Santa Barbara International Film Festival – Asian Presence 2023

We present the Asian films that will be screened at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival which will take place from February 8 – 18, 2023 in Santa Barbara, CA, USA.

– Feature Films –

A Man by Kei Ishikawa – Japan | 2022 – 121 minutes

After Rie finds love again with Daisuke, he dies in a tragic accident, then she discovers that he wasn’t the man she thought, so she tries to find the truth about the identity of her late husband. (CairoIFF 2022)


Autobiography by Makbul Mubarak
Indonesia, France, Germany, Poland, Singapore, Philippines, Qatar | 2022 – 115 mins

The relationship between an authoritarian father figure and a diffident young man forms a gripping study of power relations. (SGIFF 2022)


Return to Seoul by Davy Chou
France, Germany, Belgium, Cambodia, Korea, Qatar | 2022 – 116 minutes

25-year-old Freddie is on an unplanned holiday in Seoul, her first time in South Korea after being adopted to France as a baby. Free-spirited, assertive and blunt even, she impulsively decides with the help of a friend to seek out her biological parents. The language barrier and patriarchal customs add to the friction and unease of reunion, but rather than providing resolution, the encounter sets her on a journey of personal discovery and transformation. (SGIFF 2022)


Sanaa by Sudhanshu Saria – India | 2022 – 119 minutes

Indian director Sudhanshu Saria, who competed at PÖFF with his debut film “Loev”, is back. While in his previous film, Sudhanshu strived to tell a story of the problems of the gay minority through a romantic love story, now he has found inspiration from the untraditionally strong Indian women and their desire to themselves decide on their life in the wave of the #MeToo initiative.

This time, it’s not a simple case of harassment, but rather a passionate desire of a rational young woman to herself shape her life. Her decisions are influenced by a blinding wish to prove to her mother that she needs no one’s help. Through painful experiences in which the viewers intimately partake, she instead comes to understand her mother. The role of a new type of a modern Indian woman is superbly played by the Indian rising star Radhika Madan, who plays the title role. (Dagmar Raudam)

The Hotel by Wáng Xiăoshuài – Chinese Hong Kong | 2022 – 113 minutes

Auteur Wang Xiaoshuai returns to the Festival with a unique pandemic story of individuals trapped in a claustrophobic environment, facing not only the challenges imposed by the lockdown, curfew, and quarantine, but also the cruel tests of fate and human nature. (TorontoIFF 2022)

– Short Films –

Barefoot Empress by Vikas Khanna – India | 2022 – 15 minutes

96-year-old Karthiyani Amma lived a life sweeping temples in India. Decades later she broke with tradition returning to school. There, she shattered expectations, earning the top score in her class. Her inspirational story is proof that it’s never too late to realize your dreams. (NaraIFF 2022)

Epicenter by Heeyoon Hahm – South Korea | 2022 – 10 minutes

Bukhansan Mountain grows in an earthquake in a normal daily life. Little by little, as fine cracks appear on the wall that divided the world of fantasy and reality, someone begins to notice the existence of an invisible world. (POFF 2022)


Nowhere to go but everywhere by Masako Tsumura, Erik Shirai – Japan | 2022 – 14 minutes

Following the sudden and unimaginable loss of his wife during the 2011 tsunami in Northern Japan, a man learns to scuba dive. Under the murky depths of the sea, his search for her – and for solace from grief – continues. (IFFR 2022)


Please Hold the Line by Tan Ce Ding – Malaysia | 2022 – 19 minutes

A young scam call operator is thrust into a moral dilemma as she frantically hustles for money to afford an abortion.(BAFF 2023)


Will You Look at Me by Shuli Huang – China | 2022 – 20 minutes

The summer after graduation: Own life plans and expectations of the parents’ generation collide. While Shuli films his friends with a Super 8 camera, his mother wants nothing more than for him to get married. She resolutely refuses to speak about the fact that her son loves men and has been living with his boyfriend in Beijing for years. A deafening silence. Idyllic family pictures are overlaid by a long overdue confrontation. – Marie Kloos


Earthbound: Nzambi Matee by Farhoud Meybodi – Japan

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