Southeast Asian movies and TV shows don’t often see the light of day on the international stage, save for a select few (Girl From Nowhere, anyone?). That’s not to say movies and TV shows from this region are not on par with its Western counterparts, and with the advent of on-demand streaming, audiences are discovering content that they wouldn’t have been aware of with a traditional medium. Over the next few weeks, Netflix is set to play host to some critically-acclaimed films as well as new stories from Southeast Asian filmmakers, each showcasing the diverse genres and cultures in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
Malaysia’s entry for Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards may not have made it to the ultimate shortlist, but there’s been no shortage of acclaim for the indie horror film.
Among the slew of reviewers highlighting its stellar cinematography and production design, the film also received praise from Shaun of the Dead and Baby Driver director Edgar Wright. No small feat, considering its director and writer Emir Ezwan’s directorial debut, and produced with a relatively low budget.
Set in a mythical past, Roh – meaning “spirit” in the Malay language – follows a vulnerable mother and her two children who face unspeakable terrors when a strange girl visits them with a frightening prediction.
2) Ali & Ratu Ratu Queens
Streaming on 17th June
Iqbaal Ramadhan, one of Indonesia’s brightest young stars, leads this heartwarming story about discovering the true meaning of family against the backdrop of one of the most vibrant boroughs in New York City.
When 19-year-old Ali decides to leave Jakarta for New York to find his long-lost mother, he ends up meeting four extremely fun and colourful Indonesian immigrants living in Queens, who take him under their wing and help him realise that family is not a one-way street.
Directed by Lucky Kuswandi and written by Gina S. Noer, the movie also stars veteran actors Nirina Zubir as Party, Asri Welas as Biyah, Tika Panggabean as Ance, and Happy Salma as Cinta, with rising star Aurora Ribero, Marissa Anita, Bayu Skak, Cut Mini Theo, and Ibnu Jamil rounding up the cast.
3) GHOST LAB
From the studio that brought you the critically-acclaimed academic heist film Bad Genius, comes this upcoming Thai horror film that marries science with the supernatural.
When an experiment about the afterlife goes awry for Gla (Paris Intarakomalyasut) and Wee (Thanapob Leeratanakachorn), the two medical doctor buddies see a ‘ghost’ with their own eyes for the first time. This encounter spawns an insatiable drive to find a scientific explanation for ghosts and to find proof of the afterlife.
Obsessed with proving that ghosts exist, their fixation and reckless pursuit of knowledge will take them down a rabbit hole that will cost them their friendship and their loved ones.
Streaming on 11th June
This upcoming Netflix anime film is based on an award-winning Filipino komik series by writer Budjette Tan and artist Kajo Baldisimo, and produced by BASE Entertainment, a studio based in Jakarta and Singapore. Trese boasts an English voice cast made up of American and Canadian actors of Filipino ancestry – Shay Mitchell (YOU, Pretty Little Liars) as lead character Alexandra Trese, Darren Criss (The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story), Jon Jon Briones (Ratched), Nicole Scherzinger (Moana), Manny Jacinto (The Good Place), Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba) and Dante Basco (Avatar: The Last Airbender). Meanwhile, Filipino actress Liza Soberano (My Ex and Whys, Alone/Together) will voice Alexandra Trese in the Filipino language version.
Set in a Manila where the mythical creatures of Philippine folklore live in hiding amongst humans, Trese follows its titular character as she goes head-to-head with a criminal underworld composed of malevolent supernatural beings.
5) Camellia Sisters
Streaming on 10th June
Set in the historical city of Hue, Camellia Sisters is an eye-opening look into the unique cultural values of Vietnam set against the backdrop of a wealthy family’s vibrant and lavish lifestyle. In fact, the movie counts UNESCO Heritage landmarks such as An Dinh Palace, Hue Imperial Citadel, Ngu Phung Pavilion, and Hue Imperial Antiquities Museum as some of its shooting locations.
The story revolves around the conflict between fame, fortune, and love of the titular sisters, who find themselves battling over a legendary artifact called the Phoenix Robe when they reunite in their luxurious childhood home. Long-kept secrets in their family soon begin to unravel, threatening the family’s legacy and reputation. Directed by Nam Cito & Bảo Nhân, the film features a knockout cast line-up starring two Vietnamese National Honorary Award granted artists Le Khanh and Hong Van, who play the two older Ly sisters, Le Ha and Le Hong. They are joined by American-Vietnamese actress, Kaity Nguyen, who plays the youngest Ly sister, Linh.
Intrigued yet? Make sure to catch these films and anime from some of Southeast Asia’s rising stars over the next few weeks on Netflix!