Asian Movie Night: Songs of Mourning

Asian Movie Night: Songs of Mourning

China & Philippines - 2023 - 180 minuten - ondertiteling: English

In this beautiful spring, let’s talk about death. Yes, death. Though we rarely put its name in our mouths, it follows closely behind our every mundane action, in the news, on our table, the edges of our bodies, as an inseparable part of life. How do we encounter death?

In this year’s opening programme Songs of Mourning, Asian Movie Night presents two films that take us on a poetic journey into questions that art has been trying to grasp since the beginning of time, meditating on death, mourning and loss, or even healing, strength and joy, each in its own unique tune.

In the magical realist short Together Apart (2019, CN), a woman finds her husband wandering around their house soon after his funeral. In the feature film Ode to Nothing (2018, PH), we follow an embalmer and her unusual encounter with an older woman’s corpse. The films encounter death in the face of diverse cultural contexts and narratives, going beyond the taboo.


19:00 Together Apart (45 min)
19:45 Talk with artist G
20:30 Ode to Nothing (92 min)
22:00 End of event


€11,- (F-pas €9,-, Student €8,-)
Cineville card: free


Chinese funerals require much preparation: a three-day wake and various rituals precede the cremation. In the opening shots of this magical realist film, the widow returns home drained and starts tidying up the house, only to encounter her deceased husband casually sauntering down the stairs. She soon readopts a familiar routine: dressing him warmly, measuring his blood pressure and bickering with him. This absurd premise soon develops when visitors from the afterlife are expected and the daughter starts getting involved. As she seeks to solve the impossible situation, grandson Jiajia seems to be the only one unquestioningly embracing grandad’s return. All shot in long, composed takes, replete with understated humour and tender reflections on family, loneliness, memory and the passing of time.


Sonya (Marietta Subong a.k.a. Pokwang) is a living ghost, struggling to keep her family-owned funeral home afloat. Lonely and thoroughly alienated by an insistent bailiff, she wanders inside her own house, leaning heavily on her favorite Chinese song, recorded on a broken cassette tape, to get through the hours and days. Until an unexpected corpse lands, rather illicitly, at her doorstep. Developing a unique relationship with the unclaimed body, she becomes fascinated by the cadaver’s absorbing mystique. Dwein Ruedas Baltazar’s Ode to Nothing (following 2012’s Mamay Umeng and 2018’s I Like You with All My Hypothalamus) is a powerful meditation on our universal longing for connection, in increasingly precarious, uncertain and isolated times. The ineluctability and omnipresence of death is given form, here, in an uncanny cohabitation with desuetude itself – in what amounts to one of the most captivating art-horror hybrids to emerge from the Philippines in recent years.


This programme is part of Asian Movie Night: a community cultural project in which selected Asian films are being screened to a public on a regular basis with curated themes and after-movie sessions to open up discussions. The project aims to introduce a more diverse view of Asian culture in a comfortable environment and accessible format to a broader audience. It tries to create a physical as well as online community with various cultural backgrounds who are interested in learning about different cultures, hence promoting cross-cultural communication and understanding.