One little, two little, three little banned films

Old films and new feels take center stage this September, as the Asian Restored Classics (ARC) film festival returns, with 12 restored classics from the 1930s to 1990s. This year’s edition features nine Singapore premieres with a special Southeast Asian focus, to showcase the rich cinematic heritage of Asia.

As expected, the films have been restored to top quality—with enhanced 4K resolution, vibrant coloring and crystal-clear audio tracks. Still, a dozen films can be a daunting feat to tackle, so here are our top five picks to get you in the mood for cultural appreciation.

Ring of Fury (1973)

Photo credit: Asian Film Archive

A triumph for Singapore; the island’s first and only martial arts film was initially banned for 32 years for its portrayal of gangsterism (we know one iron-fisted minister who likely disapproved). The premise revolves around a humble noodle seller who learns martial arts to take revenge on the thugs who hurt his loved ones—and was inspired by the kung fu craze sparked by Bruce Lee in the 1970s. The screening at ARC 2017 marks world premiere of the restored version of the film, aptly so on homeground.

Tiga Dara, ‘Three Maidens’ (1956)

Photo credit: SA Films

Think Little Women but set in Indonesia—where a trio of eligible, single sisters live with their widowed father and ageing grandmother, both of whom can’t wait to marry them all off. It’s 115 minutes of squeals, song and laughs, in this romantic comedy musical that playfully examines the clash between tradition and modernity (or however modern the 1950s were).

Carmen Comes Home (1951)

Photo credit: Shochiku Co. Ltd

Directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, this musical comedy is Japan’s first color film, and tells the story of a Tokyo exotic dancer who returns to her rural hometown with success, a whole new wardrobe, and a scandalous secret. Go for the jokes and fool-proof storyline, but don’t be surprised if you end up staying for the striking film coloring.

The Surrogate Woman (1987)

Photo credit: (KOFA) Korean Film Archive

Take a step back from the jolly comedies with Im Kwon-taek’s The Surrogate Woman, whose premise certainly bears similarities to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. When a nobleman and his wife have difficulty conceiving a male heir, they enlist a young servant girl as their surrogate wife—which of course leads to a forbidden relationship that’s anything but fun. The film is celebrated for shedding light on the female plight in past and present Korean society, and will likely make some pertinent points today here too.

The Nights of Zayandeh-Rood (1990)

Photo credit: Makhmalbaf Film House

Set before, during, and shortly after Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, the film follows one family’s journey through the dramatic political changes in their country. Expect scandal, death and a love triangle, with a sprinkling of moral dilemma thrown in for good measure. It may be just 63-minutes long, but Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s eighth film is worth seeing simply for the fact that it was partially destroyed and then completely banned, before being stolen and smuggled out of Iran for the rest of the world to see.

Asian Restored Classics 2017 takes place from Aug 31-Sep 3 at Capitol Theatre, and Sep 8-10 at National Museum of Singapore, Gallery Theatre. For more information on dates and ticketing, head here