Movies that swept the 2022 East Asian Film Awards season

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One of the best ways to discover new films from other countries is to see the successful ones at international award ceremonies. In the United States, foreign films are almost never released in theaters, except sometimes in small art rooms in big cities. Even then, the selection is often very skewed: you can find art films like The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017) or auteur films like Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite (2019), but that’s just a tiny fraction of the thousands of movies made around the world.

East Asia, in particular, is home to some of the most vibrant film cultures in the world, yet only a few of those films are released overseas each year. However, now that spring has passed, it’s the perfect time to review the movie’s big winners. east asia awards season. Here are the films that swept this year’s film awards ceremonies in Japan, South Korea and China.

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drive my car

drive my car was the most internationally successful film on this list and will likely be familiar to many readers from the Oscars, where it won Best International Feature. In drive my carYūsuke Kafuku (Hidetoshi Nishijima of The wind picks up and Claim), famous actor and theater director, loses both his wife and his career. Years later, he decides to direct a new play — and his wife’s old lover finds himself in the lead role. As Yūsuke deals with the pain of old memories, he finds a kindred spirit in his driver Misaki (Tōko Miura from lesson of evil).

The film was directed by Ryusuke Hamaguchi and released in Japan on August 20, 2021; it’s available to stream on HBO Max, to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video, or to buy on DVD.

drive my car has had a major presence at awards ceremonies over the past year, especially in Japan, where it has swept many major ceremonies. His gargantuan list of awards from around the world, far too long to list in detail, is summarized below:

  • 10 wins for Best Picture
  • 10 wins for Best Screenplay
  • 23 wins for Best International/Foreign Language Film
  • 5 wins for Best Director
  • 4 wins for best actor
  • 1 win for Best Supporting Actress
  • 1 win for best photography
  • 1 win for best lighting
  • 1 win for best sound
  • 1 win for best editing

Escape from Mogadishu

Escape from Mogadishu is set (unsurprisingly) in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1991, where members of the South Korean embassy are lobbying for their country to be accepted into the United Nations. Somalia, however, is in a period of political instability; soon, riots break out against the government and the city is taken by violent revolutionaries. The city loses electricity and water, people are shot indiscriminately in the streets, and homes are broken into and looted by armed rebels. The South Korean Ambassador (Kim Yoon-seok, The hunter), his rival ambassador from North Korea (Huh Joon-ho, Silmido), and all embassy personnel must somehow escape the city before they are killed in the crossfire.


The thrilling action drama is directed by prominent South Koreans Director Ryoo Seung-wanwho last released the explosive, award-winning historical blockbuster battleship island (2017). It was South Korea’s submission for Best International Feature Film at the 94th Academy Awards.

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Escape from Mogadishu was released in South Korea on July 28, 2021; it’s available to stream on Kanopy (which is mostly free in the US through their local library) and on DVD. Due to its political intrigue, emotional drama, and heart-pounding action, the film topped the awards season in South Korea and also did well overseas. His impressive list of accolades is summarized below:

  • The Grand Prize at the Baeksang Arts Awards
  • 4 wins for best film
  • 2 wins for best director
  • 2 wins for technical prizes
  • 4 wins for Best Supporting Actor
  • 2 wins for Best Art Direction
  • 1 win for best script
  • 3 wins for best photography
  • 2 wins for best music
  • Star of the Year Award at the Build Film Awards
  • Popular Star Award at the Blue Dragon Film Awards
  • Audience Award for Most Popular Film at the Blue Dragon Film Awards


The fish book

The fish book follows the life of radical court scholar Jeong Yak-jeon (Sol Kyung-gu, Peppermint candies, Silmido) after his exile to a small island due to a crackdown on “controversial” beliefs in the early 1800s. On the island, he meets a local fisherman (Byun Yo-han, Mr Sun) who wants to know more about the world. In exchange for his new friend’s help in documenting the island’s local marine life, Jeong teaches him philosophy. The fish book is a contemplative drama about history, life and social inequalities.

The fish book was directed by Lee Joon-ik, whose The King and the Clown (2005) is one of the highest-grossing films in South Korean history. This has been was released on March 31, 2021 in South Korea and unfortunately is not currently available for streaming in the United States. His many accolades are summarized below:


  • The Grand Prize at the Baeksang Arts Awards
  • 2 wins for best film
  • 5 wins for Best Director
  • 4 wins for best actor
  • 1 win for Best New Actress
  • 3 wins for Best Screenplay
  • 1 win for best editing
  • 2 wins for best photography
  • 2 wins for best music

cliff walkers

cliff walkers (also known as Dead end) follows four Chinese agents in the early 1930s on a secret mission behind enemy lines. Their goal is to locate a man with evidence of war crimes committed by the Japanese military, bring him home, and expose these atrocities to the international community.

The historical spy thriller is directed by the legendary Zhang Yimou, best known internationally for red sorghum (1988), Raise the Red Lantern (1991), hero (2002), House of the Flying Daggers (2004), and The great wall (2016). Zhang’s more recent films have been largely ignored by the international film community and have raised some eyebrows due to their explicitly propagandistic quality. However, in China, cliff walkers was a critical success, and it was selected as the country’s entry in the Best International Feature Film category at the 94th Academy Awards.

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In China, cliff walkers was released on April 30, 2021; it is available to stream on Rakuten Viki or to rent/purchase on Amazon Prime Video. At the Asian Film Awards and China’s biggest film awards ceremony, the Golden Rooster Awards, he received the following accolades:

  • 1 win for best director
  • 1 win for best photography
  • 1 win for best editing
  • 1 Best Actor win

Honorable mentions

The Last of the Wolves is a Japanese crime drama about power struggles in the yakuza, directed by Kazuya Shiraishi and starring Tori Matsuzaka and Ryohei Suzuki. He received particular praise for his acting, including 7 Best Supporting Actor awards.

The falls is a Taiwanese drama about a mother and her teenage daughter whose relationship becomes strained as they are quarantined together during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is directed by Chung Mong-hong and stars Alyssa Chia and Gingle Wang. At the Golden Horse Awards, Taiwan’s largest film awards ceremony, The falls received awards for Best Feature Film, Best Leading Actress, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Film Score. It is available to stream on Netflix in the United States.

Kingmaker is a Korean film that depicts the tension between a politician who wants to make the world a better place and his ruthless political strategist who will do anything to win an election. It was released in January 2022, so it will be eligible for many more awards later this year, but so far it has already won Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor at the 58th Baeksang Arts Awards. It’s available to rent or buy on Amazon Prime Video.

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