Asian Pop-Up Cinema returns for its 13th season both in-person and online with a digital element now set to become a permanent part of the programme. Running Sept. 15 to Oct. 12, the festival will present 30 films in cinemas, at the drive in, and streaming via Eventive throughout the US with some regional restrictions. This season’s Career Achievement Award goes to Gordon Lam Ka-tung who stars in closing film Limbo as well as Hand Rolled Cigarette in addition to producing Ricky Ko’s black comedy, Time.


Opening Night of Season 13

Wednesday, September 15: Ascension (Jessica Kingdon, 2021) – US/China 

AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois)

Jessica Kingdon’s documentary explores the fallacy of the “Chinese Dream” through the prisms of labour, consumerism, and wealth amid increasing social inequality.

Thursday, September 16, 7:00 PM: Gift of Fire (Kurosaki Hiroshi, 2020) U.S. Premiere – Japan

AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois)

A conflicted scientist struggles to accommodate his responsibilities to science, his family, his nation, and his own conscience while researching how to build an atom bomb.

Tuesday, September 21, 7:00 PM: Anima (Cao Jinling, 2021) – China

Davis Theater (4614 N. Lincoln Ave)

Two brothers find themselves on either side of an unbreachable divide when modernity begins dismantling their village in Cao Jinling’s timely eco drama. Review.

Wednesday, September 22, 7:00 PM: Escape From Mogadishu (Ryoo Seung-wan, 2021) – South Korea

AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois)

North & South Korean diplomats are forced to set ideology aside to escape the increasing violence of the Somali Civil War in Ryoo Seung-wan’s intense action drama. Review.

Thursday, September 23, 7:00 PM: Three (Pak Ruslan, 2020) N. American Premiere – Kazakhstan/South Korea/ Uzbekistan

AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois)

Inspired by true events, Ruslan Pak’s dark drama follows a rookie detective tackling a serial killer in 1979 only to discover his sister has become a target.

Friday, September 24, 11:00 AM: GO BACK (SEO Eun-young, 2020) South Korea – Free Admission

Korean Cultural Center of Chicago (9930 Capital Drive, Wheeling, IL)

An earnest rookie policewoman comes to suspect a social worker when one of the children she is looking after is kidnapped and the ransom leads back to a bank account connected to the welfare centre.

Saturday, September 25, 2:00 PM: Swimming Out Till The Sea Turns Blue (Jia Zhang-ke, 2020) – China

Tower Auditorium of Illinois Institute of Technology (10 W. 35th Street)

Jia Zhangke charts the history of rural China in the 20th century through the stories of a series of authors from differing generations. Review.

Centerpiece for Season 13

Thursday, September 30, 7:00 PM: The Fable: The Killer Who Doesn’t Kill (Kan Eguchi, 2021) – Japan

AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois)

Junichi Okada returns as the hitman with a no kill mission in Kan Eguchi’s action comedy sequel, this time squaring off against a duplicitous philanthropist. Review.

Thursday, October 7, 7:00 PM: You Are Not Normal, Either (Koji Maeda, 2021) N. American Premiere – Japan

AMC River East 21 (322 E. Illinois)

Introverted cram school teacher Ohno longs to fall in love and get married but has no idea about romance. Teaming up with teenager Kasumi, he aims to steal the heart of Minako, the daughter of a wealthy family but Kasumi is secretly working her own angle to nab Minako’s boyfriend in this quirky Japanese comedy.

Saturday, October 9, 2:00 PM: Wuhan Wuhan (Yung Chang, 2021) – Canada/China

Chinese American Museum (328 W. 23rd Street):

Yung Chang’s observational documentary explores the early days of the pandemic in Wuhan as ordinary people and frontline healthcare workers attempt to come to grips with a new and mysterious illness.


ChiTown Movies (2343 S. Throop) at sunset (8:00 – 8:30PM)

Monday, September 27 – World Premiere: The Dishwasher Squad (Shum Sek-Yin, 2021) – Hong Kong

Two friends recklessly buy a dishwashing factory on the cheap but discover that the business is in financial ruin and has no employees while existing contracts must be honoured at the risk of financial penalty. To solve their problem they decide to hire through a social worker so they’ll be eligible “special social enterprise” subsidy fund in this crowd-pleasing comedy.

Tuesday, September 28: Dragon Inn (King Hu, 1967) – Taiwan

The exiled children of a scholar executed by scheming courtiers hole up in an inn where they are lucky to make the acquaintance of a wandering expert swordsman in the seminal wuxia classic from King Hu. Review.

Wednesday, September 29: Just 1 Day (Erica Li, 2021) U.S. Premiere – Hong Kong

A terminally ill artist suffering with ALS asks a childhood friend experiencing a moment of romantic crisis to pose as his girlfriend for the day.

Tuesday, October 5: Time (Ricky Ko, 2020) – Hong Kong

An elderly hitman displaced by the modern society gets a second chance at life after taking up “euthenasia” in Ricky Ko’s darkly comic yet moving drama. Review.

Wednesday, October 6: Hand Rolled Cigarette (Chan Kin Long, 2020) – Hong Kong

A cynical former British soldier and a South Asian street thief find unexpected solidarity in Chan Kin Long’s gritty neo-noir. Review.

Closing Night for Season 13

Tuesday, October 12: Limbo (Soi Cheong, 2021) – Hong Kong

Morally compromised cops chase a serial killer in the rubbish-strewn junkyards of contemporary Hong Kong in Soi Cheong’s stylish noir. Review.


Wednesday, September 15 – Tuesday, September 21

Where is Pinki (Prithvi Konanur, 2020) – India

A middle class couple entrust their baby to a nanny who lends it to a friend as a prop for begging, but her friend puts it down in a tunnel to look for alcohol where it’s discovered by a street cleaner who takes it home. The couple must then search all over the city in order to discover what’s happened to their baby.

Drifting (Jun Li, 2021) – Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s homeless find themselves pushed ever further into the margins by an increasingly unequal society in Jun Li’s gritty drama. Review.

Gull (Kim Mi-jo, 2021) – South Korea

A 61-year-old fishmonger is ostracised after reporting a colleague for rape in Kim Mi-jo’s crushing condemnation of a misogynistic and classist society. Review.

Never Stop (Bowen Han, 2021) – China

A champion runner returns to his hometown after failing to break the record of an old rival only to discover he has given up on himself and no longer runs. Through competing with each other the two sportsmen eventually begin to find forgiveness and a sense of mutual solidarity.

Wednesday, September 22 – Tuesday, September 28 

Martial Arts Restored Classics

A Touch of Zen (King Hu, 1971) – Taiwan

An unsuccessful painter is captivated by a beautiful young swordswoman on the run from the general who murdered her entire family and joins her band alongside a rival general and mute monk in King Hu’s classic spiritual wuxia.

Dragon Inn (King Hu, 1967) – Taiwan

The exiled children of a scholar executed by scheming courtiers hole up in an inn where they are lucky to make the acquaintance of a wandering expert swordsman in the seminal wuxia classic from King Hu. Review.

Raining in the Mountain (King Hu, 1979) – Taiwan

An abbot about to retire enlists three advisors to assist him pick a successor: wealthy patron Esquire Wen, head of the local military General Wang, and Buddhist master Wu Wai, but unbeknowst to him Wen and Wang are secretly plotting a heist to steal a precious scroll…

Legend in the Mountain (King Hu, 1979) – Taiwan

A young scholar retreats to a remote town to transcribe a sutra which has immense power over the dead. Once there, he meets a strange woman who later turns up in his room and claims they slept together. The scholar marries her, but then meets another woman who falls for him and tries to protect him from malicious spirits.

Wednesday, September 29 – Tuesday, October 5

Beauty Water (Cho Kyung-hun, 2020) – South Korea

A young woman goes to great lengths to be accounted “beautiful” in Cho Kyung-hun’s animated body horror takedown of extreme patriarchal beauty standards. Review.

The Way We Keep Dancing (Adam Wong, 2020) – Hong Kong

A collective of artists finds itself torn between complicity and resistance in the face of rising gentrification in Adam Wong’s musical dance drama. Review.

The Fable (Kan Eguchi, 2019) – Japan

Junichi Okada stars as a hitman so good it’s becoming a problem, which is why his boss makes him take a sabbatical to live a normal life as an ordinary person in Osaka without killing anyone at all for a whole year only for his mission to be compromised when he accidentally gets caught up in a yakuza gang war. Review.

Love, Life and Goldfish (Yukinori Makabe, 2021) U.S. Premiere – Japan

An emotionally repressed bank clerk has a minor existential crisis when demoted to a rural backwater after a silly workplace mistake but thanks to his experiences with the goldfish-obsessed townspeople rediscovers the joy of feeling in Yukinori Makabe’s cheerfully absurd musical comedy.

Wednesday, October 6 – Tuesday, October 12 

Wuhan Wuhan (Yung Chang, 2021) – Canada/China

Yung Chang’s observational documentary explores the early days of the pandemic in Wuhan as ordinary people and frontline healthcare workers attempt to come to grips with a new and mysterious illness.

Ito (Itomichi) (Yokohama Satoko, 2021) – Japan

A shy young woman with a talent for Tsugaru shamisen grows in confidence after getting a job at a maid cafe in Satoko Yokohama’s warmhearted drama. Review.

The Reunions (Da Peng, 2020) U.S. Premiere – China

Da Peng reworks his previous short by adding a documentary sequence further critiquing his fracturing relationships with family members back in rural China. Review.

Georama Boy, Panorama Girl (Natsuki Seta, 2020) – Japan

Lovelorn teens experience parallel moments of romantic disillusionment in Natsuki Seta’s charmingly retro teen comedy. Review.

Asian Pop-Up Cinema runs in person and online Sept. 15 to Oct. 12. Full details for all the films as well as ticketing links can be found on the official website and you can also keep up with all the latest news by following Asian Pop-up Cinema on  FacebookTwitter,  Instagram, and Vimeo.

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