Must-watch: Eight Asian Indie Films to Compete Against Each Other in This Year’s QCinema

Words by Alyssa Gabrielle Chen

Asian indie films are on the rise, and QCinema International Film Festival has done a lot to support them.

(LOOK: Film ‘Spring by the Sea’ Tells the Story of an OFW’s Family Through Their Personal Home Videos)

Now on its seventh year, QCinema revamps its old Circle Competition and Asian Next Wave Section; merging them to launch the highlight of this year’s international film festival: the Asian Next Wave Competition! This new category will be showcasing works from both Filipino and Non-Filipino (Asian) directors — a move to support the emerging filmmakers in the Asian region. Just as before, Filipino directors received a grant of P1.5 million to aid in their production costs.

Here is the line up for this year’s Asian Next Wave Competition:

1. Ave Maryam by Robby Ertanto (Indonesia)

Sister Maryam lives in a Catholic monastery in Semarang where she meets Father Yosef, a charming priest whom she falls in love with. Will Sister Maryam give in to her lust and own personal desires, or will she give in to her guilt and repent for her sins? A film that aims to humanize rather than to moralize, Ave Maryam does not only center around the Catholic faith but also the temptations and desires of the human flesh.

2. Babae at Baril by Rae Red (Philippines)

A saleslady in a department store has had enough of the world around her. Her employer, family, roommates — have all treated her so harshly that she is done living this life. Everything changes one day when she finds a peculiar looking gun on her doorstep; she wields it to gain unlimited freedom and power she has never tasted before. Babae at Baril is a psychological thriller that portrays the psyche and reality of the helpless.

3. Cleaners by Glenn Barit (Philippines)

Set in Tuguegarao, Cleaners portrays different students from a local high school, each aspiring to be the ideal “pure and clean.” Their idealistic view of the world crumbles, as they slowly learn how dirty and disgusting it is in reality.

Cleaners is a stop-motion film with all the frames printed, colored one-by-one using highlighters, and reassembled back. I wonder how many highlighters they used just to finish this masterpiece!

4. Fly by Night by Zhair Omar (Malaysia)

Two brothers, both working as taxi drivers, are in hot water with the police hot on their heels. They have been blackmailing wealthy passengers, threatening to rape and murder their wives if they do not give in. The illegal business was well-conducted until the younger brother decides to team up with a victim to blackmail a lover… Fly by Night is a film that pushes us to wonder who people are outside of how we know them. No one and nothing is what it seems.

5. Kaaway sa Sulod by Arnel Barbarona (Philippines)

Lieutenant Raiza Umali is an outstanding army officer who always successfully completes her mission. One day, she meets a New People’s Army fighter who looks exactly just like her. Together, the two unravel the dark mysteries behind their identities. Kaaway sa Sulod takes on a more nationalistic sentiment as it tackles the clashing ideologies of Filipinos who are supposed to work together as a nation in the first place.

6. Nakorn-Sawan by Puangsoi Aksornsawang (Thailand|Germany)

Aoey is a young girl who grieves the recent passing of her mother. Together with her father, relatives, and friends, they follow the Pak Nam Po river — the trail believed to reach heaven — to send her late mother to the afterlife. Rooting the film in binary opposites such as life and death, reunion and separation, and joy and strife, Nakorn-Sawan explores just how complicated our emotions are.

7. Suburban Birds by Sheng Qiu (China|Taiwan)

Two different people with the same name “Hao” are the narrators of the film. The first one is an adult, an engineer who is part of an investigative team looking into what seems like sinkholes in a suburban section in China. The other is a young boy, who stays helpless even when his friends start to disappear one-by-one.

Suburban Birds is a film that plays with multiple character perspectives, critiquing a developing China through the eyes of the two Hao’s. It is a film enveloped in mystery; there is no specific timeline and audiences are left wondering whether scenes are happening in the past, present, or future.

8. The Long Walk by Mattie Do (Laos)

A middle-aged Laotian farmer is traumatized by the death of his mother in a car-crash. Years after the accident, he still lives a life of regret, but he meets a ghost who can help him set things right. The Long Walk is a ghost story that delves into the ideas of the past and the present, the world of spirits, and the society and life in Laos.

Aside from the Asian Next Wave, QCinema also features other films — both directed locally and internationally. Check them out below:


  1. Excuse Me, Miss, Miss, Miss by Sonny Calvento (Philippines)
  2. Here, Here by Joanna Cesario (Philippines)
  3. Isang Daa’t Isang Mariposa by Norvin De los Santos (Philippines)
  4. Judy Free by Jean Cheryl Tagyamon (Philippines)
  5. SPID by Alejo Barbaza & Mervine Aquino (Philippines)
  6. Tokwifi by Carla Pulido Ocampo (Philippines)


  1. A is for Agustin by Grace Pimentel Simbulan (Philippines)
  2. For My Alien Friend by Jet Leyco (Philippines)
  3. Kabul, City in the Wind by Aboozar Amini (Afghanistan|Germany|Japan|Netherlands)
  4. Spring by the Sea by Aleia Garcia (Philippines)
  5. Talking About Trees by Suhaib Gasmelbari (France, Sudan, Chad, Germany, Qatar)
  6. The Future Cries Beneath Our Soil by Pham Thu Hand (Vietnam)

Centennial Classics

  1. Biyaya ng Lupa by Manuel Silos (Philippines, 1959)
  2. Insiang by Lino Brocka (Philippines, 1976)
  3. Malvarosa by Gregorio Fernandez (Philippines, 1958)
  4. Maynila sa Kuko ng Liwanag by Lino Brocka (Philippines, 1975)
  5. Noli Me Tangere by Gerardo de Leon (Philippines, 1961)
  6. Tisoy by Ishmael Bernal (Philippines, 1977)

VIVA Classics

  1. Bituing Walang Ningning by Emmanuel H. Borlaza (Philippines, 1985)
  2. The Flor Contemplacion Story by Joel Lamangan (Philippines, 1995)
  3. Working Girls by Ishmael Bernal (Philippines, 1984)

Screen International

  1. A Girl Missing by Koji Fukada (Japan)
  2. Bacurau by Kieber Mendonca Filho and Juliano Dornelles (Brazil|France)
  3. Beanpole by Kentemir Balagoc (Russia)
  4. By the Grace of God by Francois Ozon (France|Belgium)
  5. Frankie by Ira Sachs (France|Portugal)
  6. God Exists, Her Name is Petrunija by Teona Strugar Mitevska (Macedonia|Belgium|France|Croatia|Slovenia)
  7. High Life by Clair Denis (UK|France|Germany|Poland)
  8. Nina Wu by Midi Z (Taiwan)
  9. On a Magical Night by Christophe Honore (France|Belgium|Luxembourg)
  10. Synonyms by Nadav Lapid (France|Israel|Germany)
  11. The Whistlers by Corneliu Porumboiu (Romania|France|Germany|Sweden)

New Horizons

  1. Buoyancy by Rodd Rathjen (Australia)
  2. Chola by Sanal Kumar Sasidharan (India)
  3. Homeward by Nariman Aliev (Ukraine)
  4. System Crasher by Nora Fingscheidt (Germany)
  5. The Bare Necessity by Erwan Le Duc (France)
  6. The Red Phallus by Tashi Gyeltshen (Bhutan|Germany|Nepal)

Special Screenings

  1. Dogs Don’t Wear Pants by JP Valkeapaa (Finland|Latvia)
  2. Flickerfest Short Films (Australia)
  3. Krabi, 2562 by Ben Rivers and Anocha Suwichakornpong (UK|Thailand)
  4. Lingua Franca by Isabel Sandovel (USA|Philippines)
  5. No Data Plan by Miko Revereza (USA)
  6. The Cave by Tom Waller (Thailand|Ireland)
  7. Vitalina Varela by Pedro Costa (Portugal)
  8. Top End Wedding by Wayne Blair (Australia)

Rainbow QC

  1. And Then We Danced by Levan Akin (Sweden|Georgia|France)
  2. Brief Story From the Green Planet by Santiago Loza (Argentina|Germany|Brazil|Spain)
  3. Jose by Li Cheng (Guatemala|USA)
  4. Port Authority by Danielle Lessovitz (USA|France)
  5. Song Lang by Leon Le (Vietnam)
  6. Where We Belong by Kongdej Jaturanrasamee (Thailand)

Opening and Closing Films

  1. OPENING: Untrue by Sigrid Bernardo (Philippines)
  2. CLOSING: Wet Season by Anthony Chen (Singapore)

Shows will be running from October 13-22, 2019 in select cinemas (Gateway, Trinoma, Robinsons Galleria, UPFI Cine Adarna, Cinema ’76 Anonas, and Cinema Centario). Schedule for the films can be accessed here.


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