52nd New Directors/New Films Film Festival – Asian Presence 2023

We present the Asian films that will be screened at the New Directors/New Films Film Festival which will take place from March 29 until April 9, 2023 in New York, USA.

– Feature Films –

Absence by Wu Lang – China | 2023 – 102 minutes

Lee Kang-sheng, best known for his indelible starring roles in the films of Tsai Ming-liang over more than 30 years, holds the screen with his customary stoic vulnerability in this stirring feature debut from Chinese director Wu Lang. Here he plays Han Jiangyu, who has returned to the island province of Hainan after a long stint in prison, endeavoring to reconnect with his former girlfriend (Li Meng), a hairdresser, and the little girl who might be his daughter. At the same time, he must navigate the difficulties of a new job in construction while the country’s real estate boom begins to unravel. Wu eludes cliché, using the camera in continually gorgeous and unexpected fashion in this story about the slow process of rejoining a world that seems to have irrevocably moved on.

April 2, 2023 | Sunday | FLC Walter Reade Theater | 3:00 pm (Q&A with Wu Lang)
April 3, 2023 | Monday | MoMA T2 | 6:00 pm  (Q&A with Wu Lang)


Arnold Is a Model Student by Sorayos Prapapan- Thailand, Singapore, France, Netherlands, Philippines | 2022 – 85 minutes

Taking a deceptively comic approach to contemporary social and political realities in his native Thailand, debut filmmaker Sorayos Prapapan has fashioned an original and gripping vision set in the rigid, cutthroat environment of high school. As the title promises, senior student Arnold excels at his studies and is a frontrunner for education scholarships and accolades. Yet after returning from studying abroad in the United States, he begins to question the meaning and authoritarian practices of school itself, and his growing awareness then makes him ripe for temptation into an underground cheating ring. Based in part on the Bad Student movement in Thailand, which saw high schoolers taking a stand against physical punishment, dress codes, and other autocratic practices, Prapapan’s movie presents a hard, highly entertaining look at the options open to young people in a dictatorial world.

April 8, 2023 | Saturday | FLC Walter Reade Theater | 2:00 pm (Q&A with Sorayos Prapapan)
April 9, 2023 | Sunday | MoMA T2 | 7:30 pm (Q&A with Sorayos Prapapan)


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

Both a coming-of-age morality tale and a riveting political thriller, the feature debut by Indonesian critic turned filmmaker Makbul Mubarak follows the dangerous downward spiral of 18-year-old housekeeper’s son Rakib (Kevin Ardilova) as he falls under the spell of his new boss, Purna (Arswendy Bening Swara), a retired military general running for local office. Hired to assist with odd jobs and to act as the older man’s driver, Rakib, whose father is in prison, finds himself gradually pulled into increasingly sinister territory, which at once awakens his conscience and unleashes his darker capabilities. Autobiography is a chilling, elegantly shot portrait of the seductiveness of power, as well as Mubarak’s personal expression of his country’s struggles under military dictatorship.

April 8, 2023 | Saturday | FLC Walter Reade Theater | 7:00 pm (Q&A with Makbul Mubarak)
April 9, 2023 | Sunday | MoMA T2 | 2:15 pm (Q&A with Makbul Mubarak)


Joyland by Saim Sadiq – Pakistan, USA | 2022 – 127 minutes

Garnering acclaim and accolades around the world, including the prestigious Queer Palm at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, this transgressive and humane drama bravely interrogates expectations around gender and sexuality in contemporary Pakistan. In the city of Lahore, married househusband Haider (Ali Junejo), long out of work, finally lands an unexpected gig as a backup dancer for transgender performer Biba (Alina Khan), a popular local exotic dancer with whom he becomes infatuated. Hiding the particulars of his work from his conservative family, Haider nevertheless feels free to tell his more open-minded, progressive wife, Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), though she is going through her own difficulties after being forced to leave her beloved hairdressing job now that her husband is providing for the household. Grappling with thorny subject matter—which proved controversial in writer-director Saim Sadiq’s home country, where the film was initially banned by the right-wing authorities—the filmmaker always maintains profound compassion and empathy for every character in his beautifully acted film’s orbit. An Oscilloscope Laboratories release.

April 1, 2023 | Saturday | FLC Walter Reade Theater | 12:30 pm (Q&A with Saim Sadiq)
April 2, 2023 | Sunday | MoMA T2 | 6:45 pm (Q&A with Saim Sadiq)


Remembering Every Night by Yui Kiyohara – Japan | 2022 – 116 minutes

A film that moves on the rhythms of a gentle breeze, Yui Kiyohara’s follow-up to her acclaimed Our House (a selection of ND/NF 2018) is an evocatively quotidian film that’s as mysterious and beautiful as everyday life itself. Kiyohara immerses viewers in the quiet pursuits of several women, including a wandering university student, a helpful neighborhood meter reader, and a middle-aged gentle soul seeking employment but finding herself agreeably lost instead. Their paths converge or just miss one another over the course of a single sunny afternoon, captured by Kiyohara with calming long takes and the occasional drifting camera that seems to have a perspective all its own. Remembering Every Night is a treasure of unconventional filmmaking that abounds with simple pleasures, reminding the viewer of the fragility of time, happiness, and love.

April 5, 2023 | Wednesday | FLC Walter Reade Theater | 8:30 pm (Q&A with Yui Kiyohara)
April 6, 2023 | Thursday | MoMA T2 | 6:00 pm (Q&A with Yui Kiyohara)


– Short Films –

Chomp It! by Mark Chua and Lam Li Shuen- Singapore | 2023 – 11 minutes

Shot on 16mm that feels impossibly tactile, Chomp It! is a pulsating visual and sonic feast that follows two men, both part-crocodile, in their desperate attempt to cool down at the local pool. Skewering the constraints of life in modern-day Singapore, co-directors Mark Chua and Lam Li Shuen create a completely singular and riotous experience.

April 2, 2023 | Sunday | MoMA T2 | 4:15 pm
April 3, 2023 | Monday | FLC Walter Reade Theater | 8:30 pm


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