Asian cinema is fast becoming a cinema without borders. Digital filmmaking and international coproductions are rapidly transforming an industry in which the transnational flow of talent and resources, even between the U.S. and Asia, has become the norm. In the monthly exhibition ContemporAsian, MoMA showcases films that get little exposure outside of their home countries or on the international festival circuit, but which engage the various styles, histories, and changes in Asian cinema. Presented in special weeklong engagements, the films in the series include recent independent gems by both new and established filmmakers whose work represent the rapidly transforming visual culture of the region. Not only are audiences given the rare chance to enjoy these undistributed films on the big screen—they also experience the diversity and richness of Asian cinema in all its many forms.
In August, MoMA presents the special multifilm program Lens on Tibet, a 13-film look at contemporary Tibetan cinema.
Organized by Jytte Jensen, Curator, Department of Film, with thanks to the Korea Society.
Lens on Tibet is organized by Sally Berger, Assistant Curator, Department of Film; and Paola Vanzo, Director of Communications and Development, and Kristina Dy-Liacco, Librarian, Trace Foundation.
Related Film Screenings
Yartsa Rinpoche (Precious Caterpillar)
2013. China/France. Directed by Dorje Tsering Chenaktsang. Cordyceps sinensis (in Tibetan, Yartsa-gunbu) has been called “Tibet’s golden worm” and “The Viagra of the Himalayas.” When it was discovered 30 years ago as a natural remedy, it became a boon to Tibetan nomads. Today, some nomadic Tibetan communities bring in as much as 80% of their income collecting it. Yartsa Rinpoche follows Darlo, an elder in the Amdo region, who with his family forms a group of 30 that treks 800 kilometers to collect the “worm,” while exploring its larger implications. In Tibetan; English subtitles. 101 min.
Silent Holy Stones
2005. China. Written and directed by Pema Tseden. It happens in just 48 hours: “Little Lama,” a 10-year-old Tibetan boy who’s training to become a monk, returns home for New Year’s celebrations. After a long journey on horseback over icy steppes, he finds solace in his family’s new TV, and is unable to pull himself away from serials of Buddhist stories. “You dream too much for a young monk,” his family tells him, and they’re right: the more he watches, the more it becomes clear that there’s no going back to his religious practices. An official selection of the Pusan International Film Festival, the International Buddhist Film Festival, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. In Tibetan, Chinese; English subtitles. 102 min.
Nowhere to Call Home
2014. USA. Directed by Jocelyn Ford. Widowed at 28, Tibetan farmer Zanta defies her tyrannical father-in-law and refuses to marry his other son. When Zanta’s in-laws won't let her seven-year-old go to school, she flees to Beijing to become a street vendor. Destitute, she inveigles an American customer into paying her boy’s school fees. On a holiday trip back to her village, Zanta’s in-laws take her son hostage, drawing the unwitting American into the violent family feud. The two women forge a partnership in a bid to out-maneuver the in-laws. This “deeply moving” and “ethically challenging” story (Jonathan Watts, The Guardian) provides an intimate and brutally frank view of village family life and the struggles Tibetan migrants face in Beijing. In Qiang, English, Chinese; English subtitles. 77 min.
The Sun Beaten Path
2011. China. Directed by Sonthar Gyal. This debut feature from the cinematographer of Pema Tseden’s films, as well as Embrace (also screening in this series), presents the story of a young man making a pilgrimage to Lhasa to overcome the guilt of causing a family member’s death. In Tibetan, Chinese; English subtitles. 89 min.
They Are One Hundred Years Old
2014. China. Directed by Dukar Tserang. Touching, resonant, and playful in form, They Are One Hundred Years Old explores themes of reincarnation, religious belief, and a love that literally spans generations. A nomad widow (the director’s grandmother) believes that her grandson, Guru, is the reincarnation of her husband, and the young boy grows up with a deep devotion and concern for his aging grandmother. But as he grows older, he must examine his own goals vis à vis his ties to his grandmother and his life on the grassland. In Tibetan; English subtitles. 100 min.
2010. Tibet/USA. Directed by Lynn True, Nelson Walker, Tsering Perlo. In recent years growing pressures from the outside world have posed unprecedented challenges for Tibetan nomads. Rigid government policies, rangeland degradation, and the allure of modern life have prompted many nomadic families to leave the pastures for permanent settlement in towns and cities. Summer Pasture chronicles one summer with a young family amid this period of great uncertainty. With their pastoral traditions confronting rapid modernization, Locho, his wife Yama, and their infant daughter, nicknamed Jiatomah, must reconcile the challenges that drastically threaten to reshape their existence. In English, Tibetan; English subtitles. 85 min.
Daughters of Wisdom
2007. USA. Directed by Bari Pearlman. Daughters of Wisdom is an intimate portrait of the lives of a little-known sect of nuns of the Kala Ringo Monastery in remote rural Nangchen, Tibet. Under the leadership of a progressive teacher, the nuns are receiving unprecedented educational and religious training, and preserving their rich cultural heritage even as they slowly reshape it. In Tibetan; English subtitles. 68 min.
A Gesar Bard’s Tale
2013. China/Finland. Directed by Donagh Coleman, Lharigtso. As a boy, Dawa was an illiterate Tibetan nomad whose life revolved around herding yaks. At 13, his life changed: through a series of visions, Dawa acquired the gift of telling the epic story of Tibet’s King Gesar. Now, at 35, Dawa receives a salary from the Chinese government as a guardian of national cultural heritage and is regarded as a holy man by his community. When an earthquake reduced his hometown to rubble, Chinese redevelopment of the region took a giant leap forward. In the midst of such seismic shifts, Dawa seeks healing from King Gesar and other divine protectors of the land. In Tibetan; English subtitles. 82 min.
The Son of a Herder
2014. China. Directed by Tashi Chopel. A herder’s son, Gonpo Tseden, has just completed training at a vocational school and is eager to reorient his ideals and ambitions beyond pastoral life. But reality presents him with a challenge and burdensome responsibility—horse racing, nomadic migration, and an illness in the family all compel him to follow the traditional role and values of a herdsman. This film, gorgeously shot in eastern Tibet’s Zehok region, shows us an unembellished portrait of the life of a plateau herder, an existence caught between ideals and reality, modernity and tradition, and individual choices. In Tibetan; English subtitles. 64 min.
2005. China/France. Directed by Dorje Tsering Chenaktsang. This film focuses on an enormous ngakpa gathering in eastern Tibet that happens once every 60 years. Ngakpa is a Tibetan cultural and non-monastic spiritual tradition that was founded in the eighth century in which lay people can receive spiritual and cultural education. In following one group of ngakpa as they prepare for the trip from the filmmaker’s home village, Tantric Yogi offers an intimate glimpse into lives of the ngakpa, as well as the daily practice of this ancient tradition. In English, Tibetan; English subtitles. 50 min.
2011. China/Germany/USA. Directed by Dan Smyer Yu, Pema Tashi. Embrace presents the complex reciprocal saturation of human communities, gods, Buddha Dharma, and a natural landscape marked with religious significance. Through the narratives of a father and a son, the film documents a ritualized relationship between people, their dwellings, and their natural surroundings. Built around ngakpa tradition and the challenges it faces in a modern world, this well researched, thoughtfully produced, and beautifully shot film provides a glimpse into a rarely seen realm. In English, Tibetan; English subtitles. 55 min.
The Valley of the Heroes
2013. China. Directed by Khashem Gyal. This documentary, a project of Kham Film Project, offers a rare portrait of Tibetan Muslims in the Hualong area of eastern Tibet/Qinghai Province. Issues of identity and language are explored in this intimate and sensitive film. 53. In Tibetan and Chinese; English subtitles min.
2005. China/France. Directed by Dorje Tsering Chenaktsang. For centuries, Tibetan nomads were the only inhabitants on the banks of the sacred Lake Kokonor—the Blue Lake—in Amdo (eastern Tibet). Starting in the 1990s, the area saw a dramatic rise in domestic tourism: It was not just the lake’s beauty that drew tourists but the Tibetan culture in general. This influx of tourists came at a cost: the locals now find themselves having to adapt to new roles in the tourism industry. This glimpse at the Kokonor community examines the transformation of the lives of the Tibetans who live there. In English, Tibetan, Mandarin; English subtitles. 50 min.
Ling yi ban (The Other Half)
2006. China. Ying Liang. 111 min.
An Evening with Kazuhiro Soda
The filmmaker introduces his debut feature, Campaign, as part of Contemporasian. The film will also be shown on April 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13, with no filmmaker introduction.
2007. Japan. Kazuhiro Soda. 119 min.
2007. Japan. Kazuhiro Soda. 119 min.
2006. Malaysia. Yasmin Ahmad. 94 min.
2007. Philippines. Brillante Mendoza. 86 min.
Dinner with the President: A Nation's Journey
2007. Pakistan. Sabiha Sumar, Sachithanandam Sathananthan. 82 min.
2006. India. Suman Mukhopadhyay. 142 min.
2007. Japan. Naoko Ogigami. 106 min.
Kamome Shokudo (Seagull Diner)
2006. Japan. Naoko Ogigami. 106 min.
2007. Japan. Naoko Ogigami. 106 min.
Hyazgar (Desert Dream)
2007. Mongolia/China. Lu Zhang. 123 min.
Flower in the Pocket
2007. Malaysia. Liew Seng Tat. 97 min.
Babi buta yang ingin terbang (Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly)
2008. Indonesia. Edwin. 77 min.
Dajang Soembi, perempoean jang dikawini andjing (Dajang Soembi, the Woman Who Was Married to a Dog)
2004. Indonesia. Edwin. 7 min.
2008. Philippines. Adolfo Alix Jr.. 88 min.
Meitjin haru (My Dear Enemy)
2009. South Korea. Lee Yoon-ki. 123 min.
Qilu tiantang (Sincerely Yours)
2009. Taiwan. Rich Lee. 96 min.
2008. China. Zhao Dayong. 169 min.
2008. Pakistan. Mehreen Jabbar. 103 min.
2009. Malaysia. Yasmin Ahmad. 120 min.
A Letter to Uncle Boonmee
2009. Thailand/Great Britain/Germany. Apichatpong Weerasethakul. 17 min.
2008. Italy/Taiwan/France. Tsai Ming-Liang. 36 min.
Heshang aiqing (Cry Me a River)
2008. China/Spain/France. Jia Zhangke. 19 min.
Lost in the Mountains
2009. South Korea. Hong Sang-soo. 30 min.
Make Yourself at Home (Fetish)
2008. USA. Soopum Sohn. 90 min.
Ahasin wetei (Between Two Worlds)
2009. Sri Lanka/France. Vimukthi Jayasundara. 85 min.
Jao Nok Krajok (Mundane History)
2009. Thailand. Anocha Suwichakornpong. 82 min.
The High Life
2010. China. Zhao Dayong. 96 min.
Igillena Maluwo (Flying Fish)
2010. Sri Lanka. Sanjeewa Pushpakumara. 125 min.
The Journals of Musan
2010. South Korea. Park Jung-Bum. 127 min.
2010. Thailand. Aditya Assarat. 102 min.
2011. Singapore. Eric Khoo. 94 min.
Ang Babae Sa Septic Tank (The Woman in the Septic Tank)
2011. Philippines. Marlon N. Rivera. 87 min.
UFO in Her Eyes
2011. Germany. Xiaolu Guo. 110 min.
Lung Neaw Visits His Neighbours
2011. Thailand/Mexico. Rirkrit Tiravanija. 154 min.
Alms for a Blind Horse (Anhey Ghohrey Da Daan)
2011. India. Gurvinder Singh. 112 min.
2012. Nepal. Deepak Rauniyar.
Ji Yi Wang Zhe Wo (Memories Look at Me)
2012. China. Song Fang. 87 min.
A River Changes Course
2013. Cambodia. Kalyanee Mam. 83 min.
2012. Philippines. Vincent Sandoval. 87 min.
Nam-yeong-dong (National Security)
2012. South Korea. Chung Ji-young. 110 min.
2012. South Korea. Lee Ji-Seung. 74 min.
2012. South Korea. Lee Song-he-il. 75 min.
Jam Mot Deu-neun Bam (Sleepless Night)
2012. South Korea. Jang Kun-jae. 65 min.
El Kkon-do-reu-Pasa (El Condor Pasa)
2012. South Korea. Jeon Soo-il. 100 min.
2013. Hong Kong. Flora Lau. 97 min.
Sakura Namiki no Mankai no Shita ni (Cold Bloom)
2012. Japan. Atsushi Funahashi. 120 min.
Dast-Neveshtehaa Nemisoosand (Manuscripts Don’t Burn)
2013. Iran. Mohammad Rasoulof. 125 min.
2013. South Korea. Su-jin Lee. 112 min.