Must-Watch Asian Documentaries: Uncovering Hidden Stories

5 de juliol de 2024


Asia, with its rich tapestry of cultures, traditions, and landscapes, offers a treasure trove of stories waiting to be told. Documentaries have a unique way of capturing these stories, presenting them in raw and unfiltered forms. They provide an intimate glimpse into lives, struggles, and triumphs, often unseen by the outside world.


Today, we dive into some remarkable Asian documentaries that have left an indelible mark on audiences worldwide. These films, ranging from personal narratives to social commentaries, showcase the diverse and dynamic spirit of the continent.


Asian documentary filmmaking is characterized by its unique storytelling approach. Filmmakers often use a blend of observational and participatory techniques, allowing their subjects to lead the narrative. This style creates a sense of authenticity and intimacy, drawing viewers into the world of the subjects.


The use of minimalistic yet powerful visuals, combined with poignant storytelling, makes these documentaries stand out. Moreover, they often challenge viewers to reflect on broader societal issues, encouraging a deeper understanding and empathy for the people and cultures depicted.


Ten Must-Watch Asian Documentaries:



Table for Two

This deeply moving documentary explores the complex relationship between a mother and her daughter, Chae-young, in South Korea. The film delves into generational trauma, with Chae-young’s grandmother's behavior influencing her interactions with her daughter.



Geetika Narang Abbasi's "A.K.A" presents an insider's look at Bollywood through the lives of three actors who have carved out unique careers in the industry. The documentary goes beyond the glamour, offering a thorough examination of their journeys, struggles, and relationships with the actual stars. 


I Am a Comedian

This bold documentary follows the life of Japanese comedian Muramoto, whose personal experiences deeply influence his comedy. Director Fumiari Hyuga captures Muramoto's in-your-face attitude and his belief that laughter can change the world. The film offers a raw and honest portrayal of Muramoto’s life behind the scenes, revealing his struggles with depression and alcoholism. 


Dark Red Forest

Jin Huaqing’s "Dark Red Forest" takes an observational approach to document the lives of nuns in a Tibetan monastery. The film foregoes interviews and focuses on the communal aspects of their daily routines, from cooking and studying to receiving dharma lectures. This method highlights the collective effort to transcend ego and achieve enlightenment. 


Education and Nationalism

This insightful documentary presents a shocking and realistic portrayal of the influence of nationalism in Japanese education. Through investigation and interviews, Saika exposes political pressures and government involvement in revising historical narratives. The documentary openly discusses the motives behind these actions, providing a critical examination of the current government's desire to reshape Japan's national identity. 



This hauntingly beautiful documentary is set in a deserted palace where a group of men and women share their life stories. These individuals, once homeless and living on the streets of Porto, Portugal, reflect on their pasts and how they survived. Christophe Bisson’s film is a powerful exploration of memory, resilience, and the search for meaning in a forgotten place. The intimate storytelling and evocative setting create a deeply moving experience.


Crimes Without Honor

This gripping documentary addresses the harrowing issue of honor crimes among immigrant communities in Sweden, Germany, and Canada. Directed by Raymonde Provencher, the film gives voice to individuals of Indian, Turkish, and Kurdish origin who have risen against these violent traditions. 


After Spring, The Tamaki Family

This captivating documentary follows the Tamaki family, the largest immigrant family on the Yaeyama Islands of Okinawa, as they journey back to their roots in Taiwan. Director Huang Yin-Yu captures their exploration of identity and memory against the backdrop of their ancestral homeland. 


Letter To My Mother

This insightful documentary delves into the personal and societal challenges faced by a Tehran taxi driver. The documentary captures candid conversations with passengers, offering a rare glimpse into the everyday lives of Iranians. Maher's film is a tribute to Kiarostami's legacy, using simple yet powerful storytelling to explore themes of identity, resilience, and the human condition.


Sha Sa Ha

This unique documentary is a blend of fiction and found footage that traverses from the COVID world of 2013 to the present life of its characters during the lockdown. Directed by Ratheesh Ravindran, the film reflects on life and art, exploring how the pandemic has influenced our thoughts and experiences. The use of selfie narratives and personal footage creates an intimate and reflective viewing experience, making "Sha Sa Ha" a fascinating exploration of contemporary life.



Asian documentaries are a testament to the power of storytelling. They capture the essence of diverse cultures, shed light on pressing social issues, and provide a platform for voices that might otherwise go unheard. These films remind us of the beauty and complexity of human experiences, encouraging us to see the world through different lenses.


In a world where media often simplifies and sensationalizes, these documentaries offer depth, nuance, and authenticity. They invite us to explore the rich tapestry of life in Asia, to understand the challenges and triumphs of its people, and to appreciate the profound connections that bind us all.


So, the next time you're in the mood for a documentary, consider diving into these Asian gems. Let their stories inspire and move you, and perhaps, even change the way you see the world. Happy watching!


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