76th Cannes Film Festival – Asian Presence 2023

We take a look at the Asian films that will be screen at the Cannes Film Festival which will take place from May 16 – 27, 2023 in Cannes, France.

Note: This article was updated on 05/10/2023

In Competition

Monster (Kaibutsu) by Kore-eda Hirokazu – Japan | 2023 – 125 minutes

When her young son Minato starts to behave strangely, his mother feels that there is something wrong. Discovering that a teacher is responsible, she storms into the school demanding to know what’s going on. But as the story unfolds through the eyes of mother, teacher and child, the truth gradually emerges. Palme d’Or winner and internationally acclaimed director Kore-Eda Hirokazu returns with a delicate, powerfully moving story of love, duty, social conflict and secrets.


Youth (Spring) by Wang Bing – France, Luxembourg, Netherlands | 2023 – 212 minutes

Liming is a worker district close to Shanghai – the richest city in China. Every year, many young people leave their villages and move there. They are between 17 and 20, all from rural Yunnan province, 2,500 km west, where the Yangtze River has its source.

Un Certain Regard

Hopeless by Kim Chang-hoon – Korea | 2022 – 133 minutes (Opera Prima)

Yeon-gyu(HONG Xa-bin) is a teenage boy who wants to escape his hometown where violence is commonly enacted among neighbors. He only hopes to have a peaceful life with his mother.
However, the world never allows him to have a dream nor hope for life. When Yeon-gyu needs a hand from grown-ups, Chi-geon(SONG Joong-ki), a thug of the town, offers a favor. The simple favor leads Yeon-gyu to explore the world of Chi-geon. It ironically results Yeon-gyu gradually falling into Chi-geon’s life. Grasping a hope to run away from where he is, he struggles between the border. Can he escape from the town at the end?

If Only I Could Hibernate by Zoljargal Purevdash – Mongolia, France, Switzerland, Qatar | 2023 – 98 minutes

A poor but prideful teenager, Ulzii, lives in the yurt area of Ulaanbaatar with his family. He is a physics genius and is determined to win a science competition to earn a scholarship. When his mother finds a job in the countryside, she leaves him and his younger siblings to face a harsh winter by themselves. Ulzii will have to take a risky job to look after them all and keep his home heated.

The Breaking Ice by Anthony Chen – China | 2023 – 97 minutes

In cold wintry Yanji, a city on China’s northern border, young urbanite Haofeng, visiting from Shanghai, feels lost and adrift. By chance, he goes on a tour led by Nana, a charming tour guide who instantly fascinates him. She introduces him to Xiao, a personable but frustrated restaurant worker. The three bond quickly over a drunken weekend. Confronting their individual traumas, their frozen desires slowly thaw as they seek to liberate themselves from an icy world.

Only the River Flows by Wei Shujun – China | 2023 – 101 minutes

1990s, Banpo Town, rural China. A woman’s body is found by the river. Ma Zhe, Chief of the Criminal Police, heads up the murder investigation that leads to an obvious arrest. His superiors hurry to congratulate him, but several clues push Ma Zhe to delve deeper into the hidden behaviour of his fellow citizens.

Out of Competition

Cobweb by Kim Jee-woon – Korea | 2022 – 135 minutes

In the 1970s, Director Kim is obsessed by the desire to re-shoot the ending of his completed film ‘Cobweb’, but chaos and turmoil grip the set with interference from the censorship authorities, and the complaints of actors and producers who can’t understand the re-written ending. Will Kim be able to find a way through this chaos to fulfill his artistic ambitions and complete his masterpiece?

Midnight Screenings

Kennedy by Anurag Kashyap – India | 2022 – 142 minutes

Kennedy is an insomniac ex-Cop, long thought to be dead, still operates for the corrupt system, while looking for redemption.

Project Silence by Kim Tae-gon – Korea | 2023 – 101 minutes

A story of people struggling to survive against an unexpected threat while trapped in the Airport Bridge on the verge of collapse, in thick fog where it’s impossible to see even an inch ahead.

Cannes Premiere

Kubi by Takeshi Kitano – Japan | 2023 – 131 minutes

Set in the 16th century, as rival warlords battled to control Japan. Lord Oda Nobunaga, intent on controlling Japan, is waging war against several clans when one of his vassals, Araki Murashige stages a rebellion and promptly disappears.
Nobunaga assembles his other vassals including Mitsuhide and Hideyoshi, and orders them to capture the fugitive Murashige, warning “I’ll choose whoever works hardest as my successor.”
With various thoughts, schemes, and traps they carry out, they’re soon brought to a crossroads in a complicated situation.
All roads lead to Honno-ji temple, where fate awaits them all. Which way will their heads roll…?


Special Screening

Bread and Roses by Sahra Mani – Afghanistan, Pakistan | 2022 – 90 minutes

Bread and Roses offers a powerful window into the seismic impact on women’s rights and livelihoods after Kabul fell to the Taliban in 2021. The film follows three women, in real time, as they fight to recover their autonomy. Mani captures the spirit and resilience of Afghan women through her raw, intimate depiction of their harrowing plight.

Man in Black by Wang Bing – France, USA, UK | 2023 – 60 minutes

Wang Xilin, 86, is one of China’s most important modern classical composers. During the Cultural Revolution he was the target of severe persecution, enduring beatings, imprisonment and torture. The film exhibits the body and soul of a man scarred by a life of suffering, a “man in black” who is yet still capable of deep and sincere compassion. With excerpts from his Symphonies, he revisits some of the horrifying events that still live on in his memory as testimony to an era that saw the dehumanization of the entire Chinese nation.

Short Films Competition

Basri & Salma in a never-ending comedy by Khozy Rizal – Indonesia, USA | 2023 – 15 minutes

Basri & Salma, a husband and wife who own an Odong-Odong at the carnival together, spending their days taking care of other people’s children without any of their own. Between meddling relatives, self-doubt and an explosive confrontation, they uncover why they have not been blessed a child.


La CINEF Selection

A Bright Sunny Day by Yupeng He (Columbia University) – United States – 20 minutes

The appearance of a girl on a bright sunny day gently changes the life of a young man.

Hole by Hwang Hyein (KAFA) – South Korea – 24 minutes

During a home visit, Jeong-mi discovers a young boy and his little sister living in a house with a large manhole in it. The children ask Jeong-mi to go down the manhole.

Nehemich by Yudhajit Basu (FTII) – India – 23 minutes

Banished from the village to a dilapidated hut for the duration of her period, a young girl hopes to elope with her lover. She belongs to an erstwhile village of nomads believing that the dead return in the form of the most beloved one.

The Lee Families by Seo Jeong-mi (Korea National University of Arts) – South Korea – 25 minutes

The country house, the only inheritance left by the grandfather, was bequeathed to the eldest grandson. But Young-Seo’s mother cannot just stand by and let it happen.

Cannes Classics

The Chosen One by Aribam Syam Sharma – India | 1990 – 90 minutes

Aribam Syam Sharma’s “Ishanou” is a poignant tale of love and loss steeped in Manipuri culture that tells the story of Tampha, who abandons her husband and daughter to join the Maibi sect of priestesses, responding to the inexorable call of the deity. But behind her absorption in the mystical world of the Maibis, lurks the anguish of a mother alienated from her child. The film beautifully juxtaposes the spiritual world of the Maibis with the rhythm of ordinary life. The simplicity of the director’s approach, the delicate camerawork and understated acting, coupled with the vivid depiction of the Maibi culture and the use of the traditional music of Manipur, gives the film an authenticity that blends storytelling, documentary and ethnography.

The Munekata Sisters by Yasujiro Ozu – Japan | 1950 – 114 minutes

Setsuko (Kinuyo Tanaka) who is married to Mimura (So Yamamura) with no job and drunk most of the time, follows tradition and is faithful to him. Her free-spirited and modernized sister Mariko (Hideko Takamine), tries to connect Setsuko with Hiroshi (Ken Uehara) who just came back from France and is Setsuko’s former lover.
This film was produced at Shintoho studio which was Yasujiro Ozu’s first film ever directed outside Shochiku studios.

Record of a Tenement Gentleman by Yasujiro Ozu – Japan | 1947 – 72 minutes

This is director Yasujiro Ozu’s first post-WWII film following his return from Singapore. New homes are gradually being built amidst the rubble of post-WWII Tokyo, as old acquaintances reunite. Otane, a widow who lost her only child, runs her old general store alone. One day, Tashiro, a fortune teller and a neighbor, brings along a boy named Kohei, who appears to be a war orphan. He entrusts the boy to Otane’s care, as he himself cannot raise him. Though vexed, Otane agrees to take him in for a night as she has no one else to turn to. The next day, she seeks help from her neighborhood, but finds no family suitable to care for Kohei. Taking him to her hometown where she and her father once lived also proves fruitless. Faced with no other option, she brings Kohei back to her own home.

More information:

*Important note: Please bear in mind that AFF covers South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.
Image of “Man in Black” courtesy of Asian Shadows.

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