100 Asian Films from 2020 (Part 4)

Fourth part of my favorite films from this year.

About the list:
This year the “100 Asian Films” list will be divided into 5 articles. Please bear in mind that these are the films I discovered in 2020 so there could be productions from 2019. You can find the whole list in the “100 Asian Films” section on the main menu (HERE). I hope you like my selection. Please feel free to share these articles with your cinephiles friends and leave a comment below. Thanks – Sebastián Nadilo

Other parts of this list:


Selected Films:

Memories to Choke On, Drinks to Wash Them Down by Kate Reilly, Leung Ming-kai – Hong Kong | 2020 – 104 minutes

Hong Kong is more than just a place. It is a unique experience in which the local mixes with the global, tradition meets modernity, and big politics affects the fates of the individuals. This is where people from all over the world meet, creating a cultural mosaic and networks of economic dependencies, bringing in elements of their cultures, and the tastes of their cuisines… “Memories…” is a film composed of four novellas, casually grasping the essence of Hong Kong on the brink of its imminent end. Here, nostalgia and reflection meet tasty culinary tropes. It is important to remember that they were created by two artists, one from Hong Kong, the other from the US, both with international experience in filmmaking.

The last novella is a documentary, reminding us that we are here and now. The camera follows a young girl running for local office in 2019. We all know what happened next. The film reminds us, lightly yet pointedly, that the reality of Hong Kong and its future is made grim by political decisions, and that there are millions of lives at stake. (Marcin Krasnowolski)


Men Who Won’t Pick Up Guns 2: Breaking A Taboo by Kim Hwan-tae
Korea | 2020 – 101 minutes

Seventeen years have passed. That is since I made Men Who Won’t Pick Up Guns. I’ve documented the conscientious objectors in Korea since 2002. I’ve been together with them through a dark and harsh decade during the conservative government and all the way to the moment when in 2018 the Constitutional Court ruled the introduction of alternative civilian service. Their still but perseverant walk proved their own existence and rang the bell throughout our society. Now you trace the peaceful path of the Korean conscientious objection movement, and walk into the times when the movement breaking a taboo. (SIFF 2020)

Minori, on the Brink by Ninomiya Ryutaro – Japan | 2019 – 130 minutes

Can Minori avoid a nervous breakdown? All the people surrounding her refuse to express their feelings and emotional boundaries. The resulting everyday life is characterized by ruthlessness: Even friends reduce each other to their appearance and shamelessly take advantage of each other. Minori runs against this by attacking ignorance whenever she encounters it, whatever the consequences might be. Ryutaro NINOMIYA is one of the most radical young voices in Japanese cinema. With MINORI, ON THE BRINK, he takes a resolute and inventive stand against the cinema of complacency and against social stagnation. (Nippon Connection 2019)


Miss Andy by Teddy Chin – Taiwan, Malaysia | 2020 – 109 minutes

Struggling for years, 55 years old Andy finally comes out as a woman, though it was just partially completed. Andy’s dream comes true, but she also pays the price. Wearing dresses makes her lose her job and her family. One day, a mother and a son turn up in Andy’s life. Realizing that they have no residence permit, Andy decides to keep them with her, without being aware that her sympathy is going to change her life.


More than Family by Choi Ha-na – South Korea | 2020 – 110 minutes

Toil (Jeong Soo-jeong) tutors high school student Hohoon (Shin Jae-hui), but she soon falls in love with him and gets pregnant. The film unfolds a series of playful happenings when Toil embarks on a journey to find her birth father for the wedding, though she is living with her step-father. The role of Jeong is masterfully performed by Crystal from the K-pop idol group f(x) who does an impressive job of playing the lively character of Toil. The performance of other talented actors including Jang Hyejin, Choi Deokmoon and Kang Malgeum are also delightful. This film presents a warm, simple paradise for families. (Jung Hanseok)


My Missing Valentine by Chen Yu-hsun – Taiwan | 2020 – 119 minutes

Hsiao-chi does everything so quickly that she’s always one step ahead of others. She works in the post office and a bus driver comes to post a letter every day. Hsiao-chi is turning thirty soon and longs for love. Finally, on the eve of Valentine’s Day, a hot guy asks her out. But to her astonishment, she wakes up the next morning and finds that the Valentine’s Day has mysteriously passed…. (TGHFF 2020)


My Sweet Grappa Remedies by Ohku Akiko – Japan | 2020 – 108 minutes

Childless office worker Yoshiko is in her forties and confidently navigates her way through life, accompanied by little drinks and basically without friends. Every day, she shares her feelings and observations on life with her diary. These entries, recited by her voice, accompany the film and its poetic scenes of her day-to-day life, as a gentle and carefully woven story of new love unfolds around her. Through Akiko OKU’s masterful staging and Yasuko MATSUYUKI’s subtle acting, the simple things become remarkable and a few moments soon outline the depth of a whole life. (Nippon Connection 2019)


Not Quite Dead Yet by Hamasaki Shinji – Japan | 2020 – 93 minutes

Nanase has a troubled relationship with her father, the CEO of a major pharmaceutical company, who doesn’t understand her desire to become Japan’s biggest rock star. One day he takes a drug as part of an experiment to make him die for just a short amount of time, but something goes horribly wrong and it’s up to Nanase to make sure her father comes back to life. Luckily she gets help from none other than his ghost. A colorful, crazy comedy about how you only really get to know someone when it is almost too late.


On the Edge of Their Seats by Jojo Hideo – Japan | 2020 – 75 minutes

It is the first round of the national high school baseball tournament but we’re less concerned with what goes on in the baseball diamond, rather, it is the people in the stands who we watch. A former baseball team player named Fujino and two members of the theater group, Yasuda and Tamiya, have come to cheer the team. Miyashita, once the smartest person in the grade, has just lost her position to the captain of the brass band and is on her own. As these characters interact while watching a baseball game, their hidden thoughts also become apparent… “On The Edge of Their Seats” is based on an award-winning stage play created by a theatre group from a high school in Hyogo Prefecture. (Jason Maher)


People in Elancia by Park Yunjin – South Korea | 2020 – 71 minutes

Launched in 1999, Nexon’s Elancia celebrates its 20th birthday this year. Due to a lack of management, all sorts of macros and nuclei are rampant. Yet, quite a few users still remain in the game. Why are they unable to leave Elancia?

Prison Circle by Sakagami Kaori – Japan | 2019 – 120 minutes

Remarkably, this is the first ever feature-length documentary to be filmed inside a Japanese prison. Crime is still something of a taboo topic in Japan. It took director SAKAGAMI Kaori six years to obtain permission to shoot at the Shimane Asahi Rehabilitation Program Centre where prisoners undergo a therapeutic programme based on individual and group sessions. By dividing the film into chapters and focusing on each individual story – the previous crimes of the prisoners are shown in the form of astonishing sand drawings – she creates the atmosphere of a dark fairy tale, made much creepier as soon as you realise that it all actually happened. The photography is intentionally raw, to avoid distracting the audience from the story or embellishing an environment that definitely does not need it.


Rom by Tran Thanh Huy – Vietnam | 2019 – 79 minutes

Ròm is a boy with a talent for numbers, but like everyone else in this film, he doesn’t have much luck. He is relentlessly optimistic, however, believing in the signs and running lottery numbers for those who trust his ad hoc visions. His clients, a group of neighbours in a housing complex facing eviction and Ròm, in need of money so he can leave town to look for his lost parents, are desperate for a win. Everything for everyone is on the line. First time Director Tran Thanh Huy pushes this fact home with unstoppable pacing, driving the main character through back alleys and the traffic of highway overpasses.


Shadow Flowers by Seung-jung Yi – South Korea | 2019 – 109 minutes

The North Korean Ryun-hee Kim unwittingly ended up in South Korea in 2011. Returning to the neighboring enemy country turns out to be more difficult than expected.

The camera follows Ryun-hee as she goes about her life in the capitalist South, far from her husband, daughter and frail parents. She’s mostly focused on various strategies to get out of South Korea. She goes to the Vietnamese Embassy to apply for political asylum, and during the 2017 Ice Hockey World Cup she runs up to the bus waiting for the North Korean team. She even starts spying in the hope of being extradited, but the South Korean government won’t let her go. When the tensions between the two countries start to relax, there’s a glimmer of hope, but then her situation becomes hopeless again. We follow Ryun-hee through all these ups and downs.

After years of bureaucratic wrangling, she gets a South Korean passport—along with a travel ban that gets extended every month. A disturbing story that turns our ideas about North and South Korea on their head. (2019 IDFA)


Short Vacation by Kwon Min-pyo and Seo Hansol – Korea | 2020 – 79 minutes

Four first-grade middle school students are members of a photography club. Before leaving for summer break, the teacher hands out an old-fashioned analog camera to each of them and asks them to take pictures with them as a summer assignment. The assignment topic is the “end of the world.” They all have different opinions on it, but as one of the girls suggests, they decide to take a subway to Sinchang Station, the last station on Seoul Metropolitan Subway Line 1. (SIFF 2020)


Sleeping Village by Reika Kamata, Junichi Saito – Japan | 2018 – 96 minutes

In 1961, a spectacular criminal case shocks Japan: at what became known as the “Nabari Poison Wine” incident, five people lose their lives at a village social gathering. One of the attendants, Masaru Okunishi , is made out as the main suspect. Rumor has it that he wanted to kill his wife and his lover in order to end his extra-marital affair. After being questioned by the police for days, he signs a confession, only to withdraw it soon afterwards. Nonetheless, he is sentenced to death and all pleas for a retrial are denied. Sleeping Village documents the tragic story of this case, the traumatizing effects of which still linger on today. (Nippon Connection)


Startup Girls by Ikeda Chihiro – Japan | 2019 – 93 minutes

Hikari is a university student who lives freely, purely in her way. She’s hungry to create new startups. Nozomi is a Corporate VC at a big Japanese company. She has always followed the ‘correct’ path, giving up on many things for a stable life. Nozomi dislikes Hikari’s way of living. But when Nozomi needs to work with Hikari’s startup because it became an investment, things begin to happen… Intense problems occur, but in the end, Hikari and Nozomi learn there are many choices they can take to develop their own life and career, and friendship.


Suk Suk by Ray Yeung – Hong Kong | 2019 – 110 minutes

Pak is a 70-year-old taxi driver who lives with his wife. His son is happily married with a child, and his daughter is pregnant and about to be married. Hoi lives with his devout Christian son and family after he divorced his wife. The two men, who have lived all their lives never revealing their sexual identities, meet by chance in the streets of Hong Kong. As Pak and Hoi fall in love they contemplate a possible future together.


Taiwan Equals Love by Sophia Yen – Taiwan | 2020 – 85 minutes

In May 2019, Taiwan became the first in Asia to legalize same-sex marriage. This documentary captures Taiwan’s journey to that point and current issues focusing on three same-sex couples. (TIFF 2020)


Take Me Home by Han Jay – South Korea | 2020 – 98 minutes

Eunsoo and Yewon are in a same-sex marriage. Their lives are disrupted by the precarious word, ‘family.’ Also, Soomin is left behind all alone. Eunsoo, Yewon and Soomin are now trying to climb the wall that lies before them.


Ten Months by Namkoong Sun – Korea | 2020 – 96 minutes

Mirae, a twentysomething programmer, feels hung over one day. To her horror, she finds out that the hangover is actually her pregnancy sickness. Denial, panic and mixed messages from friends, family and the law sends Mirae into a frenzy of ambivalence. But time does not spare her to sort out her mind. Suddenly, Mirae is in the middle of a strange new world. (SIFF 2020)

Other parts of this list:

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