Must-watch Asian films at the Brisbane International Film Festival 2020

Brisbane International Film Festival

Must-watch Asian films at the Brisbane International Film Festival 2020

The Brisbane International Film Festival (BIFF) program has officially been released! Screening over 70 films from around the world – including feature films, shorts, documentaries and experimental pieces – the program is sure to appeal to a very diverse audience.

From October 1-11, BIFF will present an in-cinema program across several COVID-safe venues in Brisbane. In addition to film screenings, audiences can also look forward to various special events, such as panel discussions, live music and dining experiences.

The films chosen this year showcase both emerging filmmakers and seasoned professionals from Australia and abroad. Here are our picks of the must-see Asian films to catch at the Brisbane International Film Festival this year.

Aswang (Philippines)


A raw picture of the human cost of the Philippines’ epidemic of extrajudicial killings, Aswang depicts a muted dystopian Manila as it paints Duterte’s drug war as the vampiric demon of Filipino mythology.

This devastating debut documentary reveals the war on drugs as a covert assassination campaign that targets the poor and thrives on corruption. From neon-lit streets to congested morgues, eerie hallways to squalid shanty-towns, the story unfolds through the eyes of an enigmatic street kid, an all-night coroner and a dogged photojournalist, as their lives intertwine with the brutal violence of the drug war. Arumpac confronts the killings, orchestrated by hired assassins, vigilantes and police, while building a harrowing personal picture of the families who have lost loved ones.

Balloon (China)


Set on the stunning Tibetan steppes, Balloon follows a loving family as they navigate the challenges of their conservative farming community, spiritual obligations and China’s one-child policy with dignity and kindness.

Dargye (Jinpa) and Drolkar (Sonam Wangmo) are parents to two cheeky boys, whose innocent discovery of a condom causes a stir in their rural community, to the embarrassment of the family. The family already cares for an elderly parent — one more child would put them under pressure. Novelist and director Pema Tseden deftly explores constraining gender roles and the frisson between tradition and modernity, crafting a gentle film told with humanity and humour.

The Woman Who Ran (South Korea)


Friendship and questions of loyalty intersect in an enchanting tale of female camaraderie from prolific Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo (Hotel by the River, BIFF 2018).

With her husband away, Gam-hee (Kim Min-hee) embarks on a visit, her first in five years of marriage, to friends Young-soon (Seo Young-hwa), Su-young (Song Seon-mi) and Woo-jin (Kim Sae-Byuk). These masterfully and rhythmically crafted encounters reveal delicate information about the women’s friendship and perspectives on relationships, particularly Woo-jin’s fling with a smitten young man. The film’s breezy structure, punctuated with minimal dialogue, subtle cinematography and Hong’s own gentle score, all submerge us in the nuanced inner worlds of the characters as they reflect on life.

Labyrinth of Cinema (Japan)


The final opus of the experimental pop master Nobuhiko Ôbayashi, Labyrinth of Cinema is a powerful denunciation of war and a testament to the power of art as activism.

During a marathon screening of old war films, a group of young protagonists are transported into the onscreen action. Witnessing transformative moments in Japanese history and film, they seek to alter events on the eve of the atomic bomb detonating over Hiroshima. Splendid visual effects and an exuberant use of colour merge with surrealist storytelling to create this visual feast with a strong moral compass.

Krabi, 2562 (UK & Thailand)


Cinema, like tourism, can greedily consume locales, as Ben Rivers and Anocha Suwichakornpong demonstrate in their haunting journey through Krabi, Thailand.  

The international fame, and subsequent environmental devastation, that Danny Boyle’s The Beach 2000 brought to this idyllic location plague Krabi, 2562. Ethereal scenes convey the beauty and grit of the tourist town through a mix of documentary and fiction captured in Super 16mm, while a location scout has a hidden agenda behind her adventures in the area. Distinctions between epochs fall away in this poetic travelogue, as spiritual worlds chafe and meld with commercial aspirations.

For more information on BIFF 2020, or to purchase a ticket, head to their website HERE.

Isabel Zakharova

Isabel Zakharova is a final-year student at UTS, studying Communications and International Studies. She loves reading, writing and exploring other cultures - through travel, film and cuisine. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: [email protected]