Asia in Focus at the Rotterdam International Film Festival – The Reel Bits

The folks at the Rotterdam International Film Festival have mastered the art of the pivot in recent years. After going fully online in 2021, plans for 2022 quickly changed due to the increase in the pandemic across Europe.

From January 26 to February 6, the IFFR announced the full program of the festival this year. Offering an online platform for the public and a Press and Industry platform for people like us, there are an impressive number of titles for our Asia in Focus feed.

As one of the first major post-Sundance festivals, it’s packed with world premieres, the prestigious Tiger competition, and a collection of short films. Here is a collection of Asian cinema that the IFFR is celebrating this year.

For a full program and screening details, see the official website of the festival.

IFFR 2022 program

Thailand, Director: Jakrawal Nilthamrong

Nilthamrong follows his first feature film (winner of the 2015 Tiger Award Vanishing Point) with the story of a disgraced Thai army officer at the end of his career. Alternating between past and present, we move between the 1960s and the present day to retrace an eventful period in Thai history. This will play in the festival’s Harbor stream.

Japan, Director: Yanakaya

Director Yanakaya’s debut film is making its international premiere at IFFR, an animated sci-fi drama that has virtually been made as a solo project. With an animation style that would be reminiscent of video games from the 90s, he sees a Japan in the grip of a new drug called Golden Monkey that gives its users unlimited powers – but also creates shadow monsters.

Korean Ghost Story – Ieodo

South Korea, Director: Choi Sangsik

Playing as part of the Cinema Regained thread, Choi Sangsik’s Ieodo is actually an episode of the 1970s South Korean television series. A chilling tale set on Cheju Island, it was adapted from the novel by writer Yi Ch’ongchun – later adapted into a film by Kim Kiyǒng.

Modern Korea: Age of Beasts

South Korea, Director: Jeong Jaeun

Director Jeong Jaeun is putting together a collection of archival footage to examine how gender discrimination and violence against women have been portrayed by the media in Korea over the years. Some of the results are shocking, but consider this quote from a KBS show in the ’80s /’ 90s: “We’ve been discriminated against on the basis of sex for a long time, and now we’re starting to talk.” “

Japan, Director: Miike Takashi

Slowing down to just two or three films a year, the third and (presumably) final entry in Miike’s adaptation of the popular manga follows The Mole Song: Undercover Agent Reiji (2013) and The Mole Song: Capriccio from Hong Kong (2016). This time, we are promised nipple-targeting seagulls, old men rapping in a public bath, and drugs smuggled in the form of Italian pasta. Bring it.

Official Selection 2022 – Press and Industry

In addition to programming for the general public, the IFFR offers its annual selection of festival titles to the press and industry. We’ve included them in this roundup because there’s a good chance we’ll cover them too.

The contemporary Chinese artist and director constitutes the majority of the Chinese offer of the festival. Film as THE PALACE OF THE MOON (2006), MRS (2010), MY MOTHER’S RHAPSODY (2011), Mr. ZHANG BELIEVES (2015) and more recently A NEW OLD PIECE (2021) join the short films An ode to joy and A portrait of Mr. Huang. This is a great opportunity to see a snapshot of decades in China.

Amrus Natalsya who recreates the dispossessed at dusk

Indonesia, Director: Mahardhika Yudha

Portrait of the titular artist, arrested in 1965 during a violent purge of the Communists and their sympathizers and released later in 1973. Combining painting, sculpture and numerous interviews, it shows an artist “for whom the revolution of 1945 is far from being completed ”.

Malaysia, Director: Tan Chui Mui

That probably says more about me as my eyes went straight to the library in the image above. Yet everything else screams our wheelhouse. He follows a woman and her son who arrive on a film set, wonder if she will be in a Hong Sang-soo film but find himself in Malay Bourne’s identity.

Hong Kong, Director: Chan Tze-woon

It’s safe to say that Hong Kong is having a moment right now. In this mix of documentary, fiction and foresight, director Chan examines the history of the islands through 1967, 1973 and 1989, encouraging protesters of today to play those of the past. He reveals repeating patterns, while looking at what Hong Kong might look like under China.

Australia, Director: Clara Law

Law plays a fictionalized version of herself in a film shared between Hong Kong / Macau and Australia, working with her regular photographic partner Eddie Fong to draw lines between the two places and her own experience of contemporary and historical moments.

South Korea, Director: Lim Sang-su

“Dowoo runs an old motel – next to a lake with thousands of Korean War victims in the background – and takes care of his mother who suffers from dementia. One winter day, she disappears without leaving a trace. Su’s debut feature follows the appropriate title Rain, as one often follows the other.

China, Director: Kong Dashan

Not just another in a long line of 16th-century Chinese novel adaptations, director Kong’s film follows the character of Tang Zhijun as he travels the mountains in search of signs of alien life. A moment of truth comes when they meet a poet in a village, making it an idealistic journey of discovery.

Kim Min-young from Bulletin

South Korea, Director: Lee Jae-eun, Lim Jisun

This all-female production team is collaborating on their first feature film after their own blockbuster short films. It’s the story of a group of high school girls who suspend their poetry club to focus on the finals. When they meet again, it is obvious that they have all drifted away from each other.

Japan, Director: Kudo Riho

It got a huge buzz later last year so it’s great to see him doing another festival circuit race this year. He focuses on the blind Midori who falls seriously ill, so Maki and Naomi send him tapes of an imaginary journey around the world. As they develop their project, the relationship between the two men grows.

China, Director: Ann Hui

Ann Hui’s name still carries weight in festival districts, and this flashback has a level of nostalgia on the surface. Based on a story by Eileen Chan, it is a love story that, according to IFFR, “reveals the double standard and suffocating effect of love in an age when women had few options” .

At work: the 8 missing

Philippines, Director: Erik Matti

After the success of films like Honor your father and Buy Bust, the filmmaker Matti returns with a huge 208-minute film. Resume eight years later At work, this follow-up shows how politicians, journalists and gangsters maintain a depraved and ruthless system.

Japan, Director: Yoshigai Nao

The director, dancer and photographer presents a mysterious fiery red creature, like a walking scarecrow in the northernmost part of Japan after a very little snowy winter in 2020 on the Shiretoko Peninsula. Folklore, arts and crafts, oral history, ecology and mythology blend elegantly in this visual poem.

Sing in the desert

China, Director: Dongnan Chen

Performing in the Artistic Directions component, Dongnan Chen, a Chinese filmmaker living in the United States, took a close look at the Christian choir in a Miao village in the mountains of Yunnan province. Co-opted by the government propaganda machine, this talented group is forced to sing more secular songs in less sacred settings.

South Korea, director: Dae Min Park

Director Park Dae-Min returns with the story of Eun-ha (Park So-Dam from Parasite), a special driver for deliveries for the underworld. Her unblemished success rate is marred when she is involved in an unexpected childbirth accident.

China, Director: Gao Linyang

Gao Linyang wrote Walk in the wind (2020) and At the border (2018), and here they’re making their directorial debut with a story of people struggling with capitalism. Playing as part of the Tiger competition, we see the optimism of a mass marriage turn into wounds from the political upheavals of the past.

Japan, Director: Yamasaki Juichiro

“Chang-su, a former equestrian athlete for the South Korean national team, was forced to give up his dream early on. He finds himself working in a quarry in the rural town of Minawa, in western Japan, where he lives with Minami and his little girl.


IFFR 2022 will also present a series of short and medium-length films in addition to the feature film program.

From Japan, there is Erik Shirai and Masako Tsumura WHERE TO GO BUT EVERYWHERE, where a man learns to scuba dive after losing his wife in the 3/11 tsunami and earthquake.

Three very different short films are coming out of Hong Kong. Steve Li’s LOST PEARL and Yan Wai Yin THE DRAWING WAR are linked by protests, looking at a fishing boat and a gangway respectively during a time of great upheaval. Samson young SMOKE SONATA thinks about how to capture the smoke, stages a series of theatrical events to trigger the emission of the elusive substance.

Outside of Thailand, there is Chonchanok Thanatteepwong’s CRYSTALLIZED MEMORY, with a series of conversations and ruminations near a temple, and SONGS TO DIE, in which Korakrit Arunanondchai spends the final moments with his dying grandfather, and the breath and song guide the transition from body to mind.

Finally, we could probably all dig into something called HOW TO IMPROVE THE WORLD. Vietnamese Nguyen Trinh Thi spends 47 minutes on the subject, offering a rare look at the indigenous cultures of Vietnam where a singer and storyteller talks about listening, revealing how deeply memory, history and hearing are linked. in this community.

Focus on Asia

A complete selection of all IFFR films is available on the website official site. Our coverage of IFFR can be found here. Learn more about the coverage of Asian cinema – from the silent era to current festivals and other contemporary releases – throughout the year in our dedicated Asia in Focus area.

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