IFFR 2024 – 13 Asian Film Recommendations

The 53rd edition of International Film Festival Rotterdam is starting in just a few days, from 25 January until 4 February 2024. Here are 13 CinemAsia recommendations on which Asian films to watch at the festival:

13 BOMBS (dir. Angga Dwimas Sasongko, Indonesia)

Everything goes BOOM! When the city of Jakarta is threatened by a mysterious group of militants with 13 explosives placed around the city, the bureau of counter-terrorism has to do its best to track down the culprits and stop the bombs from going off. It all gets complicated when two tech-nerds, Oscar and William, get involved and the stakes become even higher.



THE MISSING (dir. Carl Joseph E. Papa, Philippines) 

Eric is a young animation artist, who is taking a little break from his art. He harbors a secret crush on Carlo, his friendly coworker, that he is too shy to express. Neither can he, as Eric cannot speak and his only way of communicating is with a whiteboard hanging around his neck. However, Eric is forced out of his seclusion and forced to face repressed childhood memories and menacing alien entities when his mother asks him to check in on his estranged uncle Rogelio.



EVIL DOES NOT EXIST (dir. Hamaguchi Ryusuke, Japan)

The new film from the Academy Award winning director Hamaguchi Ryusuke, EVIL DOES NOT EXIST tells the story of the idyllic village of Hasagawa, which becomes the target of big city developers. The fight to protect this precious environment is portrayed slowly, but the cinematic sensitivity of Hamaguchi enchants the viewer and makes the story incredibly intriguing.


LA LUNA (dir. M. Raihan Halim, Singapore, Malaysia)

In a small, traditional village, Hanie (Sharifa Armani) opens up a lingerie store and brings a breath of fresh air for the community. However, her business is at risk when the strict village head is set on getting rid of her business.
Sharifa Armani is a well-known Malaysian actress, who is most known for her role in Sepet (2004), which screened at the 2nd edition of CinemAsia in 2006.



HUNGRY GHOST DINER (dir. We Jun Cho, Malaysia)

When her estranged uncle unexpectedly shows up at her food truck, Bonnie decides to drive home to her father. She is compelled to spend the night in the family-run café after a sudden lockdown prevents her from coming back to Kuala Lumpur. There, she sees the spirits of her late loved ones gathered for a delicious meal. This fascinating and relatable tale of reestablishing familial ties is accompanied by the poignant cinematography and Keat Yoke Chen’s impressive performance.



FULL RIVER RED (dir. Zhang Yimou, China) 

Zhang Yimou’s newest film is a powerful and skillfully executed blend of action, mystery, slapstick humor, romance, and buddy drama which focuses on the connection between Sun, an aspirational commander, and Zhang, a regular soldier with excellent survival instincts. FULL RIVER RED is a gripping tale about the workings of political power, filled with twists, turns, and reversals of loyalty amid pivotal diplomatic meetings, a missing letter, a murder, and much more.


TENEMENT (dir. Inrasothythep Neth and Sokyou Chea, Cambodia) 

After her mother’s death, Soriya returns to Cambodia with a clear plan: to find herself and work on her art. However, instead of inspiration and peace, she is welcomed by a strange family and an old building filled with dark, creepy secrets. TENEMENT suggests a necessary engagement with Cambodia’s political past by following Soryia’s journey back to her roots, without exaggerating its historical aspects, at the same time keeping the viewers on their toes. https://iffr.com/en/iffr/2024/films/tenement 

SCHIRKOA: IN LIES WE TRUST (dir. Ishan Shukla, India) 

Imagine there was a land where people wear paper bags on their heads and where every single move is traced and supervised. Then, imagine it all collapses when the hidden citizens start hearing rumours of a place where all the restrictions are gone. This enchanting animation is based on Ishan Shukla’s award winning short Schirkoa (2016) and features stars such as Golshifteh Farahani, Asia Argento, Lav Diaz and Gaspar Noé.



RIVULET OF UNIVERSE (dir. Possathorn Watcharapanit, Thailand)

Possathorn Watcharapanit’s debut film follows the newly formed friend triangle comprised of Jit, Pim and Tat, who embark on a journey eerily similar to the one of the Thai ancient royalty: prince Prajit, his lover Orapim and Phommathat the King. This historic mysterious story is a setting for dialogues between modern life, historical events, ancient stories and modernity. https://iffr.com/en/iffr/2024/films/rivulet-of-universe 


SMALL HOURS OF THE NIGHT (dir. Daniel Hui, Singapore) 

A woman is interrogated by a man over one long rainy night. As the time goes by, her testimony becomes suspicious, full of discrepancies and misstatements. Daniel Hui skilfully turns a simple police investigation into a mysterious, unnerving experience straight out of Kafka’s The Trial, but with a Singaporean twist. SMALL HOURS OF THE NIGHT makes it possible for the viewer to see through the eyes of a subject fighting the merciless law system.


BLUE GIANT(dir. Tachikawa Yuzuru, Japan) 

A musician’s life is that of fame, money and stardom. However, for the young saxophonist Dai Miyamoto it is also filled with hardships, struggles and obstacles. Surprisingly, these hurdles don’t break his character and determination – his conviction and passion encourage his friends, Yukinori and Shunji, to take up music and set up a jazz band. BLUE GIANT is a story of incredible boldness, told with the beautiful tools of anime-inspired animation.



ELEGIES (dir. Ann Hui, Hong Kong) 

In her newest production, Ann Hui takes the viewer along on a journey of experiencing poetry. And, as always, she does so with the utmost sensitivity and care. Through interviews with contemporary poets such as Huang Canlan, Liu Wai Tong, and the late Shi Shi, ELEGIES captures the unique rhythms of their daily lives and their different attitudes toward the world. 

Ann Hui is one of the most renowned and accomplished artists of the Hong Kong New Wave. Three of her films screened at CinemAsia Film Festival: Boat People (1982), A Simple Life (2011) and Love after Love (2020).


YOHANNA (dir. Razka Robby Ertanto, Indonesia) 

The principles of faith and the realities of daily life in contemporary Indonesia are taken up in Ertanto’s latest foreboding drama. YOHANNA explores the delicate state of thousands of young lives, progressively building in intensity as it embraces both the political and the personal. The title character, a young nun experiencing doubts in her faith, delves deeper into the scary world of young workers. 

Robby Ertanto’s 2018 film AVE MARYAM screened at the 12th edition of CinemAsia in 2019.

Actress Laura Basuki stars in the awarded film 24 Hours With Gaspar (2023, Indonesia).