The Big Continent: Asian Cinema Challenge


from Edward Yang’s The Terrorizers (1989)

June 17, 2018

Last night, in the middle of my critical literature reviewing and catalog organizing for my thesis on Lav Diaz, I chanced upon a good film challenge in Letterboxd. It’s called The Big Continent: Asian Cinema Challenge. It requires one to watch one Asian film of a particular category (see categories below) per week. Each category corresponds to a list of films in Letterboxd.

I figure this Asian Cinema Challenge would be a great way  to generate more content for this blog and, given ample time and resources, this would encourage me to write more reviews for VCinema, provided that I will not review a film already listed in VCinema’s database.

Below is the list of categories per week and my selected films for viewing and/or review. I will start with Week 1 this week and will possibly jump to other categories, depending on the availability of the films.

  • WEEK 1 – Kinema Junpo Award for Best Film of the Year
    • Woman in the Dunes (1964, Japan, dir. Hiroshi Teshigahara, prod. Toho Studios)
      Rating: ★★★★★
      Film review: VCinema
  • WEEK 2 – Best 100 Chinese Motion Pictures
    • Spring in a Small Town  dir. Fei Mu, prod. Wenhua Film Company, China, 1948)
      Rating: ★★★★
      Film review: on-going
  • WEEK 3 – 100 Korean Films 
    • Road to the Racetrack (dir. Jang Sun-woo, prod. Taehung Pictures, South Korea, 1991)
  • WEEK 4 – Indonesia
    • The Seen and Unseen (dir. Kamila Andini, prod. Treewater Productions, Fourcoulours Films, Indonesia, 2017)
  • WEEK 5 – Apichatpong Weerasethakul
    • Tropical Malady (dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, prod. Backup Media, Anna Sanders Films, Downtown Pictures, Kick the Machine, TIFA, Thoke Moebius Film Company, Thailand, 2004)
  • WEEK 6 – Iranian New Wave 
    • Close-Up (orig. Nemā-ye Nazdīk, dir. Abbas Kiarostami, prod. Ali Reza Zarrin, Iran, 1990)
  • WEEK 7 – Top 100 Arab Films
    • The Dupes (orig. Al-makhdu’un, dir. Tewfik Saleh, dir. National Film Organization, Syria, 1973)
  • WEEK 8 – Top 100 Middle East Films
    • Paradise Now (dir. Hany Abu-Assad, prod. Bero Beyer, Palestine, 2005)
    • Winter Sleep (dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan, prod. NBC Film, Zeynofilm, Bredok Film Production, Memento Films, Turkey, 2015)
  • WEEK 9 – Top 100 Indian Films
    • Deewaar (dir. Yash Chopra, prod. Gulshan Rai, India, 1975)
    • In Search of Famine (dir. Mrinal Sen, prod. D.K. Films, India, 1981)
  • WEEK 10 – Top 100 Filipino Films
    • Anak Dalita (dir. Lamberto V. Avellana, prod. LVN Pictures, Philippines, 1956)
    • Working Girls (dir. Ishmael Bernal, prod. Viva Films, Philippines, 1984)
    • Hesus Rebolusyonaryo (dir. Lav Diaz, prod. Good Harvest, Philippines, 1999)
  • WEEK 11 – Jidai-geki
    • Harakiri (dir. Masaki Kobayashi, Japan, 1962)
  • WEEK 12 – Heroic Bloodshed
    • A Better Tomorrow (dir. John Woo, Hong Kong, 1988)
  • WEEK 13 – Zhang Yimou
    • To Live (orig. 活着, dir. Zhang Yimou, China, 1994)
  • WEEK 14 – Eurasia
    • Andrei Rublev (orig. Андрей Рублёв, dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)
  • WEEK 15 – K-Horror
    • The Wailing (orig. 곡성, dir. Na Hong-jin, South Korean, 2016)
  • WEEK 16 – Taiwanese New Waves
    • A Brighter Summer Day (orig. 牯嶺街少年殺人事件, dir. Edward Yang, Taiwan, 1991)
  • WEEK 17 – Category III
    • Lust, Caution (orig. 色‧戒, dir. Ang Lee, China, 2007)
  • WEEK 18 – Satyajit Ray 
    • Pather Panchali (orig. পথের পাঁচালী, dir. Satyajit Ray, India, 1955)
  • WEEK 19 – Kaiju
    • Big Man Japan (orig. 大日本人, dir. Hitoshi Matsumoto, Japan, 2007)
  • WEEK 20 – Fifth Generation
    • Ju Dou (orig. 菊豆, dir. Zhang Yimou, China, 1990)
  • WEEK 21 – Abbas Kiarostami
    • 24 Frames (dir. Abbas Kiarostami, Iran, 2017)
  • WEEK 22 – Thai Horror
    • Mekong Hotel (orig. แม่โขงโฮเต็ล, dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand, 2012)
  • WEEK 23 – Israel at the Academy Awards
  • WEEK 23Central Asia
    • Kaïrat (orig. Кайрат, dir. Darezhan Omirbayev, Kazakhstan, 1992)
  • WEEK 24 – Korean New Wave
    • Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (orig. 오! 수정, dir. Hong Sang-Soo, South Korea, 2000)
  • WEEK 25 – Bollywood
    • Guide (dir. Vijay Anand, India, 1965)
  • WEEK 26 – Cyberpunk
    • 964 Pinocchio (orig. ピノキオ√964, Japan, dir. Shozin Fukui)
  • WEEK 27 – Martial Arts Films
    • Fist of Fury (orig. 精武門, dir. Lo Wei, China, 1972)
  • WEEK 28 – Hou Hsiao-hsien
    • Millennium Mambo (orig. 千禧曼波, dir. Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Taiwan, 2001)
  • WEEK 29 – Yasujiro Ozu
    • The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice (orig. お茶漬けの味, dir. Yasujiro Ozu, Japan, 1952)
  • WEEK 30 – Kim Ki-duk
    • Moebius (orig. 뫼비우스, dir. Kim Ki-Duk, South Korea, 2013)
  • WEEK 31 – Shoshimin-geki
    • Yearning (orig. 乱れる, dir. Mikio Naruse, Japan, 1964)
  • WEEK 32 – Lebanon
    • Capernaum (orig. کفرناحوم, dir. Nadine Labaki, Lebanon, 2018)
  • WEEK 33 – Yakuza Film
    • Fireworks (orig. はなび, dir. Takeshi Kitano, Japan, 1997)
  • WEEK 34 – Tsai Ming-Liang
    • Vive L’Amour (orig. 愛情萬歲, dir. Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan, 1994)
  • WEEK 35 – Kaidan
    • Kwaidan (orig. 怪談, dir. Masaki Kobayashi, Japan, 1964)
  • WEEK 36 – Wuxia
    • Dragon Inn (orig. 龍門客棧, dir. King Hu, China, 1967)
  • WEEK 37 – Akira Kurosawa
    • Kagemusha (orig. 影武者, dir. Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1980)
  • WEEK 38 – Indian Parallel Cinema
    • 27 Down (dir. Awtar Krishna Kaul, India, 1974)
  • WEEK 39 – Sixth Generation & dGeneration
    • Platform (orig. 站台, dir. Jia Zhangke, China, 2000)
  • WEEK 40 – J-Horror
    • Tetsuo: The Iron Man (orig. 鉄男, dir. Shinya Tsukamoto, Japan, 1968)
  • WEEK 41 – Wong Kar-wai
    • Chungking Express (orig. 重慶森林, dir. Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong, 1994)
  • WEEK 42 – Japanese New Wave
    • Death by Hanging (orig. 絞死刑, dir. Nagisa Ōshima, Japan, 1968)
  • WEEK 43 – Turkish Rip-Offs
    • The Return of Superman (orig. Süpermen Dönüyor, dir. Kunt Tulgar, Turkey, 1979)
  • WEEK 44 – Sion Sono
    • Suicide Club (orig. 自殺サークル, dir. Sion Sono, Japan, 2001)
  • WEEK 45 – Takashi Miike
    • Ichi the Killer (orig. Koroshiya 1, dir. Takashi Miike, Japan, 2001)
  • WEEK 46 – Pinku
    • Violated Angels (orig. 犯された白衣, dir. Kōji Wakamatsu, Japan, 1967)
  • WEEK 47 – Shaw Brothers
    • The 36th Chamber of Shaolin (orig. 少林三十六房, dir. Liu Chia-Liang, China, 1978)
  • WEEK 48 – Takeshi Kitano
    • Kikujiro (orig. 菊次郎の夏, dir. Takeshi Kitano, Japan, 1999)
  • WEEK 49 – Ang Lee
    • The Wedding Banquet (orig. 喜宴, dir. Ang Lee, China, 1993)
  • WEEK 50 – Mohsen Makhmalbaf
    • A Moment of Innocence (orig. نون و گلدون, dir. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Iran, 1996)
  • WEEK 51 – Anime
    • The Empire of Corpses (orig. 屍者の帝国, dir. Ryoutarou Makihara, Japan, 2015)
  • WEEK 52 – An Asian film, whatever you want!
    • The Foolish Bird (dir. Fei Mu, prod. Wenhua Film Company, China, 1948)
      Rating: ★★★★
      Film review: VCinema

Wish me luck!


A Note on ‘Film Challenges’ and the New Kind of Cinephilia

Film challenges are a form of cinephile’s game that usually forces one to watch films grouped in categories (by nation, by geography, by obscurity). It has an allotted time to finish (usually hosted in per annual basis) and requires the participant to log his progress . In online film websites like MUBI and Letterboxd, film challenges are usually staged to promote a certain genre or politics of films. The ones I appreciate are film challenges that champion underappreciated non-canonical films, especially films from the peripheries of the world. Have you seen a film from Bangladesh, or Bhutan, or Kazakhstan? Do you know auteurs from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon? from Colombia and Chile? from Finland and Iceland?

These film challenges are rallying for a new kind of inclusive cinephilia that does not focus entirely on filmic canons established by institutions. In an egalitarian sense, this new kind of cinephilia wants to circle the globe several times in search of the new: new alliances, new archives, new unknowns, new underdogs, new  forms and styles, regardless of nationality or spoken language. We might as well call it as exploratory cinephilia, a cinephilia driven by a continual sense of exploration, which can only happen in the digital era in which there seems to be a kind of geographical collapse in digitized commodities like films. File copies of films can be easily accessed in online digital archives. Peer-to-peer access has allowed fellow cinephiles to transfer file copies of films (usually ripped from DVD and BluRay copies) from one area of the globe to another with ease. The only factor would be internet accessibility. In today’s cinephilia, the space of the internet has constituted its global village, its space of existence. It has totally atomized and reterritorialized cinephilia in the privacy of one’s home. Spectatorship has indeed changed its face since the dawn of the internet. Digital exploratory cinephilia has continuously grew in the past decade in film sites like MUBI, Letterboxd and even in Facebook and has become, in itself, a captured audience to a new form of screen capitalism in the guise of Netflix, Hulu, MUBI, IFlix that offers a new experience of cinema in the small screens of LED TVs, laptops, and smartphones.

The problem is no one has problematized this form of digital capitalism yet. The political economy of such a screen culture has yet to be written as it involves a foray into digital humanities which is a very young discipline in the academe.



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