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100 Asian movies you cannot miss (2019) – Part 1

100films2019aWe present our list of 100 Asian Films & Documentaries from 2019 that you shouldn’t miss!!

About the list:
Each year after covering over 150 Asian festivals we select our favorite movies. As usual we try to be fair and select films from different genres. Please bear in mind that these are the films we discovered in 2019 so there could be productions from 2018. To make things a little bit easier we divided the list in four parts, you can check the whole list in the “100 Asian Films” section (top-right part in our website). We hope you like our selection. Please feel free to share this article with your cinephiles friends and leave a comment below. Thanks – Sebastián Nadilo

3 Days 2 Nights

3 Days 2 Nights by Lin Hao-pu – Taiwan | 2018 – 80 minutes – Fiction

Xiaoyue finds that her mother has been working for a long time away from home when she receives the apples sent from her mother. Just entering her puberty, Xiaoyue comes from a new immigrant family from Vietnam. She is laughed at and bullied in school because her old father makes a living as a scrap collector. The rebellious Biyan always stands out for Xiaoyue. She even plans a three-day journey to see her mother with Xiaoyue. Ms. Chen is faced with a dilemma. She is going to retire but the after-school tutorial class in the community is the only place for her to care her students. For Xiaoyue and her friend Biyan, her class is their hope. (Taipei Film Festival’s Website)

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37 Seconds

37 Seconds by Hikari – Japan | 2019 – 116 minutes – Fiction

Yuma, a naive, yet talented comic book artist is forced to ghostwrite for her best friend to hide her cerebral palsy from an unsympathetic culture. Answering a want ad for an erotic comic magazine leads Yuma on an unexpected course of sexual discovery, also puts her in direct conflict with her protective, yet overbearing mother. When Yuma learns of a family secret, she takes a trip to confront her painful, but ultimately liberating truth.

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50 Years of Silence

50 Years of Silence by Tham Seen Hau – Malaysia | 2019 – 90 minutes – Documentary

The May 13 riots remain as a national wound that has yet to heal after half a century. With the incident shrouded in taboo and trauma, those who have lost their loved ones in the tragedy have remained voiceless for decades. The Ngs were a family of ten living in Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur in 1969. Five of them died in the May 13 riots. Due to the unbearable pain, the surviving family members never spoke to each other about the tragedy since the incident. 48 years later, they broke their silence as the director interviewed them individually, slowly piecing together fragments of a buried memory.

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A bedsore

A bedsore by Shim Hye-jun – Korea | 2019 – 110 minutes – Fiction

Retired civil servant Gang Changsik lives with his wife Na Gilsoon, who suffered a cerebral haemorrhage a few years ago, and her caretaker Yu Soook, an illegal Korean-Chinese immigrant. One day, a bedsore develops on Na Gilsoon’s body which does not seem to heal properly. Even through Gilsoon’s health is in jeopardy, Soook insists on taking time off on weekends and Changsik realizes she has found a romantic interest. Some time later, Soook decides to quit her job in order to enter a sham marriage so that she can get a new visa. Upon hearing this, Chang-sik suggests that they get married instead. Changsik’s daughter Jisoo, son Moonsoo and his wife Jiyoung all raise objections. At the family meeting, they fail to reach an agreement and end up reopening old wounds. (SIWFF Catalogue)

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A Corner Shop

A Corner Shop by Lee Sukgyung – Korea | 2018 – 75 minutes – Fiction

The ‘Cats on a Picnic’ social enterprise helps young people who haven’t gone to university to find independence, with youths and adults gathering, preparing and delivering lunch boxes for the past 8 years. In the spring of 2014 the small store, which had never achieved 10 million won in sales, amazingly exceeded 50 million won within 3 years. Yet what happened between the shopkeepers during that time? This is a story of people making choices about both money and their own humanity while a small store grows. (SIWFF Catalogue)

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A Girl Missing

A Girl Missing by Fukada Koji – Japan | 2019 – 111 minutes – Fiction

Ichiko works as a private nurse for a family she has almost become a part of. While Ichiko cares for the grandmother, she is also a confidant to Motoko, the eldest sister. But one day, Motoko’s younger sister disappears. And the media soon reveal the kidnapper to be Ichiko’s own nephew… (TGHFF Catalogue)

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A is for Agustin

A is for Agustin by Grace Simbulan – Philippines | 2019 – 73 minutes – Documentary

Agustin, an illiterate 41-year old man, gets fed up with being exploited by his boss, decides to leave his job, and enroll in grade 1. Over six years, Agustin is increasingly torn between his desire to learn and his duties to his family. (DMZ Docs)

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A Long Goodbye

A Long Goodbye by Nakano Ryota – Japan | 2019 – 127 minutes – Fiction

When retired teacher Shohei begins to show signs of unusual memory loss, his wife Yoko calls her daughters Mari and Fumi home to see their father. A party is held for the 70th birthday of Shohei, but what is told to his daughters, who haven’t all gathered together for a long time, is the fact that their strict father has contracted dementia. Confused about the situation of their father losing his memory day after day, the women can’t get a grasp on this new version of their father. But as time passes, the family comes to terms with Shohei’s illness. They discover that there can still be joy, happiness and love with the man they call dad. A “lovely memory” that everyone in their family has forgotten, is still living in Shohei. (TFF Catalogue)

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A Sun

A Sun by Chung Mong-hong – Taiwan | 2019 – 156 minutes – Fiction

The story is about an ordinary family of four. The father, A-Wen, is a driving instructor; the mother, Qin, is a hairdresser; the older brother, A-Hao, is a high school senior following his father’s expectations, preparing for retaking his medical school entrance exams; the only member who seems problematic is the younger brother A-Ho, who has been “different” since he was a child. (TGHFF Catalogue)

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A War of Memories

A War of Memories by Leekil Bora – Korea | 2018 – 80 minutes – Documentary

In central Vietnam, the massacre of 1968 is embedded in memory for those that live there. During Lunar New Year in February, the past returns to haunt the village, for at the same time and date that the villagers were massacred, the survivors hold a ‘Korean soldier’ ancestral rites ceremony. In the 1960s, South Korea entered the Vietnam War as an ally of the US and committed atrocities, yet all that’s remembered is the tremendous economic development Korea received due to being involved. The memories of the survivors linger, but have yet to become official discourse. The memory of war is a war of memory. (SIWFF Catalogue)

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Ang Hupa

Ang Hupa by Lav Diaz – Philippines | 2019 – 282 minutes | Fiction

It is the year 2034 AD and Southeast Asia has been in the dark for the last three years, literally, because the sun hasn’t shone as a result of massive volcanic eruptions at the Celebes Sea in 2031. Madmen control countries, communities, enclaves and bubble cities. Cataclysmic epidemics razed over the continent. Millions have died and millions have left.

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Another Child

Another Child by Kim Yoon-seok – Korea | 2019 – 96 minutes – Fiction

Will I know the answer when I grow up? Another Child is a film that responds to this age-old question that everyone has done once. Juri (KIM Hyejun), a high school student, finds out that her father (KIM Yoonseok) and her friend Yoon-ah’s mother Mihee (KIM Sojin) are having an affair. The daughter tries to hide this fact from her mother (YUM Jeong-ah), but the father’s infidelity is finally discovered. Although the movie is about an affair, it focuses on the confusing emotions and changes of characters. The two shy girls become resentful to their own parents, but the adults cannot easily give up their love, which throws us something to think about away from the stereo-type affair dramas. The story is not about the relationship between parents and children, but about the deep-rooted coming of age stories that show the agony and weight each person bears. It’s Actor KIM Yoonseok’s directorial debut film, which highlights a calm and stable production that focuses on the characters. (SONG Kyungwon)

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Babae at Baril

Babae at Baril (The Girl and the Gun) by Rae Red – Philippines – Fiction

The protagonist is a saleslady in a local department store. Her everyday life is composed of an exhausting commute home. She deals with the manager who always seems to have something to say about her physical state; her co-worker, Ted who is obviously interested in her but can’t take a hint; and from the catcallers near where she lives. When she finally gets home, there’s no one there but her roommate who couldn’t care less about her. All that is about to change when she reaches the gate to her boarding house and finds a peculiar looking gun right on her doorstep. Suddenly, she can do anything she wants, talk back to whoever she wants, and even hurt anyone she wants. (QCinema)

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Balloon

Balloon by Pema Tseden – China | 2019 – 103 minutes – Fiction

On the Tibetan grasslands, Darje and Drolkar lead a serene and ordinary life with their three sons and Darje’s father. The death of Darje’s father throws the whole family into sorrow, but soon Darje and Drolkar are caught unawares by an unexpected pregnancy. A subtle conflict arises between the two as Drolkar is concerned about having another baby due to China’s birth control policy, while Darje believes that the baby is the reincarnation of his father. Tibetans who believe in the Buddhist teachings of rebirth see death not as a break from life or an end of life but as the beginning of new life through rebirth. Because of their faith, death makes them think about what is more important between life and death, spirit and reality. The film’s title Balloon refers to a condom, which sparks a series of embarrassment and dilemma, breaking the harmony of the family. Balloon is the latest film by Tibetan auteur PEMA Tseden, whose previous films Tharlo and Jinpa have also been screened at BIFF. Similar to his previous works, this film addresses the Tibetan life and values, but unlike his other works, Balloon has more mass appeal. (CHAE Bohyun)

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Billie and Emma

Billie & Emma by Samantha Lee – Philippines | 2018 – 107 minutes – Fiction

Set in the mid-90’s, the film tells the story of Billie, a troublemaker from the big city, who finds herself exiled to a small rural town to live with her spinster aunt who is also the town’s religion teacher. Determined to change her ways and get through the last year of high school without incident, Billie hides herself from the world until she meets Emma, the ambitious, star student who coaxes Billie out of her shell. They soon fall in love but things get complicated when Emma finds out that she’s pregnant. Together, they explore the fleeting nature of love and life on this journey of growth, laughter and music.

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Blue Hour

Blue Hour by Yuko Hakota – Japan | 2019 – 92 minutes – Fiction

Sunada is a 30-year-old married woman employed at a lucrative position in advertisement industry. She sometimes drinks too much at corporate events, she begins to get bored in her marriage, and what the world expects from women is not exactly climbing the career ladder, however spectacular. She left behind a rather boring family home at the province: a spontaneous return there with a childhood friend will give har an occasion to confront her past – and not only. – Jagoda Murczyńska

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Boluomi

Boluomi by Chen Vera, Kek Huat – Taiwan | 2019 – 109 minutes – Fiction

The Malaysian communist party engaged in decades-long armed struggle in the jungle to gain independence. Babies who were born during the war were sent outside the jungle for survival. Boluomi is the father of one of those babies, Yifan, who is also the protagonist of this film. The Taiwanese Malaysian father and son live resent each other, with their secrets and pains of the past buried deep in their hearts. Angry at his father as well as the racial discrimination and inequality he faces in Malaysia, Yifan leaves for Taiwan, the country of his grandparents. In Kaohsiung, he meets Laila, an illegal immigrant from the Philippines. Treated like a stranger even in the country of his ancestors, Yifan sympathizes with Laila and grows closer to her. It is heartbreaking to watch the glum history of Malaysia and the two young people care for each other in a strange land despite their language barrier. Director LAU Kek Huat is himself a Taiwanese Malaysian. His works have consistently delivered messages about his roots. His shorts and documentaries have been well received at previous editions of BIFF, and he returns this year with his first fiction feature. (CHAE Bohyun)

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Brave Father Online

Brave Father Online: Our story of Final Fantasy XIV by Noguchi Teruo – Japan | 2019 – 115 minutes – Fiction

Akio wishes he had a better relationship with his reserved father Akira. One day Akira suddenly quits his job and retires without giving out any explanation to the family. Thinking it could be a good tool to be close to his father, Akio gives him software of online game “Final Fantasy XIV”. By teaching his father how to play the game and secretly interacting with him as an anonymous online avatar, Akio hopes to know his father better through the adventures with other players in the game; little does the young man know what Akira is going through…

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Children of the Sea

Children of the Sea by Ayumu Watanabe – Japan | 2019 – 110 minutes – Fiction

When Ruka is suspended from her school handball team, she decides to visit her father, who works at an aquarium. She soon meets and befriends Umi, a boy who seems at one with the ocean and has the ability to communicate with sea creatures. She also meets his older brother, the sickly and haughty Sora. Together they notice a song of the sea that’s luring all types of sea creatures away from their natural habitats. And Ruka discovers that her affinity with the sea is far greater than she imagined. Director Ayumu Watanabe (Doraemon the Movie: Nobita’s Dinosaur) has crafted a film of great beauty, depicting a magical seascape setting for this fantastic adventure. Selected for the Contrechamp Competition at the prestigious Annecy Festival.

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Children of the Sun

Children of the Sun by Vithanage Prasanna – Sri Lanka, India | 2019 – 103 minutes – Fiction

In 1814, Ceylon(now Srilanka), with its beautiful nature in the Indian Ocean, is facing a period of upheaval about to become part of the British Empire. Prasanna VITHANAGE depicts the survival and love of the outcast in the lowest place in society through Children of the Sun. The British intervene in tensions seeking conspiracy between the royal family from South Indian descendant and the Buddhist noblemen, but the plan failed. The family members of the aristocracies are captured by the royal army, and are forced to commit suicide.
Young Tikiri chooses to get remarried with an untouchable, Vijaya, but she cannot change her attitude as a former upper class. She brings crisis in the community eventually leading both to go deep in the mountains in exile. The most dangerous hazard is not the disease-spreading bugs or wild animals, but other human beings. As many villages are devastated by either royal army or British troops, survivors have to cope with the periods of chaos when basic security is not guaranteed. (PARK Sungho)

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Clean Up

Clean Up by Kwon Man-ki – South Korea | 2018 – 104 minutes – Fiction

Kwon Man-ki’s impressive debut is refreshingly different from the high-tempo thrillers South Korean cinema is known for. Low-key visuals and minimal dialogue convey the tale of Jung-je (Yoon Ji-hye, superb), an emotionally-blank cleaner. Her new workmate is Min-gu, an unsettled ex-convict. Min-gu was just a boy when Jung-je and her husband blindfolded and kidnapped him. The question of whether Min-gu will recognise his captor is just one part of Kwon’s meticulously arranged screenplay. Jung-je is terrified of being exposed. She also has a desperate desire to reach out and help the troubled young man. What emerges is a suspenseful and emotionally rewarding portrait of damaged souls searching for hope.

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Cleaners

Cleaners by Glenn Barit – Philippines | 2019 – Fiction

Cleaners is a coming-of-age anthology film about high school classroom cleaners for the school year 2007-2008. Set in the backdrop of a Catholic school in Tuguegarao City, the characters deal with different pressures of being clean, proper and pure while slowly discovering that the world is dirty and superficial to begin with. The different stories range from the taboo of shitting in school to navigating local political dynasties. (QCinema)

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Coming Home Again

Coming Home Again by Wang Wayna – Korea, USA | 2019 – 86 minutes – Fiction

Based on a personal essay by Chang-rae LEE published in The New Yorker, Coming Home Again is an intimate family drama about a mother, a son, and the burden of family expectations. Chang-rae, a first-generation Korean American, has returned to his family home in San Francisco to care for his ailing mother. He wants only to fulfill his role as the supportive son, but must also come to terms with his conflicted emotions towards his mother.
The film takes place over the course of one full day. During this day, he attempts to prepare a traditional Korean dinner for New Year’s Eve. The one she always cooked for the family. The care and precision that goes into preparing this meal gives him time to reflect on the intense relationship between them. Memories about it become a doorway into a woman who was so much more than the mother he thought he knew.

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Dear My Genius

Dear My Genius by Koo Yunjoo – South Korea | 2018 – 81 min – Documentary

The director used to be a science prodigy when young. However, as an English major in the university, she is currently a job seeker after abandoning her dream of becoming a scientist. One day, her youngest sister, Yoon-young, who becomes an elementary school student, throws a word. “I want to be a genius like you, sister”. Since then, Yoon-young starts a tight schedule to become a gifted child and to live a successful life, and the mother devotes herself to the support just like she did to the director and the second child, sometimes comforting Yoon-young warmly and sometimes pushing her into the hectic daily routines. Watching them, the director′s mind is mixed. Her childhood experience taught her that success may not exist beyond the genius, or success may not be directly linked to a happy life. What can the director do for her little sister, Yoon-young? The film raises the critical questions about the South Korean society, which is forgetting the concept of a happy life due to the education system and obsession with successes that incites constant competition. (Huh Kyoung)

Detention

Detention by John Hsu – Taiwan | 2019 – 103 minutes – Fiction

In 1962, a sense of desolation and tension permeate the society. Fang, a twelfth grader at Tsuihua Senior High School, falls in love with Zhang, a counselling teacher. Troubled by the problems at school and home, Fang feels that Zhang is the only person who understands her. Longing for freedom, Zhang forms a study group with his colleagues and students, including Yin and Wei. Reading the banned books allows them to be liberated for a brief moment but at the same time, they put their lives in great danger.
One day, Zhang vanishes into thin air, and only Fang and Wei, an eleventh grader, remember him. Together, Fang and Wei start looking for the disappeared teacher but find the school gradually slipping out of the world they are familiar with. Then in a realm dominated by ghosts and spirits, the pair are forced to face the terrifying truth….

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100 Asian Movies 2019
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