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Asian feature films submitted for the 94th Academy Awards

These are the Asian films submitted for the International Feature Film Category at the upcoming Academy Awards (Oscars), which will take place on March 27, 2022.

These year 93 countries submitted films for the International Feature Film Category. 14 of them are from Asia (East Asia, South Asia & Southeast Asia). The shortlist of fifteen finalists will be announced on December 21st, 2021 and the final five nominees is scheduled to be announced on February 8th, 2022. For the first time in 15 years Philippines failed to submit films despite of having excellent titles.

Bangladesh

Rehana (রেহানা মরিয়ম নূর ) by Abdullah Mohammad Saad – 2021 | 107 minutes

An assistant professor at a local medical college, finds herself in a difficult position after witnessing a sexual assault where she knows both the victim and the perpetrator. (IMDb)

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Bhutan

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom (লুনানা) by Pawo Choyning Dorji – 2019 | 110 minutes

Lunana, 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 Lunana. 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. (BIKY 2021)

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Cambodia

White Building (ប៊ូឌីញ ស) by Kavich Neang – 2021 | 91 minutes

The White Building was once an icon of the successful urbanization and modernization of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. As it decays, its residents are leaving one by one. The tension of the conflicts among them are rising, as the demolition and relocation become imminent. The unfolding stories focus on a young man, Samnang, and his father. Samnang wants to make a living as a hip-hop dancer but has to face the harsh reality that this is simply not possible. Meanwhile, his father hopelessly tries to negotiate with the authorities on behalf of the residents. As a former resident (he was born and raised in this vary building) director Kavich Neang reflected his own experiences in writing and directing this work. His previous documentary film, Last Night I Saw You Smiling (2019), captured his neighbours in a loving perspective, while White Building delves deeper into the inner atmosphere of the family and the community. White Building won the CJ Entertainment Award and Arte Award at the Asian Project Market at the 2016 Busan International Film Festival, and is the first Cambodian film officially invited to Venice Orizzonti. (BOO Kyunghwan – BIFF 2021)

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China

Cliff Walkers (悬崖之上) by Zhang Yimou – 2021 – 120 minutes

Early 1930s; in Harbin, four Chinese Communist Party agents who have been trained by the Soviets must carry out a mission. Zhang Yimou places his taste for the most plastic action at the disposal of an espionage film that takes place in Japanese-controlled Manchuria with the connivance of the Qing dynasty and under an incessant snow, which blankets the screen in whiteness (SITGES 2021).

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Hong Kong

Zero to Hero (媽媽的神奇小子) by Jimmy Wan – 2021 | 102 minutes

This film is based on the story of So Wa Wai, the medal-winning Paralympic athlete. It teaches audiences that even people who “lose on the starting line” can achieve victory as long as they persist. (Filmaffinity)

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India

Pebbles (கூழாங்கல்) by P.S. Vinothraj – 2021 | 74 minutes

Produced by Indian superstar Nayanthara, Pebbles charts a turbulent afternoon spent by a boy with his alcoholic father. Set in Madurai’s scorching deserts, the film follows the father as he drags his son between villages to search for his wife, who may be fleeing from his abuse. But the boy simply wants to bring his infant sister some new toys. As the father storms the landscape, starting fights with other hot-headed men, will the boy retain his innocence?

An allegory for a country worn out by a tired machismo’s impotent ragings, P.S. VINOTHRAJ’s Tiger Award-winning film—inspired by his sister’s life—brings an urgency to confronting toxic masculinity as a comprehensive social ill. Unfolding with swift narrative economy and stunning camerawork, including a masterfully staged nine-minute tracking shot, Pebbles announces the arrival of a major cinematic voice. (SGIFF 2021)

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Indonesia

Yuni by Kamila Andini – 2021 | 96 minutes

Yuni, a high school girl, is obsessed with the color purple. Her family, who lives in the countryside, is not affluent, and thus realizes how important it is for her to get a scholarship to continue what she wants – to study in a university. She is not a perfect person, though. She does not hesitate to steal small things if they are purple, and she uses her friend to write poetry for her to improve her grades in literature, the only subject with which she struggles. Despite this, she is considered to be both pretty and smart by her classmates and even other men. Now she finds herself unable to decide what exactly she wants. As she begins to reject proposals, bad news starts to circulate in the small town. Directed by Kamila Andini, Yuni is an adorable film on the surface, but the critical point—the view underneath against the conservatism and sexism—makes it a masterpiece. (PARK Sungho – BIFF 2021)

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Japan

Drive My Car (ドライブ・マイ・カー) by Ryusuke Hamaguchi – 2021 | 179 minutes

A film based on the short story of the same title by Murakami Haruki from his short story collection Men Without Women. Hamaguchi takes the crux of the story, portraying a protagonist who bottles up his darkness and loneliness in a corner of his heart, and adds an abundance of details in his own style. He takes a step closer to the secrets of the world through people speaking different languages putting together a play. The protagonist’s wife has a habit of making up stories while having sex. She turns one of them into a TV drama script and becomes a successful TV writer. One day, the protagonist learns about his wife’s affair, but before he has a chance to ask her why, she dies. Two years later, he is invited to a theater festival, where he brings together actors of different nationalities to perform Uncle Vanya. There, he finds an opportunity to dive deep into the abyss of his heart. (NAM Dong-chul – BIFF 2021)

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Malaysia

Hail, Driver! (Prebet Sapu) by Muzzamer Rahman – 2020 | 82 minutes

After the death of his father, Aman decided to become an illegal e-hailing driver. By driving, Aman tries to understand life in Kuala Lumpur. (Mubi)

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Singapore

Precious Is the Night (今宵多珍重) by Wayne Peng – 2020 | 80 minutes

A murder drama film set in 1960s Singapore, which focuses on a doctor in his thirties. After making house calls to a mysterious affluent family, the doctor finds himself entangled in a web of deceit, sex and lies. (IMDb)

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South Korea

Escape from Mogadishu (모가디슈) by Ryoo Seung-wan – 2021 | 121 minutes

In 1991 war-torn Somalia the personnel and the families of both the South Korean and the North Korean embassies have the same goal: to escape from Mogadishu. (IMDb)

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Taiwan

The Falls (瀑布) by Chung Mong-hong – 2021 | 129 minutes

When a classmate tests positive for Covid-19, high schooler Xiao Jing begins home quarantine. Her mother, Pin-Wen, is asked by her company to take a leave of absence. Confined together, the already thorny mother-daughter relationship becomes strained. After several strange episodes, Pin- Wen is hospitalized and diagnosed with a psychotic disorder. Only then does Xiao Jing realize her mother is truly ill. Facing sickness, unemployment, and family debts, a cloud of difficulties looms over their future. Mental illness causes the mother and daughter’s lives to swerve in unexpected directions, yet it also untangles threads that have long been twisted around their hearts. Pin-Wen discovers that when she falls, the only one who can catch her is her daughter.

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Thailand

The Medium (ร่างทรง) by Banjong Pisanthanakun – 2021 | 130 minutes

A documentary team follows Nim, a shaman based in Northern Thai, the Isan area, and encounters her niece Mink showing strange symptoms that seem to be of inheritance of shamanism. The team decides to follow Mink, hoping to capture the shaman lineage passing on to the next generation, but her bizarre behavior becomes more extreme. (BIFAN 2021)

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Vietnam

Dad, I’m Sorry (Bố già) by Trấn Thành – 2021 | 128 minutes

It centers around Sang, an old motorbike rider who lives in a low-income neighborhood in HCMC. Although Sang is poor and suffers from an illness, he always sacrifices himself for his family. (IMDb)

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