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90 Asian Films from 2021 (Part 2)

We continue with our list of Asian films from 2021 that you shouldn’t miss. The list includes fiction and documentary films.

Note: The list was made taking into account films we watched, awarded movies from class A festivals, box office blockbusters, and film festivals catalogues from 2021. There are some films from 2020 that we decided to include in the list. Films here are from East Asia, South Asia & Southeast Asia.

Other parts of this list:
Part 1

Part 3

– Selected Films –

Goddamned Asura by Lou Yi-an – Taiwan | 2021 – 114 minutes

On his 18th birthday, Jan Wen shoots randomly at the crowds in a night market for unknown reasons. The tragic incident causes a strong impact on the lives of his family and friends, the victims and the witnesses. However, if there was a chance for them to make different choices, would the tragedy still happen? Will it be a different outcome if they all changed their behaviour at the crucial moment? (TGHFF 2021)

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Hail, Driver! 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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Hard Hit by Kim Chang-ju – Korea | 2021 – 94 minutes

Sung-Kyu (Jo Woo-Jin) works as a manager at a bank branch. he sets off to drive his kids to school and then go to work, but he receives a phone call without a caller ID. The caller tells him “when you get out the car, a bomb will explode.” (IMDb)

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History of Ha by Lav Diaz – Philippines | 2021 – 276 minutes

In 1957, famed ventriloquist Hernando returns home from an international tour to find his fiancée, out of poverty, married to another. His country, too, is at a crossroads: the Filipino president has suddenly died, and Hernando’s uprising of communist peasants has been quelled. Speaking through his irreverent puppet Ha, the former political prisoner joins a pious nun, striving sex worker and teen boy as they venture to an island where gold and mortal danger abound.

A love letter to bodabil, the Philippines’ slapstick form of vaudeville, History of Ha also asks if popular entertainment is another opiate of the masses. Lav DIAZ affirms the power of direct action over art, even as he paints a striking portrait of an indomitable patriot. (SGIFF 2021)

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Hot in Day, Cold at Night by Park Songyeol – Korea | 2021 – 90 minutes

A young couple is having a hard time because of their poor circumstances. They are both desperately searching for work, but that is not easy, either. Meanwhile, the husband is about to lose the camera he has lent to his acquaintance, and the wife is cornered after borrowing private loans to take care of the household. Under the circumstances, something ugly will likely happen or come to a dead-end, but the film deals with this predicament with a completely unexpected attitude and wit. The couple’s conversation, facial expressions, movements, and postures, as well as the illumination and density of the screen that captures them, simultaneously create bizarre humor and lonesome emotions, absorbing the audience. Hot in Day, Cold at Night is a rare moral comedy that comforts the daily lives of poverty with a strange touch of laughter. In the last scene, the husband’s helpless giving up finally moves us. (JUNG Hanseok – BIFF 2021)

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I am More by Lee Ilha – South Korea | 2021 – 90 minutes

The neon sign of the Itaewon club “Trans” lights up. When the show of More, a dancer with 20 years of experience, begins, the audience cheers and tips pour over the stage. More’s dream was to be a “ballerina”. People said to him, “Abandon your femininity,” and his dreams were thwarted. John Cameron Mitchell of 「Hedwig and the Angry Inch」, who visited Korea for a performance, accidentally saw More’s show and left him with the meaningful words, “Let’s meet in New York.” Then one day, an invitation for performance arrives from New York… (DMZDocs 2021)

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I’m So Sorry by Zhao Liang – Hong Kong, China, France, Netherlands | 2021 – 97 minutes

As a radioactivity meter beeps in the background, we travel to the most devastating place on our planet. Before the journey, the hellish spectacle of an atomic bombing is presented as a guide video. Is this a sci-fi film depicting a dystopia or a horror film featuring an invisible enemy? At the vanguard of modern Chinese documentary, Zhao Liang’s camera starts from the near past of Fukushima, goes through the old ruins of Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, and Chernobyl, Ukraine, and arrives at Onkalo, Finland, an underground city built as a nuclear waste facility. There, we paradoxically witness a beautiful apocalyptic landscape and encounter people who have lived alone for decades. Above all, Zhao Liang′s camera becomes ever so powerful when capturing the faces and bodies of residents confined in the controlled area. And this film becomes a prayer for mankind and a page in the apocalypse with stern warnings and chilling prophecies. (KANG Sowon | BIFF 2021)

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In Front of Your Face by Hong Sangsoo – South Korea | 2021 – 86 minutes

She has never lived in a high-rise apartment and wonders how her sister can live at this height every day. A few days ago, she bursts in to stay with her sister and she is now becoming reaccustomed to life in Korea. Meanwhile a director asks her to join his project, and after a polite refusal, they agree to meet for the first time today… (TGHFF 2021)

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Increasing Echo by Chienn Hsiang – Taiwan | 2021 – 85 minutes

Mr. Yan’s mistress from many years ago suffers from dementia and lives in a nursing home. Mrs. Yan is secretly pleased since her grievances are finally eased. She decides to take her husband to see his old mistress as revenge. After seeing his ex-mistress, Mr. Yan runs away. Their son’s wedding is taking place soon and Mrs. Yan must get her husband back to fulfil his duty. (TGHFF 2021)

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Inside the Red Brick Wall by Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers – Hong Kong | 2020 – 88 minutes

The Anti-ELAB Movement came to a horrifying peak in mid-November at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. When protesters blocking the Cross-Harbour Tunnel retreated to the University, the police surrounded the area and put the school in a lockdown. Anxious citizens made various rescue attempts, but could barely go near the campus. Meanwhile, within those red brick walls, the camera captured the trapped protesters’ desperation and determination. (TIDF 2021)

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Intolerance by Yoshida Keisuke – Japan | 2021 – 107 minutes

This film depicts a fatal accident that reflects the “vacuum” of modern society, and the love and hate of the characters that reveal all the victims and perpetrators (TIFF 2021).

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Ito by Yokohama Satoko – Japan | 2021 – 116 minutes

Ito, a high school student in far north Tsugaru, plays the Tsugaru shamisen as a hobby. She learned it from her late mother, a master player in her own right. While Ito can express herself through music, talking is a little harder due to shyness caused by her strong Tsugaru dialect. So she has a few friends, but has a strong inner spirit which leads her to take on a big challenge — working at a maid cafe.​ (SIWFF 2021)

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It’s a Summer Film by Soshi Matsumoto – Japan | 2020 – 97 minutes

The film-obsessed schoolgirl Barefoot has a passion for samurai films. However, the school film club prefers to shoot cheesy romances. Barefoot and two friends start planning their own samurai epic. IT’S A SUMMER FILM! is at once a hilarious feel-good comedy, a wistful coming-of-age tale and a declaration of love for filmmaking and being an outsider. (Nippon Connection 2021)

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Junk Head by Hori Takahide – Japan | 2021 – 101 minutes

Mankind can no longer reproduce because of gene manipulation aimed at making life longer. The clones ruling the bottomless underworld may have become fertile. Parton is selected to go on a mission through a subterranean labyrinth crawling with monsters to secure humanity’s future. A new, re-edited version of the breathtaking stop-motion animation that HORI Takahide made all by himself. (Camera Japan Festival)

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Just Remembering by Matsui Daigo – Japan | 2021 – 115 minutes

A former couple remembers their most intimate days, only to part once again. A bittersweet love story inspired by a Jim Jarmusch masterpiece, set in times of the COVID-19 pandemic. (TokyoIFF 2021)

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Keep Running by Sun Getting – China | 2021 – 90 minutes

In the city of GenHe, the coldest part of China, a team of teenagers from underprivileged backgrounds run every day under extremely harsh circumstances. The sports school has provided them with something they couldn’t get from their families: joy and hope for a better life. A heart-warming documentary devoted to the vivid, optimistic, and positive spirit of youth, introducing a group of ordinary characters and guiding us through a stunning natural landscape. (DMZDocs 2021)

Limbo by Soi Cheang – Hong Kong | 2021 – 118 minutes

A serial killer is on the loose. The police reinstate veteran detective Cham on active duty and assign him to the case with rookie cop Will, but Cham’s past returns to haunt him (TIFF 2021).

Trailer:

Memoria by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Colombia, Thailand, UK, Mexico, France, Germany, Qatar | 2021 – 136 minutes

Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL has captivated many with his spacious, sonic cinema—and his latest work, set in faraway Colombia, is no different. Car alarms go off for no reason, and a tunnelling project turns up grisly human remains. Jessica, played by the effortlessly chameleonic Tilda SWINTON, is woken at daybreak by a dull bang. Searching for the sound’s origins, she is terrified but allured.

With Memoria, WEERASETHAKUL proves himself again as an unmatched architect of light and sound. Memories ripen and disperse at their own pace, and elements from past works receive second lives. Like its wakeful protagonist, one is not only entranced by his unbordered universe, but joins it in a profound communion. (SGIFF 2021)

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Midnight by Kwon Oh-seung – South Korea | 2021 – 103 minutes

Discover the twisted nighttime alleys of Seoul in the tense and thrilling MIDNIGHT, the gripping tale of a Deaf woman and the serial killer who has underestimated his opponent. (Mubi)

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Miracle by Lee Jang-hon – Korea | 2020 – 117 minutes

The only way for people to come and go is train rail in this village, but ironically, there is no station. Jun-kyung, who has just sent his 54th letter today to the Blue House, has only one goal; to have a station in his town. Jun-kyung’s father is very by the book and says having a station in the village is never going to happen. Despite the opposition of his father, he insists on staying in the town with his sister, Bo-kyung, and travels the 5 hour-long distance back and forth to school. A spelling class in order to write a persuasive letter with his self-proclaimed muse, Ra-hee, who recognizes Jun-kyung’s extraordinary in his goofiness, a test for a TV quiz show to gain popularity and a math contest! Jun-kyung’s efforts to build a station will only go on. (UIFF 2021)

Trailer:

Moonlight Shadow by Edmund Yeo – Japan | 2021 – 92 minutes

The international bestseller “Moonlight Shadow” by Yoshimoto Banana has been adapted for the screen by Edmund Yeo. A heart-wrenching, heart-breaking love story of goodbyes and beginnings (TIFF 2021).

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Nagisa by Kogahara Takeshi – Japan | 2021 – 87 minutes

This is the feature debut of Kogahara Takeshi, whose commercials and short films were screened and awareded at many festivals including Cannes Lions and Busan International Film Festival (TIFF 2021).

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On the Job: The Missing 8 by Erik Matti – Philippines | 2021 – 209 minutes

Justice is nowhere to be found when the world is overwhelmed by corruption and violence. The talented director from the Philippines, Erik Matti, has created a chronicle of the experiences of a people whose lives intersect. There is a journalist named Sisoy who has to endure adversity to survive in a wild jungle of a city. Following the disappearance of his longtime colleague and his family, Sisoy sets out to investigate what has happened. Meanwhile, Roman is sentenced to life in prison for crimes he didn′t commit. He languishes in prison, where he is regularly hired as an assassin. He is willing to use any means to escape. In the midst of an overflowing chaos with corrupt bureaucrats and false news items, Sisoy persistently pursues the truth behind where the eight missing people have ended up. The closer he gets to the truth, the more he feels betrayed and angry with the politicians he used to support. And as he becomes Roman′s next target, the two men cannot avoid a deadly collision. (PARK Sungho – BIFF 2021)

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Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle by Arthur Harari
France, Japan, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Cambodia | 2021 – 165 minutes

December 1944: the Japanese Empire’s denouement draws near. On the Philippine island of Lubang, Japanese forces hold out on one of its final strongholds. Among them is Hiroo ONODA, a soldier fresh off the boat. Trained in the art of guerrilla warfare, Onoda is an intelligence officer tasked with sabotaging the island’s airstrip to hamper an American invasion. However, his superiors are more concerned with evading threats rather than facing them. Come the invasion, Onoda leads three men to the hills, with orders to stay and fight.

Onoda, driven by an obstinate sense of duty, continues the battle for three decades despite the official surrender of Japan. Based on actual events, Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle is an epic portrait of nationalist loyalty and perseverance. (SGIFF 2021)

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Pebbles by P.S Vinothraj – India | 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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Revolution of Our Times by Kiwi Chow – Hong Kong | 2021 – 152 minutes

In 2019, the introduction of the extradition bill in Hong Kong has turned the city into a battlefield against the Chinese authoritarian rule. Kiwi Chow made this documentary as a historical record of the movement and personal accounts of the Hongkongers on the front line. The film is not only about the battle of Hongkongers but also the struggles of freedom lovers against dictatorships around the world. (TGHFF 2021)

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Rurouni Kenshin: The Final by Keishi Ohtomo – Japan | 2021 – 138 minutes

Kenshin’s past catches up to him causing the destruction of Akabeko Restaurant, which was Kenshin’s favorite place to eat. There, he finds a note with the word “Junchu” on it.

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Sasaki in my mind by Takuya Uchiyama – Japan | 2020 – 118 minutes

For Yuji and his clique, Sasaki was the perfect friend: loyal, always up for a laugh and completely fearless. After graduation, the friends lose touch with Sasaki, and Yuji only later recollects what it truly meant to be with him. In his feature-length film debut, Takuya UCHIYAMA tells the youthful story of fragile dreams and unrepeatable moments. (Nippon Connection 2021)

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Sister by Yin Ruoxin – China | 2021 – 127 minutes

A girl who has lost her parents is facing the issue of pursuing an independent life or raising her younger brother. (IMDb)

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Snowball by Lee Woo-jung – South Korea | 2020 – 111 minutes

Gangi, Soyeong, and Aram are best friends who go to the same high school. One day, they decide to run away from home. However, life does not go easy on them, and cracks begin to form in their relationship. They eventually return home and go back to school only to face more challenges. Life got worse, the more we ran from it. (SIWFF 2021)

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