100 Asian movies you cannot miss (2019) – Part 3

100films2019cWe continue with 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 all 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). 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 – Sebastián Nadilo


Kyungmi’s World

Kyungmi’s World by Koo Jihyun – Korea | 2019 – 108 minutes – Fiction

The title of this movie, Kyungmi’s World, is interesting. Kyungmi doesn’t appear as the main character in the movie. The main characters are Suyeon and her grandmother (even her grandmother’s name is not Kyungmi). Suyeon is an aspiring actress, but she has yet to escape from her difficult, unknown life, even though she has been on the same path for seven years. One day, Suyeon gets a call. The owner of her grandma’s house tells Suyeon that the house demolished, and her grandma is hospitalized. Suyeon visits her grandmother, who has not been in touch with each other for ages. And she finds out that her grandmother is suffering from dementia. Suyeon and her grandmother’s family history, or their ill-fated intertwined lives, constantly collide throughout the movie, creating intense tension. Kyungmi’s sad world exists in between of the conflicts. (JUNG Han-Seok)



Last night i saw you smiling

Last Night I Saw You Smiling by Kavich Neang – Cambodia, France | 2019 – 78 minutes – Documentary

The White Building, originally known as the Municipal Apartments, was built one decade after Cambodia’s independence and amid a movement of New Khmer Architecture. The housing block bore witness to a tremendous series of events: the young nation’s Golden Age, a traumatic breakdown under a radical regime, decades of cultural revival centered within its walls, and the rapid pace of capitalist development that would ultimately lead to its demise. When director Kavich Neang learned the 493 families of the White Building, the architectural landmark in Phnom Penh where he had lived since birth, agreed to vacate for a condo development, he decided to document the building’s final days. He followed his own family and neighbors as they packed belongings, shared memories and anxieties, and eventually moved out before the building’s total destruction. When demolition comes, only memories remain. (Taipei Film Festival’s Website)




Lola Igna

Lola Igna by Eduardo Roy Jr. – Philippines | 2019 – Fiction

Lola Igna is a foul-mouthed and stubborn woman who is eager to die but her neighbors are hung up on her winning “the oldest living grandmother in the world.” Her long-lost great-great-grandson, Tim, is an aspiring vlogger who wants to latch on her now-famous grandma but ends up giving her a new reason to live.




Lucky Chan-Sil

Lucky Chan-Sil by Kim Cho-hee – Korea | 2019 – 96 minutes – Fiction

Chan-sil, who quit her job as a film producer, moves to the top of the hill on the outskirts. The old lady, the owner of the rented house, is somewhat strange. What’s even stranger is the ghost that appears often in this haunted house. The ghost says he was a famous actor in Hong Kong during his lifetime (see his outfit and you’ll soon find out who he is). Chan-sil gets a job as a housekeeper at a close actress’ house, and she has a feeling for the actress’ French teacher. The ghost often becomes love counselors for Chan-sil.

Up to here, Lucky Chan-sil is ingenious and entertaining. There is no need to talk more about clever stories and character portrayals. The witty lines, speech, and the situations that are used to appear in the intended wrong beat are all attractive. Lucky Chan-sil starts strangely but ends with fortitude. (JUNG Han-Seok)





Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom by Pawo Choyning Dorji – Bhutan | 2019 – 110 minutes – Fiction

Pawo Choyning DORJI invites us to the most remote place in Bhutan, the happiest country in the world. Lunara, a very small village with only 56 people at 4,800 meters above sea level, has the most remote school on earth. The city guy Ugen, born in the capital Thimphu, has a decent job as a teacher, but he cannot give up his hope to become a singer in far away Australia. Preparing for retirement and immigration, he is forcefully transferred to Lunara. Tracking the Himalayas for days and nights to reach the village, he can barely stand the toilet without toilet paper and the bitter cold of the night. The so-called school building doesn’t even have a blackboard and is piled up with dust. Nevertheless, the children are passionate to pursue their dreams by education, and the people are very respectful in spite of inevitable poorness. Then he meets a beautiful yak herder. It’s a process of enlightening that brings questions about the boundary between the dream called a film and the reality. (PARK Sungho)





Melancholic by Tanaka Seiji – Japan | 2018 – 113 minutes

Not knowing what to do with his life after graduating from one of the top universities in Japan, Kazuhiko lands himself a simple job at a local bathhouse. His life takes an unexpected turn when he discovers that during the night the bathhouse is used by the yakuza to kill off their enemies. From black comedy to social drama, and from tense gangster action to quirky love story, Melancholic is a true genre blending experience.




Mio on the Shore

Mio on the Shore by Nakagawa Ryutaro – Japan | 2019 – 96 minutes – Fiction

Having lost her parents early, 20 years old Mio and her grandmother run a traditional inn in a countryside Japan. Mio comes to Tokyo to seek a new job after her grandmother fell ill, and she moves in to her late father’s best friend, Kyosuke’s public bath house. Although she begins to help him run his bath, it is scheduled to be demolished on redevelopment.




Motel Acacia

Motel Acacia by Bradley Liew – Philippines, Slovenia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand | 2019 – 87 minutes – Fiction

Malaysia-born, Philippines-based Bradley Liew’s second feature is a horror film with a multi-national crew and cast. A man confronts a demon haunting a motel he has taken over from his father.




Moving On

Moving On by Yoon Danbi – Korea | 2019 – 105 minutes – Fiction

A teenage girl Okju and her younger brother start a life in their grandfather’s house with their father. Okju’s aunt often comes to this house to play. Okju spends the most precious time in her childhood here. Unforgettable love, hurt, and various good-bye moments are imprinted in Okju’s life. Above all, the casting of Okju, and her younger brother is so exquisite and successful that it tells how bright eyes the director has in casting and directing the actors.

In Moving On, along with some of Asia’s greatest master directors, one can clearly sense the influence of KOREEDA Hirokazu, but that is not a flaw in itself. Moving On is eager to learn, instead of easily mimicking KOREEDA’s movies. Would it be too much of an exaggeration to say there is a movie here that wants to be the earnest successor of KOREEDA’s movie? (JUNG Han-Seok)



My Dad is a Heel Wrestler

My Dad is a Heel Wrestler by Fujimira Kyohei – Japan | 2018 – 111 minutes – Fiction

Takashi, a once popular wrestler, returns after to the ring after a lengthy absence to play the ‘heel’ (a bad guy wrestler). When his 9 year old son discovers his father is regularly booed, he feels ashamed. However, a title match against a famous young wrestler gives Takashi a chance to regain his honor.




My Father the Bride

My father, the bride by Fukuda Momoko – Japan | 2018 – 95 minutes – Fiction

Touka returns to the island she grew up to attend her mother’s second memorial service. She finds out that her father Seiji is wearing her mother’s clothes. As if that doesn’t come as enough of a shock, Seiji even tells Touka that he is getting married again to a man named Kazuo. The film explores the particular incident and the life of the island people with a humorous touch. (JIFF Catalogue 2019)





Nakorn-Sawan by Puangsoi Aksornsawang – Thailand | 2018 – 77 minutes – Fiction

“Nakorn Sawan”, which literally means “Heaven City” in Thai, is the name of a province north of Bangkok. It is the place where the Ping and Nan rivers merge to form Chao Phraya, the main river running through Bangkok. Believed by many Thais to be the gateway to heaven, it is the place where the characters in the film convene to send their loved one to the afterlife. Weaving together documentary footage of her mother and father—who separated when the director was a young teenager—and a fictionalized narrative performed by young actors, the film is a delicate meditation on love, loss and memory.




Never Not Love You

Never Not Love You by Antoinette Jadaone – Philippines | 2018 – 100 minutes – Fiction

It tells the story of young lovers who tries to build a life together until career opportunities sends them to a different country where their relationship will be tested. (IMDb)




Nina Wu

Nina Wu by Midi Z – Taiwan, Malaysia, Myanmar | 2019 – 103 minutes – Fiction

The Chinese Myanmar director Midi Z chellenged reinventing his style with this psychological thriller. Nina Wu, a girl used to live in a small town playing at a local theater, leaves for a big city to fulfill her dream to become a star. After eight years of obscurity, she finally is cast as a protagonist of a film which is a 1960s spy thriller. Although this is kind of once in a lift time opportunity, she is burden from pressure as the press and the industry confidently believe the big success of the film. The director often pushes her to the limit shooting full nudity in bed scenes. At the blink of success, her mentality starts to break down. She rushes back home to deal with her family crisis as her father is bankrupt due to failure of his business and her mother’s heath is weakening since heart attack. She tries to restore her relationship with her childhood friend Kiki. However, she is haunted by paranoid that a mysterious woman is stalking her with evil intentions. A suppressed deadly memory is about to rise to the surface… (PARK Sungho)




No. 7 Cherry Lane

No. 7 Cherry Lane by Yonfan – Hong Kong | 2019 – 126 minutes – Fiction

Hong Kong in the 1960s. Mrs. Yu lives at No. 7 Cherry Lane with her mysteriously charming teenage daughter Meiling. When Ziming, a university student, becomes an English tutor to Meiling, a special bond begins to form between the two women and Ziming. Upon meeting Ziming, Mrs. Yu, an intellectual who once fought for social change, recalls her youthful passion for literature. One day, she goes to a movie theater with Ziming, and the two experience a magical moment that sparks their forbidden desire. Portraying a dangerous relationship between a mother, daughter, and a university student that crosses the boundary of hidden desires and love, this sensuous story unfolds on the screen with beautiful images and music. The first animated film directed by Yonfan, No. 7 Cherry Lane stars a cast of Silvia CHANG and Zhao Wei, whose voices create an even more captivating atmosphere. Winner of Best Screenplay Award at Venice Film Festival In Competition. (CHAE Bohyun)




Ohong Village

Ohong Village by Lim Lungyin –Taiwan, Czech Republic | 2019 – 98 minutes – Fiction

In the remotest corner of southern Taiwan, the sinking fisherman´s village prepares for another carnival for the god. Sheng, a man reaching his 30s, returns in disguise as an established urban elite. As the carnival escalates, Sheng confronts his persistent father who farms oysters throughout his life and the childhood buddy who always envies his fragile “successfulness.” (JIFF Catalogue 2019)




One Child Nation

One Child Nation by Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang – China, USA | 2019 – 85 minutes – Documentary

Launched in 1979 and ending only in 2015, China’s mandatory policy was an attempt to curb the country’s looming population crisis. Co-directors Nanfu Wang (Hooligan Sparrow, 2016) and Jialing Zhang grew up in 1980s China. As a child, Wang recalls seeing relentless propaganda reinforcing the government’s strategy. Now a first-time mother living in America, she returns to China to investigate the devastating impact of the program. In shocking interviews with journalists, officials and family members, she documents a horrendous trail of social destruction, from forced sterilisation to child abandonment (nearly all girls) and state-sponsored kidnappings. Wang and Zhang’s important and uncompromising documentary challenges widespread assumptions.




Over the Rainbow

Over the Rainbow by Park Yeong-I, Kim Gongchol – Japan, Korea | 2019 – 80 minutes – Documentary

Japan is a close but distant country. The film tells the past and present of Zainichi Koreans and pro-North Korean schools in Japan. Through the close-down order, protests, and withdrawal of the order, the schools remained steady for 70 years. The film doesn’t focus only on the past, but calmy depicts the lives of Zainichi Koreans. What is different today compared to 70 years ago?




Parasite by Bong Joon Ho – Korea | 2019 – 132 minutes – Fiction

Parasite, which won the Palme d’Or at the 72nd Cannes Film Festival, is director BONG Joon ho’s seventh feature film. In this movie, Director BONG Joon ho, who has promoted genre customs in his own language, highlights the class problems that have not been seen clearly before. The family members of Kiwoo (CHOI Woosik), living in a semi-basement house, are all out of jobs. One day, Kiwoo gets a high-priced private tutoring position for the son of CEO Park (LEE Sunkyun) of an IT company through the introduction of a friend. Starting with it, Kiwoo’s whole family begins to infiltrate the rich family, living like a parasite. The film, which represents a family tragicomedy, creates a unique rhythm by combining comedy and thriller at crossings. Among the universal narratives, Korean details are carefully inserted into the class conflict, which is shaped by a vertical structure. It is the final version of “BONG Joon ho’s Genre,” which was created after a mix of family dramas, thrillers, comedies and horror stories, the unique emotions of Korean society, and a sense of problems reading the times. (Song Kyungwon)




Pariah Dog

Pariah Dog by Jesse Alk – India | 2018 – 77 minutes – Documentary

A poetic documentary focusing on several eccentric street dog caretakers in Kolkata, India. Shot over three years, the film paints a kaleidoscopic picture of the city of Kolkata, seen through the prism of four outsiders and the dogs they love.




Penguin Highway

Penguin Highway by Ishida Hiroyasu – Japan | 2018 – 118 minutes – Fiction

When a group of penguins surfaces in his neighbourhood, a young fourth-grader tries to find out their origin and gets involved in a much larger adventure involving mud-monsters and a mysterious woman. The internationally successful debut-feature of ISHIDA Hiroyasu, co-founder of Studio Colorido, is a gorgeously animated sci-fi adventure about the wonders of childhood.




Portraits of the Rainbow

Portraits of the rainbow by Ayumi Nakagawa – Japan | 2018 – 79 minutes – Documentary

This film focuses on the photographer Leslie KEE during the creation of his “Out in Japan” project, in which he portrays various people from the LGBTQ spectrum, hoping to push back against their invisibility within Japanese society. Director NAKAGAWA’s focus on the individual participants of the project leads to some immensely moving moments and shots.




Present Perfect

Present. Perfect. By Selma Vilhunen, Shengze Zhu – USA, Hong Kong | 2019 – 124 minutes – Documentary

More than 400 million Chinese regularly livestream footage of themselves, both their everyday lives and extreme activities: especially popular are videos of the bizarre, like a boy who eats live worms or paint-covered wrestlers. It’s an industry worth billions of dollars, dwarfing the Western trend of vlogging and YouTubers. Zhu chose not to follow the big stars but the marginal characters – a disfigured man, a paralysed girl, a bored crane driver, a dancer with a lousy sense of rhythm. Streaming online, they find the human contact that eludes them in real life – a world where the online and offline are inextricably merged.





Reason (Vivek) by Anand Patwardhan – India | 2018 – 240 minutes – Documentary

India’s greatest documentarian, Anand Patwardhan, returns with a powerful chronicle of contemporary India. Depicting a country that after decades of relatively pro-secular democracy, is now increasingly divided by religion, caste and power. Patwardhan follows activists, rationalists and dissenters, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, he broadens his gaze to look at critical questions of communism, caste and freedom of speech. This is a riveting and sobering film that will inform and frustrate in equal measure. Reason is a must watch, and is perhaps the most important documentary to emerge from India in recent years. (LIFF 2019 Catalogue)




Reiwa Uprising

Reiwa Uprising by Kazuo Hara – Japan | 2019 – 255 minutes – Documentary

Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Kazuo Hara follows Ayumi Yasutomi, a cross-dressing candidate, who is also a Tokyo University professor, as she embarks on a national campaign for a seat in Japan’s Upper House.




100 Asian Movies 2019
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Go to Part 2
Go to Part 4 (Soon…)

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