Modern Renaissance: Asian Films Capture the Nuances of Home and Identity

Recent years have witnessed a resurgence of Asian cinemas with numerous movies that have gained world attention. Asian filmmakers are not only exploring culturally rich and diverse narratives but are also pushing the boundaries of traditional genres, resonating with global audiences. 

Traditional modernity

Amidst globalization and centuries-long history of Western influence, many traditional beliefs have gradually weakened their hold. Yet, this transformation has become a source of inspiration for many filmmakers to touch base with their heritage, deftly infusing traditional elements into contemporary context to showcase the unique landscape of Asian modernization. 

For Apichatpong Weerasethakul, a Thai independent film director, mythos serves as an invocation of more intimate conversations with his hometown, the Isaan region, brimmed with prevailing traces of Buddhism, Hinduism, and animism. His oeuvre gives in to his disposition towards reconciling the mystic, the mundane, and the modern in contemporary Thailand. “Tropical Malady”, which chronicles a subtle affair between a soldier and a villager in rural Northern Thailand, is a thought-striking metamorphosis of banality and divinity. This embracing dichotomy, in this movie, presents the otherworldly nature of love, transcending human perceptions.

A scene in “Tropical Malady” (Image Source: IMDb)

Movie Recommendations:

“Tropical Malady” (2004) – Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand)

“Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell” (2023) – Dir. Phạm Thiên Ân (Vietnam)

“Why Has Bodhi-Dharma Left for the East?” (1989) – Dir. Bae Yong-kyun (South Korea)

Family bond

The Singaporean government proclaimed the family as ‘the basic unit of the society’. Insofar as the familial importance has weakened due to centuries of Western colonialism, the values of family still remain an irreplaceable component. Many Asian-made movies have mastered the art of portraying nuances of households, offering the audience a glimpse into the director’s personal, yet somewhat universal experience of many Asians. 

“Minari”, an American movie by Lee Isaac Chung, details the pursuit of a Korean family towards the American dream on a rural Arkansas farm. Depending on the mileage between the plotline and the director’s life- Chung did grow up on a small farm in rural Arkansas, this is a memoir of a much broader sentiment surrounding familial affairs and cultural identities. Similar themes and stories can also be found in many other Asian-made movies, including “Margo,” a short film project that you can read more about in our previous article here. For those who seek a slight twinge of empathy, these movies are a pastoral retreat to solace and hope.

A scene in “Minari” (Image Source: Screen Rant)

Movie Recommendations:

“Magnifico (2023) – Dir. Maryo J. de los Reyes (Philippines)

“Lighting Up the Stars” (2022) – Dir. Liu Jiangjiang (China)

“#Home” (2021) – Dir. Rojin Thomas (India)