Filmmakers' Choice: Iconic Films in Asian Cinema

Asia Society Young Professionals Group and Global Lives Project hosted a June 2014 happy hour and panel discussion exploring the roles that film and media play in shaping global perceptions of Asia. After the event, ASNC asked the panelists to identify films they feel created an impact on the way the world sees Asia. Take a look at what they had to say and be sure to add these films to your list of movies to watch!


In your opinion, what would you identify as one of the most influential films, to you personally or to public opinion in general, to depict Asia and why?


Masashi Niwano, Festival and Exhibitions Director of the Center for Asian American Media:

Rashomon is one of the first Japanese (and Asian) films to truly make an indelible mark in the United States. Its innovative storytelling continues to awe audiences and inspire new generations of media makers. Rashomon also continues to be referenced within pop culture and stay relevant, which, considering it was created over fifty years ago, is remarkable. As a filmmaker myself, it's essential for me to watch the film every few years. Other films that come to mind include The Apu Trilogy, Raise the Red Lantern, Salaam Bombay!, and Chungking Express.

Directed by Akira Kurosawa, 1950


Naomi Ture, Filmmaker of Global Lives Project:

Often in documentary film is the question of representation. How can an outsider authentically represent the lives of others? I feel Born into Brothels uses a unique participatory approach. The filmmaker Zana Briski becomes present in the lives of the children in the red light district of Calcutta, giving each child a camera. The resulting film is vivid and nuanced: a mix of the filmmakers’ own observational portrait, with the children’s photographs giving a voice to a typically marginalized minority group.


Born into Brothels
Directed by Zana Briski & Ross Kauffman, 2004

Born Into Brothels - Trailer from ro*co Films on Vimeo.


Ivan Jaigirdar, Executive Director of 3rd i Films:

I’d really like to highlight more contemporary films that resonated with me both intellectually and emotionally. The 1995 Japanese film Maborosi directed by Hirokazu Koreeda; the 2000 film from Hong Kong, In the Mood for Love, directed by Wong Kar-Wai; the 2007 film Lust Caution directed by Ang Lee; and the 2009 film Bombay Summer directed by Joseph Mathew. I must also mention, the jarring and boundary breaking 2002 film from Sri Lanka Flying with One Wing directed by Asoka Handagama.


Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, 1995



More of Masashi's, Naomi's, and Ivan's recommendations:

Pather Panchali
Directed by Satyouit Ray, 1955

Raise the Red Lantern
Directed by Zhang Yimou, 1991

Salaam Bombay!
Directed by Mira Nair, 1988

Chungking Express 
Directed by Wong Kar-Wai, 1994

In the Mood for Love
Directed by Wong Kar-Wai, 2007

Bombay Summer
Directed by Joseph Matthew, 2009

Lust Caution
Directed by Ang Lee, 2007

Flying with One Wing
Directed by Asoka Handagama, 2002

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