Screen highlights 18 Asian titles to tempt festivals directors in 2023 including upcoming features from Hirokazu Kore-eda, Ng Yuen Fai, Kim Jee-woon and Hayao Miyazaki.
Above The Dust (China)
Dir. Wang Xiaoshuai
Chinese director Wang’s Mandarin-language drama shows life in rural areas of contemporary China and the historical changes experienced by families across three generations. Dutch producer Lemming Film, which made Ninja Thyberg’s Pleasure and co-produced Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster, are co-producers on the project that is in post-production. The Match Factory boarded sales in 2020. Wang’s previous four features debuted at Toronto, Berlin, Busan and Venice respectively.
Contact: The Match Factory
Dir. Wregas Bhanuteja
Following Photocopier, which premiered in Busan’s New Currents and received a record 12 Citra Awards in Indonesia in 2021, Wregas’ latest drama is about a schoolteacher who becomes a public enemy on social media when a video of her scolding queue jumper goes viral. The Indonesian cast includes Sha Ine Febriyanti, Dwi Sasono, Angga Yunanda and Omara N. Esteghlal. Adi Ekatama’s Rekata Studio and Willawati’s Kaninga Pictures are among the main backers.
Contact: Rekata Studio
Back To The Past (HK)
Dirs. Ng Yuen Fai, Jack Lai
Following the phenomenal success of sci-fi adventure Warriors Of Future, which was the biggest local and Asian film in Hong Kong last year, actor Louis Koo and director Ng reteam for this fantasy historical action drama, which sees Emperor Qin seek help from his reclusive mentor to fight a time travelling villain. Also starring are Jessica Hsuan and Raymond Lam.
Contact: One Cool Pictures
Call Me Crazy (China)
Dir. Gu Changwei
Ge You (If You Are The One) and boyband TFBoys member Karry Wang (Homecoming) pair up in this drama adapted from a short story by Zheng Zhi. They play an eccentric old man and his nephew who form an unlikely bond that takes them on a series of adventures, including eating a hedgehog. DoP-turned-director Gu won Berlin’s grand jury prize Silver Bear for his directorial debut Peacock in 2005.
Contact: Emperor Motion Pictures
Cobweb (S Kor)
Dir. Kim Jee-woon
Starring Cannes best actor award-winner Song Kang-ho (Broker) as a beleaguered 1970s director trying to reshoot the ending to a film with confused cast and producers as well as meddling from dictatorship-era censors, Kim’s latest feature could follow in the steps of his previous festival titles such as The Good, The Bad, The Weird, which played at Cannes in 2008, or The Age Of Shadows, which playing at Venice in 2016. Cobweb wrapped its shoot in June 2022 and is in post-production.
Contact: Barunson E&A
Concrete Utopia (S Kor)
Dir. Um Tae-hwa
Starring Lee Byung-hun of Squid Game, Park Seo-joon from upcoming The Marvels and Park Bo-young of A Werewolf Boy, this film is set in a Seoul demolished by a massive earthquake. Survivors gather to Hwang-goong Apartments – the only place left standing – but the swelling numbers threaten the apartment’s original inhabitants who take to extreme measures. Um won best new director at Korea’s Daejong Awards with 2016’s Vanishing Time: A Boy Who Returned. Produced by Climax Studio, the company behind Netflix hits Hellbound and DP, the film is in post-production.
Contact: Haewon Lee, Lotte Cultureworks
Dir. Andy Nguyen
This debut feature by Vietnam-US director Nguyen is produced by the teams behind two of Vietnam’s most successful local films – Dad, I’m Sorry and Blood Moon Party - HKFilm, Lotte Entertainment Vietnam, Red Ruby Entertainment and Anh Teu Studio. In this thriller drama, rising actress Nguyen Lam Thao Tam from 2019 hit Dreamy Eyes plays an Instagirl who is guided by an anonymous online fan to enter the film business but things start to go too far.
Contact: Lotte Entertainment Vietnam
How Do You Live? (Jap)
Dir. Hayao Miyazaki
The director of iconic animated films My Neighbour Totoro and Oscar-winner Spirited Away from anime hit factory Studio Ghibli returns with his first feature since The Wind Rises in 2013. While details remain under wraps, Miyazaki is understood to have adapted Genzaburo Yoshino’s 1937 book of the same name, which centres on a teenager in Tokyo who moves in with his uncle following the death of his father. It is set for release in Japan on July 14, 2023. Miyazaki previously won Berlin’s Golden Bear with Spirited Away and played in competition at Venice with Howl’s Moving Castle, Ponyo and The Wind Rises. But the timing of his latest feature could suggest a potential debut at Cannes.
Hwa-ran (working title) (S Kor)
Dir. Kim Chang-hoon
Starring rising actor Hong Xa-bin and Song Joong-ki (TV’s Reborn Rich, The Battleship Island), director Kim’s feature debut is about a teenage boy who dreams of escaping his violent hometown but is drawn into the world of a local thug after accepting a simple favour from him. Produced by Han Jae-duk’s Sanai Pictures, whose credits include Cannes Midnight Screenings titles Hunt and The Spy Gone North, the film is in post-production.
Contact: Plus M Entertainment
Dir. Woo Ming Jin
Set against the backdrop of the violent Memali Incident in 1985, this psychological thriller is about a visiting handyman and his young daughter who experience mysterious visions in a remote village amid the fatal police raid against fundamentalists. The film is produced by Aron Koh’s Lomo Pictures and director Woo’s Greenlight Pictures. Woo’s Stone Turtle premiered in Locarno’s international competition last year where it received the Fipresci prize.
Contact: Greenlight Pictures
Kidnapped (working title) (S Kor)
Dir. Kim Seong-hun
Based on a true hostage crisis that took place in 1980s Beirut, the film stars Ha Jung-woo of The Handmaiden and Ju Ji-hoon of The Spy Gone North. Director Kim’s credits include 2014 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight title A Hard Day and 2016 Locarno Piazza Grande title Tunnel (which also starred Ha) as well as Netflix series Kingdom. The film is looking to a summer release.
Miss Shampoo (Taiwan)
Dir. Giddens Ko
Vivian Sung from Ko’s 2021 hit Till We Meet Again and Daniel Hong of hip hop group Nine One One star in this gangster romance comedy adapted from one of novelist-turned-director Ko’s short stories. It revolves around a newly promoted mafia boss who mandates his gang to have their hair done by a shampoo girl who has saved his life. Major backers include Machi Xcelsior Studios, Harvest 9 Road Entertainment and My Story Entertainment.
Contact: Machi Xcelsior Studios
Dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda
Japanese auteur Kore-Eda, who won the Palme d’Or at Cannes with Shoplifters in 2018, is in post-production on this drama scripted by Yuji Sakamoto. It marks Kore-eda’s first film to be made in Japan since Shoplifters, having directed French feature The Truth, which premiered at Venice in 2019, and Korean film Broker, which won Song Kang-ho best actor at last year’s Cannes. It also reunites the director with Shoplifters actress Sakura Ando and is produced by Genki Kawamura and Kenji Yamada. Oscar-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto is also on board. It is set for a theatrical release in Japan on June 2, 2023.
Contact: Gaga Corp
Regretfully At Dawn (Thailand)
Dir. Sivaroj Kongsakul
This small-town drama centres on an old man, a young girl and a soldier who begin to discover the beauty of their life before it comes to an end. Pimpaka Towira (The Island Funeral) and Lai Weijie (Vengeance Is Mine, All Others Pay Cash) serve as producer and co-producer respectively. Director Sivaroj’s credits include Rotterdam Tiger Award winner Eternity, a segment of omnibus film Distance, and upcoming drama series Signal, a remake of a hit Korean series.
Contact: Extra Virgin
Dir. Ishan Shukla
Golshifteh Farahani, Asia Argento and Gaspar Noe all lend their voices to this dystopian story set in a land where citizens live with paper bags on their heads to negate their differences; only for whispers of a land without bags to spark a revolution. It is based on Indian filmmaker Shukla’s short of the same name that played at more than 120 festivals. His studio Red Cigarette Media produces with Paris-based Dissidenz Films, with the motion-capture film having used the Unreal Engine technology employed on Star Wars series The Mandalorian. The project has been through India’s Film Bazaar and the Tokyo Gap Financing Market.
Contact: Bich-Quan Tran, Dissidenz Films
Seoul Spring (working title) (S Kor)
Dir. Kim Sung-soo
Based on events that took place in the chaotic time after dictator Park Chung-hee was assassinated in December 1979, this political drama from the director of Asura: The City Of Madness stars Hwang Jung-min (The Spy Gone North, Netflix’s Narco-Saints) and Jung Woo-sung (Hunt, Asura: The City Of Madness). They star as the leader of a coup d’etat and an officer who fights to stop him. The film, now in post-production, also features Lee Sung-min (TV’s Reborn Rich), Park Hae-joon (Emergency Declaration) and Kim Sung-kyun (Sinkhole)
Contact: Plus M Entertainment
Tainted Love (China)
Dir. Ma Yingxin
Following a woman’s search for truth after being cheated in a romance scam, this directorial debut by Spain-based Chinese director Ma is a psychological hide-and-seek between victims and offenders. The stellar cast includes Zhou Dongyu (Better Days), Zhang Yu (An Elephant Sitting Still), Zhang Youhao (The Eight Hundred) and Li Meng (A Touch Of Sin). The film is executive produced by award-winning novelist Shuang Xuetao and produced by Dun He.
Dir. Lkhagvadulam Purev-Ochir
This Mongolia-France co-production was among the winners at Locarno Open Doors Lab in 2020. Inspired by the director’s personal experience of meeting a shaman, the film follows a lonely 16 year-old girl who becomes entranced by a local shaman who turns out to be an awkward 17 year-old boy. Purev-Ochir directed short film Snow In September, which won a Golden Lion at Venice in 2022.
Contact: Aurora Films