Mar 15th, 2021, 06:40 PM

4 Must-See Asian Films to Break the One Inch Barrier With

By Abby Wright
Image Credit: Denise Jans on Unsplash
Contemporary Asian directors deliver heartfelt stories and a myriad of emotions in these four films

Following the sweep of Bong Joon-ho's Parasite at last year's Academy Awards and the recent win for Minari at the Golden Globes, Asian voices in cinema have become a increasingly prevalent in the mainstream. Whether you're looking to branch out into different worlds cinema -- perhaps in overcoming the "one inch barrier", a clever term for subtitles mentioned by Bong Joon-ho -- or you're just looking for some movie recommendations, check out 4 phenomenal contemporary Asian voices in film:

Minari (Lee Isaac Chung, 2021)

You may have heard of Minari following its recent Golden Globes controversy: although the film was in the running for (and later, won) the award for Best Foreign Language film, many argued that the film because the film was distributed by A24, and American company, and tells a story of the American dream, that the film deserved to be nominated for Best Picture. However, looking past of the growing conversation surrounding the film’s “Americanness”, Minari itself tells us a soft, heart wrenching story of a Korean-American family adjusting to life in 1980s rural Arkansas, loosely based on director Lee Isaac Chung’s own childhood. Settled within the already challenging narrative of what it means to be American, the film explores the strength of family and the things that keep us grounded. Find more info about Minari here.


The Farewell (Lulu Wang, 2019)

Similarly produced by A24, Lulu Wang’s The Farewell situates us in a lie. Based on a true story, we follow the journey of Billi (delightfully played by Awkafina) and her family, who, after discovering that their beloved grandmother has been given less than a month to live, must return to China to be with her in her final moments. However, the lie begins in that the family returns to Changchun under the guise of a wedding, as to not burden their grandmother with the weight of her impending destiny. The dramatic irony of it all creates moments of comedy, heartbreak, and bittersweet throughout the film. Wang expertly navigates the vivacity of Chinese culture and the elaborate family dynamic coupled with the unique otherness Billi experiences as an Asian-American. Find more info about The Farewell here, and be ready to experience a rollercoaster of emotions.


Kiss of the Rabbit God (Andrew Thomas Huang, 2019)

In just 13 minutes, Kiss of the Rabbit God captivates us with a love story between an ordinary restaurant employee and an ancient god. The film begins by recounting a mythological tale from the Qing dynasty: a young soldier, Shen, was sentenced to death after confessing his love for another man. In the Underworld, Shen’s crime was forgiven as one of passion, and thus he became the Rabbit God, “the god of secret lovers”. Then we become situated in the present, where we are met with Matt, an overworked Chinese restaurant employee, and his growing sexual awakening after multiple encounters with the elusive Rabbit God. Andrew Thomas Huang cleverly meshes fantasy and reality in his short film, and simultaneously celebrates Asian queer identity through the passionate relationship between Matt and Shen. Watch Kiss of the Rabbit God here.


Your Name (Makoto Shinkai, 2016)

Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name ranks just under Studio Ghibli’s acclaimed Spirited Away as the second-largest gross for a domestic film in Japan for good reason. The film begins rather innocently: Taki, a high school boy living in Tokyo, and Mitsuha, a high school girl from the countryside, suddenly wake up one day trapped inside the other’s body. This cycle goes on, and soon enough Mistuha and Taki begin communicating with each other through phone memos, notes, and sometimes writing on the other’s skin. This plot seems to all build up to the viewing of a once-in-a-lifetime comet which will pass over all of Japan. But, following a shocking twist, the film goes on to toy with our perception of time, and keeps us guessing right until the very end. Your Name interweaves the simple joys of this fantastical plot (heightened by classic anime montages and tropes) yet manages to find a way to break our hearts and stitch them back together.