen constantly tries to escape her parents′ fate. Pei, living at her boyfriend’s home, has always sought to find hope in love. Pei wants to marry her boyfriend, but he doesn′t seem interested in marriage. However, Pei, who got pregnant, asks herself if she really wants to have a baby. Approaching the age of 18, the two girls become increasingly engulfed by the darkness beneath the surface of their lives. The movie, Turning 18, is about two girls who dream of having a happy family. The story is about giving up, but also about love and courage. Although the background of this film is a remote village in Taiwan, the question the movie asks is global. How can an unloved life find its power? Finding the answer to this question would not be limited to young adults only.
Village Rockstars by Rima Das – India | 2017 – 87 min.
Adolescent Dhunu dreams of a real guitar and a rock band. Her dream is supported by her widowed mother, despite floods, crushing poverty and the rules restricting women in rural Indian society. Emergent prize-winning director Rima Das handled writing, cinematography and design for this tender yet smartly unsentimental vision of her own village. A rare story that captures and challenges those left behind in South Asian modernization.
Vision by Naomi Kawase – Japan | 2018 – 109 min.
Jeanne, a French journalist, comes to Japan in search of Vision, a rare medicinal herb said to strip away all spiritual anguish and weakness in human beings.
Xiao Mei by Maren Huang – Taiwan | 2018 – 96 min.
Xiao Mei, a frail and mysterious girl, is missing. Nine of her connections are interviewed and their accounts gradually piece together the puzzle of Xiao Mei’s life. None of them knows where Xiao Mei has gone, but they all hope that she is okay so that everything could be fine.