100 Asian movies you cannot miss (2019) – Part 4

100films2019dWe finish 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



Rivercide: The Secret six by Kim Byeongki – Korea | 2018 – 108 minutes | Documentary

The Grand Canal project was one of the key pledges of the former President Lee. He first said that he was carrying out a project to save the four rivers but it was a lie. He eventually proceeded the project which was a hotbed of all kinds of irregularities. After ten years, now the river is dying. Some people collaborated to the past regime, and some resisted it. On whom will we stand?




Sending Off

Sending Off by Ian Thomas Ash – Japan | 2019 – 79 minutes – Documentary

Dr. KONTA Kaoru and her team of nurses provide hospice care to patients in their homes in rural Japan. The changing seasons provide a backdrop to the deepening relationships the patients form with their families as they reach the end of their lives. A powerful and respectful documentary that challenges viewers to think about how they live their own lives, and how they would like to die. Winner of the Nippon Docs Award 2019 at Nippon Connection (Frankfurt, Germany).




Shut Up Sona

Shut Up Sona by Deepti Gupta – India | 2019 – 84 minutes – Documentary

A legal notice arrives one day at singer and popstar Sona’s doorstep, accusing her of blasphemy. Her fault? Singing an 800-year-old song that has devotional lyrics while being dressed ‘obscenely’. Used to being questioned every single day, this is just one fight of many, as she fights for equal space in a culture ridden with misogyny.




So Long My Son

So Long, My Son by Wang Xioashuai – China | 2019 – 180 minutes – Fiction

Yaojun (Wang Jingchun) and Liyun (Yong Mei) were once happy, but when their young son dies in a tragic accident, the couple never truly recovers. They adopt a son who struggles to adapt to his new circumstances and rebels against his anxious parents, culminating in him running away from home. A mainstay of Chinese independent filmmaking, Xiaoshuai (Beijing Bicycle, Shanghai Dreams) uses this story as the basis for a thorough examination of the effect of the political on the personal in China. The Cultural Revolution, China’s One-Child Policy and eventual burgeoning wealth all play out as the backdrop to this immensely emotional story of loss, love and redemption and human upheaval in China.




Song Lang

Song Lang by Leon Le – Vietnam | 2018 – 90 minutes – Fiction

Saigon, 1980s. Linh Phung is the star of an itinerant cai luong company (traditional folk opera) and is heavily indebted to a lender called Dung, Thunderbolt. Despite apparently having nothing in common, the two engage in a video game relationship and discover that they have similar minds and multiple binding points. Linh Phung knows that a well-lived life is required to develop his art and Dung yearns for art to be able to live a life worthy of being lived. The story, rooted in fatalism and fatality, is inspired by the classical narrative structure of Vietnamese opera.




Still Human

Still Human by Oliver Siu Kuen Chan – Hong Kong | 2018 – 111 minutes – Fiction

A paralyzed and hopeless Hong Kong man meets his new Filipino domestic worker who has put her dream on hold and came to the city to earn a living. These two strangers live under the same roof through different seasons, and as they learn more about each other, they also learn more about themselves.




Take Over Zone

Take Over Zone by Shinpei Yamasaki – Japan | 2019 – 90 minutes – Fiction

Shot in the historic city of Nara, this film depicts the growth and conflicts of a talented 14-year-old female sprinter with a complex family background.




The Crossing

The Crossing by Bai Xue – China | 2018 – 99 minutes – Fiction

16-year-old Peipei lives in Shenzhen, just over the border from Hong Kong where she goes to school. In order to raise money for a trip to Japan she joins a smuggling ring, taking iPhones into the mainland. Her inconspicuous high school uniform makes her the perfect mule, but as her innocence quickly fades she may fall in too deep. Bai Xue’s striking debut combines an often stark neo realist style with flourishes of cinematic bravado to explore this strong young woman’s turbulent journey into adulthood.




The Education

The Education by Kim Dukjoong – Korea | 2019 – 98 minutes – Fiction

The plot of The Education is simply summed up. Seonghee, who is taking care of the disabled, visits the Hyeonmok’s house. Hyeonmok’s mother is a severely disabled person who cannot move and is unconscious. Seonghee and Hyunmok get to know each other little by little. But this simple summary of the plot is full of fascinating emotions that cannot be explained in The Education. That makes this movie interesting. The repercussions of small talks the characters spit out or small movements are amazing. The early part of the war of nerves between Seonghee and Hyunmok, the friendship or affection that builds up thanks to the war of nerves, their languid, somber, and sad picnic of a day, and the funny and affectionate last sequence that comes like lightning. The Education is both delicate and seductive. (JUNG Han-Seok)



The Long Walk

The Long Walk by Mattie Do – Laos, Spain, Singapore | 2019 – 116 min. – Fiction

Decades after witnessing a fatal car accident near his isolated home in rural Laos, a middle-aged man is left alone with his regrets and the unsettled spirit who still walks the road where she died, in this hauntingly dramatic third feature from Mattie Do (TorontoIFF).




The Tree Remembers

The Tree Remembers by Lau Kek-Huat – Taiwan | 2019 – 88 minutes – Fiction

Derived from the proverb “What the axe forgets, the tree remembers”, the film presents the current situation in Malaysia whereas the racial policy is still practiced in Malaysia and the victims forced to have remained in silence. This film tackles the origin of racism in Malaysia and the taboo of racial riot in




The Wild Goose Lake

The Wild Goose Lake by Diao Yinan – China, France | 2019 – 110 minutes – Fiction

After an ill-fated encounter with a rival gang, in which he kills a policeman, gangster Zhou Zenong flees along the dark lakes of Wuhan. While the police tighten the net around him, the members of his former gang set out to trap him with the help of prostitute Liu Aiai.





Tiptoeing by Kwon Woojung – Korea | 2019 – 90 minutes | Documentary

When my daughter, Jihoo, was 1 year old, I took her to a doctor and heard something unexpected. “She might have cerebral palsy.” Now that she is seven years old, she still walks on her toes. This film is a self-reflection story of a person, as she tries to dig into the waves of honest and sometimes intolerable feelings brought by her daughter´s toe walking.





Tourism by Miyazaki Daisuke – Japan, Singapore | 2018 – 77 minutes – Fiction

Nina and her friends lead an unambitious, carefree life. After winning freeline airline tickets, Nina and her best friend Su travel abroad, their first time outside Japan. Everything feels similar, but when Nina loses her smartphone and gets separated from Su, she must overcome cultural and communication difficulties to get around in a foreign city.





Tumbbad by Rahi Anil Barve & Adesh Prasad – India | 2018 – 105 min. – Fiction

India, 19th century: on the outskirts of a decrepit village called Tumbbad lives Vinayak, the stubborn, conniving bastard son of the village lord, obsessed with a mythical ancestral treasure. He suspects the secret lies with his great-grandmother, a cursed witch sleeping for centuries. Confronting her finally puts him face to face with the guardian of the treasure, an evil fallen god. Vinayak’s greed keeps escalating till he unearths the biggest secret of all, something more valuable than the treasure itself!





Verdict by Raymund Ribay Gutierrez – Philippines | 2019 – 126 minutes – Fiction

Dante, a small-time petty crook, comes home with alcohol-fuelled rage and viciously attacks his wife, Joy, and their six-year-old daughter, Angel. To protect herself and Angel, Joy stabs Dante in the arm before fleeing to the nearest police station to file a complaint. At the station, she is humiliated and threatened by law enforcers, and soon realises that finding justice is an uphill battle. (SGIFF 2019)




Violence Voyager

Violence Voyager by Ujicha – Japan | 2019 – 84 minutes – Fiction

“Violence Voyager” is the world’s first gekimation animated feature film. Ujicha, who has produced gekimation films since his school days, made his directorial debut in 2013 with “The Burning Buddha Man”, and participated in film festivals around the world, winning the Excellence Award at Japan Media Arts Festival that same year. This spectacular 21st century analog artist completed the drawing of the 3,000 images, the shooting, screenplay writing and directing virtually on his own.




We Are Little Zombies - Still 4

We are little Zombies by Nagahisa Makoto – Japan | 2019 – 120 minutes – Fiction

Four orphans meet at the funeral home where their parents are being cremated at the same time. They get together and form a rock band, which is only the beginning of this darkly comic satire about death, mourning, mass-media and being young. The adventurous, colourful visual style playfully illustrates the daydreams of the characters, making this film as vibrant and youthful as its protagonists.




Weathering With You

Weathering With You by Makoto Shinkai – Japan | 2019 – 111 min. – Animation

In the highly anticipated follow-up to his 2016 anime box-office hit Your Name, Makoto Shinkai returns with the story of a runaway teenager who meets a girl with the fantastical ability to stop the rain and clear the sky.




Wet Season

Wet Season by Anthony Chen – Singapore, Taiwan | 2019 – 103 min. – Fiction

A teacher and student at a Singapore high school form a special, self-affirming bond in writer-director Anthony Chen’s (Ilo Ilo) highly anticipated second feature.



Where we belong

Where we belong by Kongdej Jaturanrasmee – Thailand, South Korea | 2019 – 130 minutes – Fiction

It’s the last week in her hometown of Chantaburi for Sue, before she goes aboard to study on a scholarship; which she accepted without telling her father, and over which they argued so badly that they haven’t talked since. With the help of her friend Belle, Sue makes a list of things she has to do before leaving. Here are some of the things on her checklist.




Wild Sparrow

Wild Sparrow by Shih Li – Taiwan | 2019 – 94 minutes – Fiction

Little Han lives in the mountains with his great-grandmother, Auntie Han-hsiao. In rainy days, Little Han sits in front of the fireplace listening to Auntie Han-hsiao’s colorful and mysterious tales. One day he sees an injured and dying sparrow. With sadness, he digs a small cave and buries it. Looking at the sparrows flying in the mountains, he hopes one day he can leave the mountains. However, when his mother Ali, who works in nightclubs, takes him to city to live with her, he has to face the endless quarrels and fights between Ali and his boyfriend, a man who exploits Ali’s body to make money. In Auntie Han-hsiao’s funeral, while the burnt ashes swirling in the wind, Little Han returns to Auntie Han-hsiao’s bedroom and curls himself up in the bed like the sparrow he has buried.




Yellow Ribbon

Yellow Ribbon by Ju Hyunsook – Korea | 2019 – 85 minutes – Documentary

After five years, five people share their memories of April 16, 2014: a college student who was then a senior in high school, a cafe owner in Seochon, a middle school teacher in Incheon, a human rights activist, and a fish farmer in the seas near the site of the accident. Their memories of that day are not much different from ours—shock, anger, helplessness, and deep sorrow. Yellow Ribbon retraces the memories and trauma of the Sewol ferry disaster for the past five years. Unlike most people who have grown insensitive to the memories of the tragedy over time, the five people in this film are transforming the grief-stricken memories of the tragedy into something they can share today. People say that we need to fight oblivion so as not to repeat history, but these five people say, “We’ve never tried to remember or recall the incident. But April 16 always comes around. “ Director JU Hyunsook looks at the aftermath of the Sewol ferry tragedy and its impact on Korean society, while bitterly ruminating on Korean society before the incident—about the kind of government Koreans elected and the price they had to pay for their decision. Yellow Ribbon finds hope in the collective trauma that Koreans have experienced five years ago. (KANG Sowon)



Your Face

Your Face by Tsai Ming-liang – Taiwan | 2018 – 78 minutes

“After I made a VR film last year, I really longed to do close-ups and decided to make a film composed of only close-ups. Of course, Kang will be in it, and then in the street, I found another ten faces or so. Later I ran into Sakamoto Ryuichi and asked him if he’d be interested to write the music and he agreed. Finally, I’ve found music for my films in two decades.” – Tsai Ming-liang




Zero as you are

Zero as you are by Tokoi Miyuki – Japan | 2019 – 84 minutes – Documentary

24-year-old Sky Kobayashi has been trying to find his true gender since childhood. Born as a girl, he was one of the first students in Japan to persuade a junior high school to accept a female as a boy. At 20, he underwent surgeries so that he could legally become a man, the youngest case in Japan. But this was just the beginning. Sky then discovered that he does not identify as a man either and is now searching beyond binary genders.




100 Asian Movies 2019
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Go to Part 3

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