It has been almost four months since the whole world grieved over this pandemic. I’m at the phase of looking ahead. As the Buddhist teaching says, we have to let go of our attachments. I chose not to spend my time on unbeneficial attitudes. Having food, shelter & entertainment is enough to get me by while I, along with the rest of the world, wait for this to be over.
One way that helps me get through this feeling of uncertainty is by watching some Asian films. I’ve been watching a couple of Thai and Korean films and series lately. My curiosity for something foreign and exotic led me to it. I had been watching some Asian movies since I was a teen. I have a couple of favorites from those times, but I’m going to write about recent Asian films instead. Below are the movies and series I watched, arranged from the oldest to the newest release.
Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories (Japanese, 2016)
This series is about a diner that opens from midnight to 7 in the morning. Each episode features a Japanese dish and a life story. Stories range from forgiveness between estranged family members, romance, to connecting with old flames or friends. The show also peeks into the modern Japanese city life.
First They Killed My Father (Cambodian/American?, 2017)
Produced by Angelina Jolie, and based on a book of the Cambodian civil war survivor, the story centers around a family becoming captives of the Khmer Rouge. It gives viewers a glimpse into what Khmer Rouge captives went through.
Okja (South Korean, 2017)
The film is by Bong Joon-ho, the guy who created the “Parasite.” The story is about an orphan living with her grandfather. She visits the forest to play with a creature that looks like a crossbreed between an elephant and a dog. It’s set in what looks like a peaceful magical forest. It touches on capitalism and class struggle themes – a common theme in his movies. It also tackles animal abuse issues and ethics. The film is a bit cerebral, too. It could be a bit heavy for kids, in my opinion. The animal-abuse scenes were heartbreaking.
Bangkok Love Stories: Innocence (Thai, 2018)
If you are into campy, romantic comedies, this is for you. I like it because of its lighthearted themes. It also gives viewers a peek into the modern Bangkok life of ordinary citizens. Great series to watch after a stressful day.
Dear Ex (Taiwanese, 2018)
An ex-wife insists on his ex-husband’s gay lover that the insurance claims be given to her and their son. His husband left their family for his gay lover who he met from his job as a theatrical director. The son, having difficulties over his relationship with his mother, yearning for his departed father’s love, lived with his father’s gay lover. It is a mix of drama and comedy, which makes its emotionally-heavy theme bearable for me. Like most Asian films and series I watch, it gives one a peek into the lives of ordinary modern-day Taiwanese citizens. I like themes like this.
Girl From Nowhere (Thai, 2018)
Karma took the form of a kick-ass cute girl named Nanno. She visits high schools and serves people the consequences of their ill-conceived actions. Trigger warning: This is a dark themed series that tackles difficult issues such as rape and bullying. You will never forget Nanno after watching this. If you enjoy revenge films, this is for you.
Love Destiny (Thai, 2018)
This story is about an Anthropology major who died in a car crash and reincarnated as a noblewoman of the 18th-century Thai Kingdom called Ayutthaya. It gives us a glimpse into the ancient day Thailand. It is romantic, historic, comedic and lighthearted, with feminist themes in it. If you enjoy learning about Southeast Asian culture while watching a fictional comedy soap opera, this is for you.
Giri/Haji (Japanese, 2019)
I honestly haven’t finished watching this series yet. But the show is about a police officer tasked to solve the death of another police officer, believed to be murdered by the Yakuza. The case seems to involve his long-missing brother, who was a member of another gang syndicate. It also tackles modern-day Japanese family relationships with some LGBTQ & feminist themes, too. It’s an action-packed film and if you enjoy one, check it out.
Happy Old Year (Thai, 2019)
The story is about a girl who returned to her country after her overseas university studies. The family was grieving the loss of their father, which seems to represent the hoards of junk in their home. Eager to move on, she tried to get rid of it, which inadvertently lead her to remember about her past relationships. I can relate to the film as I discarded some junk two years ago when I was renovating my old room after coming back home. Unlike the main character, I kept some of my high school and college memorabilia. The film is about moving on and acknowledging painful experiences. Give it a watch.
Parasite (South Korean, 2019)
Parasite is the film that made Bong Joon-ho famous, and the first Asian film to snatch a lot of American awards. It is about a family who pretended to not know each other but scammed their way into working for a rich family. The film is a cerebral one and has a lot of visual representations in relation to its theme on class struggle. There is a blend of drama and comedy on this one. It’s kind of dark, too. It gives you a glimpse into the realities of the lower-middle class in modern Korean society.
The Naked Director (Japanese, 2019)
This is a Japanese film based on a porn director’s story of success and downfall. It is comedic but it also has some emotionally heavy scenes, and not to forget, it has a lot of NSFW scenes. I like the nostalgic feel of the film and how it tackles family issues and coming-of-age.
Tootsies and a Fake (Thai, 2019)
The story focused on helping their friend solve a big problem, as it also pans into each of the LGBTQ friends’ life. One of the friends became the cause of a celebrity’s accident that left her temporarily disabled, with an ad contract left unfulfilled. Fearing of getting sued, the friends looked for a look-alike to take the celebrity’s place for the ad shooting. This caused a lot of comedic adventures and mayhem. It is campy, romantic, and full of toilet humor.
Extracurricular (South Korean, 2020)
With his mother who passed away, an introverted, intelligent high school kid was left to fend for himself by his irresponsible dad. He created an app to hire women as escorts to pay for his rent, food, and school tuition. On top of that, he hired a personal guard for the girls who were always on the lookout to protect them in case they ended up with creeps. The boy then met a stubborn, spoiled rich girl from his class who wanted to break free from the pressures of her parents and that was where things spun out of control. It tackles issues on family relationships, coming-of-age, and feminism. I like this film because it is a nod to the countless articles I’ve read about how pressured high school kids in South Korea are. This is a really kick-ass film, you should check it out. It tackles issues on family relationships, coming-of-age, and feminism.
Itaewon Class (South Korean, 2020)
I honestly haven’t finished watching this series, too. The first part was kind of dragging, but if you love long pauses on drama and conversations, this is for you. They said this tackled issues on racism, feminism, and class struggles. I guess I have to start watching it again.
Time to Hunt (South Korean, 2020)
I’m a big fan of futuristic, dystopian films and this is one of those. After a young man served his time, he returned to society with dreams of escaping a fictional tyrannical South Korea ruled by violent gangs and oligarchs. To fulfill his dream, they robbed a casino place, only to be chased by its men. This is a bittersweet, philosophical film that incites existential feelings. It’s best to embrace the absurdity sometimes.
The Ghost Bride (Malaysian/Taiwanese, 2020)
This is a lighthearted action, drama, romance, and comedy in one. This takes place in the 18th-century Malaysian town known as Malacca. A young woman was offered to be a Ghost Bride – an ancient Chinese practice where a young girl weds a deceased man to bring his soul joy in the afterlife – in return for her father to pay their family debt. He met a heavenly guard and went on adventures in the afterlife to solve the murder of his to-be-ghost-husband.
Have you been watching other Asian films, as well? I’d like to know about similar films, too. Drop by the comment section below.