In late November 2019, The New York Times published a piece which attempted to thematically connect Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite to a handful of East Asian films. The essay received backlash online and was criticised for basing its broad generalisations of people and culture off a selective sample of films. In doing so, the piece only further reinforced what we already knew: that discourse around East and Southeast Asian cinema continues to be limited within the framework of horror and violence.
Such lazy and reductive takes like the ones made in that piece completely ignore the output of quality films that have emerged from these Asian regions, particularly in the past decade which has proven to be a period of major development for some of these countries.
Meanwhile, other major film publications in their reflections on the best films made this past decade barely mustered spots for films from the East and Southeast. Outside of the usual suspects which continued to appear in lists over and over, these lists predominately leaned towards American and European filmmaking.
Motivated by this lack of representation and need to correct tired perceptions of Asian film, we’ve compiled some of the best films from the East and Southeast Asian regions that made an impact on us in the last ten years. These films have been curated across categories that include: Modern Masters, Women Filmmakers, Animation, Under the Radar and Genre Delights.
Each selection by our writers has been chosen for a variety of different reasons: technical craft, content, cultural importance, personal experiences, and many more have been factored into our decision-making. By no means should the films mentioned across these categories be considered definitive (and with several films directed by the same filmmaker in some categories, we’re definitely not hiding our biases!) but it’s a good place to start if you want an idea of what cinema from the East and Southeast Asian regions has looked like in the past decade.