Session 4: Monographs (Asian Film Archive)

Watch the films: the films in this programme can be viewed anytime between 25 March and 3 April via the Essay Film Festival online screening room. LINK HERE.

Live event: join us for a live discussion with Kevin B. Lee who will be in conversation with Pam Virada, Riar Rizaldi and Maryam Tafakory. This event will be chaired by Michael Temple. 28 March 2021, 19.00 GMT. Book here.

Commissioned by the Asian Film Archive, Monographs is a series of video essays, conceived as a platform to discourse upon the moving image within the context of Asia. Originated as a response to the uncertainties of the pandemic, and created during various states of isolation and solitude, these diverse works draw upon histories and archives, revealing new vistas of inquiry; ruminations that evince the filmmakers’ deep connections with cinema, society and the self.

The programme is presented in two thematic groups: ‘Motifs’ casts a critical gaze upon symbols, systems, and the apparatus of power; ‘Moments’ deals with the subjective, the ephemeral, and the plasticity of memories. Alongside this programme, we are screening a new film by Monographs curator Kevin B. Lee: Once Upon a Screen, Explosive Paradox.

Film information:

Once Upon a Screen, Explosive Paradox, Kevin B. Lee, USA, 2020, digital, 9 minutes, English 

‘Kevin’s piece on his childhood experiences with the film Platoon are an example of the very power of cinema to shape our relationship with the world, and the world’s relationship with us … an experience of childhood trauma so visceral, that I haven’t just gained new insight on the war epic itself.’ (Cidnii Wilde Harris)



Ghost Like Us, Riar Rizaldi, Indonesia/Singapore, 2020, digital, 20 minutes, Bahasa Indonesia with English subtitles  

Revisiting the Indonesian horror / exploitation films of the 80s and 90s that he loved as a teenager, Riar Rizaldi examines the ways in which these films – shown outside of the theatre and other formal spaces of the film industry – constitute a ‘cinematic elsewhere’. 

Death of a Soldier, Truong Minh Quý, Vietnam/Singapore, 2020, digital, 14 minutes, Vietnamese with English subtitles  

Truong Minh Qúy’s found footage film brings together multiple scenes depicting soldier’s deaths in Vietnamese propaganda films, revealing aesthetic patterns that speak to a nationalist agenda while hinting at a broader value system within Vietnamese society. 

Brave Revolutionary Redubbed, Kush Badhwar and Renu Savant, India/Singapore, 2020, digital, 20 minutes, English/Hindi 

Tracing the memefication, redubbing and recycling of the final scene of Hindi box office hit Krantiveer (Brave Revolutionary), Kush Badhwar and Renu Savant call the authority of authorial voice into question, and unveil the power of subjective interpretation. 

Irani Bag, Maryam Tafakory, Iran/UK/Singapore, 2020, digital, 6 minutes, no dialogue 

Focusing on what Tafakory calls ‘the handbag technique’ in power-revolutionary Iranian Films – by which handbags serve as a surrogate for human touch – Irani Bag complicates the supposed innocence of everyday objects on-screen.

Saved by the Party-State, Maja Korbecka, China/Germany/Poland/Singapore, 2020, digital, 15 minutes, Mandarin/English

Juxtaposing two films made during different periods of major political, economic and social upheaval in China, Maja Korbecka complicates dominant narratives of women’s liberation, displaying ways in which female characters can be made to serve as a mouthpiece for power.  

Her Five Lives, Saodat Ismailova, Uzbekistan/Singapore, 2020, digital, 13 minutes, no dialogue

Saodat Ismailova looks back at the history of female heroines over nearly a century of Uzbek cinema in order to chart the changing perception of women and the state of the film industry more widely. 


Casting a Spell to Alter Reality, Pam Virada, Germany/Singapore, 2020, digital, 14 minutes, English/Mandarin/Hakka

Weaving together folk tales from Hou Hsiao-hsien’s coming-of-age trilogy with her Grandfather’s memories of supernatural visitation in his home, Virada retraces the Chinese diaspora through the stories of mysterious occurrences that are passed down through generations.

SPIRIT FILM, Raya Martin, Philippines/Singapore, 2020, digital, 20 minutes, no dialogue

Tracing the figure of the spirit through Philippine film, Raya Martin enlists archives, apps and AI to work against the colonial gaze, and wonders, amid the restrictions of lockdown, ‘how do we watch movies without cinema?’

Reminiscences, Maung Okkar, Myanmar/Singapore, 2020, digital, 15 minutes, Burmese with English subtitles  

Maung Okkar grew up in a film studio compound amid a family of filmmakers. Reminiscing on the involvement of his family, grandparents and uncles in the Myanmar film industry of the 1980s, Okkar reflects on both the intense creativity of the period and the political conditions against which artists struggled. 

A Weirdo Never Fever Overry, Arnont Nongyao, Vietnam/Thailand/Cambodia/Singapore, 2020, digital, 14 minutes, no dialogue

Arnont Nongyao’s ‘Mekong travelogue’ combines fragments of personal history with a strange sonic world to tell the story of losing oneself to ‘unconscious colonisation’.


Kevin B. Lee is a filmmaker, media artist, and critic. He has produced over 360 video essays exploring film and media. He has been the recipient of numerous grants and awards, and he was the 2017 artist in residence at the Harun Farocki Institute, Berlin. He has written widely on film for publications including The New York Times, Sight & Sound, Slate and Indiewire. (source:

Maryam Tafakory works with textual and filmic collages, interweaving poetry, ethnography, archival and found material. She is based between London, Shiraz and Tehran. Interested in fictions of non-fiction, her broader research explores plural and inauthentic subjectivities, the self/other binary, womanhood, as well as depictions of erasure, secrecy, [un]touchable and [un]spoken prohibitions. (source:

Riar Rizaldi works as an artist, curator and researcher. He was born in Indonesia and is currently based in Hong Kong. His main focus is on the relationship between capital and technology, extractivism, and theoretical fiction. His works have been shown at Locarno Film Festival, BFI Southbank London, International Film Festival Rotterdam, NTT InterCommunication Center Tokyo, Centre Pompidou Paris, Times Museum Guangzhou, and National Gallery of Indonesia amongst others. (source:

Pam Virada, based in Amsterdam, is interested in the notions that lie between the realms of architectural space, memory, and mnemonic devices. Drawn into the creations of oxymorons, her practice often explores the concepts of personal and collective memory, colliding subjective realms with physical spaces, the circumstances in-between ‘placement’ and ‘displacement,’ fact and fiction. (source: –


Asian Film Archive: Monographs 2020