Chicago’s Asian Pop-Up Cinema, March 12 – April 24

Fly Me To Saitama

Fly Me To Saitama

Consolidated series
presents premieres,
partner screenings,
special guests
and sixteen films,
from across
the Asian continent

Non-profit pan-Asian film organization Sophia’s Choice today announces Asian Pop-Up Cinema – Season Eight, the spring film series presenting sixteen films from across Asia, running March 12 through April 24, 2019.

The schedule represents a consolidated schedule, with more films screened each week and this season running just six weeks. Each week, a new theme of films will screen at AMC River East 21, while screenings with community partners take place at venues throughout the city.

A complete list of films, screening dates and ticket information is below and available at



Asian Pop-Up Cinema – Season Eight opens by honoring Japanese filmmaking, with the North American premiere of Fly Me to the Saitama on Tuesday, March 12. The dark comedy is a live-action adaptation of a 1980s manga about an alternate-universe rebellion by the natives of one of Tokyo’s much mocked suburbs. Starring Fumi Nikaido and Japanese superstar Gackt, Mark Schilling (Japan Times) calls it “the funniest film I’ve seen all year.”



Programming from Japan continues with Ten Years Japan on Wednesday, March 13; that film will also screen on Thursday, March 14 in Toronto as part of Asian Pop-Up Cinema on Tour.

Also screening in the Japan-focused week is acclaimed documentary The Ito Sisters on Saturday, March 16 at the Wilmette Theatre.

The season continues with highlight cross-continental productions, including Out of Paradise (Switzerland/ Mongolia) on Tuesday, March 19; A Land Imagined (France/Netherlands/Singapore) on Wednesday, March 20; and the animated Funan (France/Cambodia) on Thursday, March 21.

The former two films screen at AMC River East, while Funan, starring the voice of Bérénice Bejo (The Artist), will screen at Alliance Française.

One of Hong Kong’s biggest stars features prominently in the following week’s screenings: actress Nina Paw will be in Chicago to accept the Career Achievement Award at the Tuesday, March 26 screening of Show Me Your Love at AMC River East.

Paw will also attend the Wednesday, March 27 screening of Taiwan’s Sen Sen (that film will also screen as part of APUC on Tour, at locations in Michigan).

The week of Taiwanese films concludes with Taipei Film Festival selection High Flash on Thursday, March 28.

As Asian Pop-Up Cinema respectfully “goes dark” at AMC River East during the Chicago Latino Film Festival, Chinese-centric documentaries will screen at the Heritage Museum of Asian Art in Chinatown.

Up the Mountain, a True/False Film Festival official selection, screens Saturday, April 6, while Four Springs screens on Sunday, April 7.

On Friday, April 12, Asian Pop-Up Cinema presents a special screening of Canada’s Circle of Steel, a dark comedy about personal ethics in the face of corporate interest. Chicago’s independent filmmaking community is especially invited to the screening and post-film discussion with Columbia College Chicago’s Ron Falzone and filmmakers.

Next, South Korea is the focus of programming, as The PensionM and Memories of a Dead End screen on Tuesday, April 16 and Wednesday, April 17, respectively.

Indonesian film Memories of my Body will screen at the Joffrey Ballet Tower Studio on Tuesday, April 23, and Season Eight concludes with the premiere of Tracey on Wednesday, April 24. An official selection at the Tokyo International Film Festival, the Hong Kong-made film follows a man whose life is upended at the news of a former classmate’s death.

Film details, trailers and ticketing for each screening, plus information on special guests, are below and available at

All told, Asian Pop-Up Cinema – Season Eight will present sixteen films from every corner of the Asian continent, many of them making their Chicago debut and all of them exceptional examples of international filmmaking and diverse programming, from comedy and mystery to drama and documentary.

Special guests scheduled to attend:
   Takeuchi Hideki (director) — Fly Me to the Saitama
   Akiyo Fujimura (director) — Ten Years Japan
   Antonia Grace Glenn (director/producer) and Evelyn Glenn (lead scholar) — The Ito Sisters
   Batbayar Chogsom (director) — Out of Paradise
   Siew Hua Yeo (director) — A Land Imagined
   Nina Paw (actress) — Show Me Your Love and Sen Sen
   Bon An (director) — Sen Sen
   Ching Shen Chuang (director) and Chia-kuei Chen (actor) — High Flash
   Qingyi Lu (director) — Four Springs
   Gillian McKercher (director) and Chantelle Han (actress) — Circle of Steel
   Deok-jae Junghuh (director) — The Pension
   Hun-young Choi (director) — Memories of a Dead End
   Jun Li (director) and Shu Kei (producer/writer) — Tracey


All films are shown in their original language with English subtitles. Post-screenings discussion are moderated by Ron Falzone, Associate Professor of Cinema and Television Arts at Columbia College Chicago or by one of the following guest moderators for select films:
   Mark Schilling (Japan) – Fly Me To The Saitama, Ten Years Japan
   Shelly Kraicer (Canada) – Up the Mountain, Four Springs
   Patrick McDonald (USA) – Sen Sen, High Flash
   Kai-Duc Luong (USA) – Funan

Tickets for Asian Pop-Up Cinema – Season Eight are on sale now; individual tickets range from $8-$15, with discounts available for seniors and students; tickets to community partner screenings (non-AMC River East Venues) are just $10. A limited number of free tickets are available to students on a first-come, first-served basis. All tickets and event info is available at

Select series films are available for advance screening/review on a case-by-case basis; to request screenings links or interviews with Asian Pop-up Cinema founder Sophia Wong Boccio or filmmakers/cast of select films, contact Lisa Trifone ( or 317.362.5378).


Tuesday, March 12, 7:00 PM @ AMC River East 21 | Opening Night Film
FLY ME TO THE SAITAMA (翔んで埼玉) | North American Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with Director Takeuchi Hideki | Guest Moderator: Mark Schilling
Japan | 2019 | 107 Minutes | In Japanese w/English subtitles
Director: Takeuchi HIDEKI | Starring: Fumi Nikaidou, GACKT, Yûsuke Iseya

Fly Me to the Saitama is Hideki Takeuchi’s adaptation of a 1980s manga about an alternative-universe rebellion by the natives of the capital’s much mocked suburb. Starring Fumi Nikaido as the cosseted son of the corrupt Tokyo governor and pop star Gackt as a mysterious transfer student at the son’s private academy, the film is packed with in-jokes targeting the titular prefecture. As he did with his 2012 time-travel comedy Thermae Romae, Takeuchi also nimbly crosses cultural barriers, this time with hick-versus-city-slicker comedy that anyone who has ever been either can understand. – Mark Schilling, Japan Times

Wednesday, March 13, 7:00 PM @ AMC River East 21
TEN YEARS JAPAN | Chicago Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with Director Akiyo Fujimura | Guest Moderator: Mark Schilling
Japan | 2018 | 98 Minutes | In Japanese w/English subtitles
Director: Akiyo Fujimura, Chie Hayakawa, Kei Ishikawa, Yusuke Kinoshita, Megumi Tsuno
Starring: Hana Sugisaki, Jun Kunimura, Chizuru Ikewaki, Taiga

Produced by art house favorite Hirokazu Kore-eda, (Palme d’Or winner, Shoplifters) five up-and-coming Japanese filmmakers were chosen primarily for the quality of their screenplays, their originality, and their future prospects to conjure up five conceptions of what Japan might be like 10 years from now. Chie Hayakawa’s Plan 75 suggests a modern-day “The Ballad of Narayama” in its depiction of people 75 year old and over being guided by the government toward euthanasia. Yusuke Kinoshita’s Mischievous Alliance introduces children in a special school district whose moral education is monitored closely by an artificial intelligence. Megumi Tsuno’s Data is the tale of a young woman living with her father who begins to explore her “inheritance:” her late mother’s personal data in digital form. Akiyo Fujimura’s The Air We Can’t See delves into the relationship between a girl and her mother, who have been forced to live underground due to atmospheric pollution. Finally, Kei Ishikawa’s For Our Beautiful Country paints a picture of a Japan in which a military draft system has been reintroduced.

Saturday, March 16, 2:00 PM @ The Wilmette Theatre
THE ITO SISTERS | Chicago Premiere
Co-presented with Japanese American Citizens League, Japanese American Service Committee, Japanese Mutual Aid Society, Midwest Buddhist Temple and Chicago Japanese American Historical Society.
Introduction and Q&A with Director Antonia Grace Glenn and Lead Scholar Evelyn Nakano Glenn
Japan/America | 2017 | 80 Minutes | In Japanese, English w/English subtitles
Director & Producer: Antonia Grace Glenn | Starring: Hedy Kadori, Kerr Lordygan

The Ito Sisters captures the rarely told stories of the earliest Japanese immigrants to the United States and their American-born children. In particular, the film focuses on the experiences of women known as Issei (or immigrant) and Nisei (or first generation born in the US), whose voices have largely been excluded from American history. At the center of the film are three Nisei sisters: Natsuye (Nancy), Haruye (Lillian) and Hideko (Hedy), who were born on a farm in the Sacramento River Delta and whose lives were directly impacted by some of the most significant events of 20th-century America, from the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 to the Great Depression to World War II.

Tuesday, March 19, 7:00 PM @ AMC River East 21
OUT OF PARADISE | North American Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with Director Batbayar Chogsom
Mongolia/Switzerland | 2018 | 98 Minutes | In Mongolian w/English subtitles
Director: Batbayar Chogsom | Starring: Bayarsaikhan Bayartsengel, Oyun-Erdene Jamiyan

Dorj and his heavily pregnant wife Suren live a nomadic life on the Mongolian steppe. When the local doctor advises Suren to have a caesarean section, the couple embark on a grueling journey to the capital city, Ulaanbaatar. When they reach the hospital, however, they are told that the treatment Suren needs must be paid for in advance. Suren sends Dorj off to pawn her gold earrings, which he had given her as a wedding present, setting in motion an unexpected and harrowing series of events as Suren goes into labor and Dorj, desperate and lost in the sprawling city, fights for his own survival.

Wednesday, March 20, 7:00 PM @ AMC River East 21
A LAND IMAGINED | Chicago Premiere |
Introduction and Q&A with Director Siew-hua Yeo

Singapore/Netherlands/France | 2018 | 95 Minutes | In Bengali, English, Mandarin w/English subtitles
Director: Siew-hua Yeo | Starring: Peter Yu, Xiaoyi Liu, Jack Tan and Yue Guo

A lonely construction worker from China goes missing at a land reclamation site in Singapore, and a sleepless police investigator must put himself in the mind of the migrant to uncover the truth beneath all that sand.

Thursday, March 21, 7:00 PM @ Alliance Française de Chicago
FUNAN | Chicago Premiere
Co-presented with the Alliance Française de Chicago as part of Festival de la Francophonie 2019
Cambodia/France | 2018 | 84 Minutes | In French w/English subtitles
Director: Denis Do | Starring: François Baldassare, Bérénice Bejo, Louis Garrel | Guest Speaker: Kai-duc Luong

Funan chronicles the survival and the struggle of a young mother during the Khmer Rouge revolution as she tries to find her 4-year-old son, who was torn from his family by the regime.

Tuesday, March 26, 7:00 PM @ AMC River East 21 | Chicago Premiere
SHOW ME YOUR LOVE (大手牽小手) | Sponsored by Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office, New York
Introduction and Q&A with Actress Nina Paw Hee-ching
Hong Kong/Malaysia | 2016 | 98 Minutes |In Cantonese w/English & Chinese subtitles
Writer/Director: Ryon Lee | Starring: Nina Paw Hee-ching, Raymond Ho-Yin Wong, Ivana Wong

While planning to move to Guangzhou with his wife, Hong Kong teacher Nin (Raymond Wong) is forced to return to his childhood home in Malaysia after the death of his aunt. Upon returning, he is reunited with his mother Sze-nga (Nina Paw), whom he left behind after going to university in Hong Kong. Nina Paw will be in attendance to receive Asian Pop-Up Cinema’s Career Achievement Award.

Wednesday, March 27, 7:00 PM @ AMC River East 21
SEN SEN (生生) | U.S. Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with Director Bon An & Nina Paw Hee-ching
Taiwan | 2017 | 112 Minutes | In Mandarin w/English subtitles
Director: Bon An | Starring: Nina Paw Hee-ching, Zhi-xuan Wu, Yi-wen Yen

After Sen’s brother passes away, he sifts through what’s left behind, discovering that his brother had a unique hobby: following the livestream feed of a cab-driving granny. With only three months left to live, Granny has decided to live her last 100 days as she pleases, live-streaming her journeys and adventures. As Sen and Granny both face the reality of death, they build an online bond even as time ticks away.

Thursday, March 28, 7:00 PM @ AMC River East 21
HIGH FLASH (引爆點) | U.S. Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with Director Chuang Ching-shen & Actor Chen Chia-kuei
Taiwan | 2018 | 110 Minutes | In Mandarin w/ English subtitles
Directors: Chuang Ching-shen | Starring: Wu Kang-ren, Yao Yi-ti, Chen Chia-kuei

During a large-scale protest again corporate giant TL Petrochemical, a fisherman named Ah-Hai is found dead from self-immolation. The incident instantly makes media headlines, and, Ah-Hai is hailed as a martyr. Medical examiner Chou is assigned to the case with public prosecutor Kim, his ex-fiancée. When the two discover evidence of murder and a major conspiracy, Chou breaks protocol to conduct his own investigation in order to protect Kim. As the truth is gradually revealed, the case and their pasts start to intertwine.

Saturday, April 6, 2:00 PM @ Heritage Museum of Asian Art
UP THE MOUNTAIN (火山 ) Chicago Premiere
Directed by Zhang Yang | Guest Moderator: Shelly Kraicer
China | 2018 | 126 Minutes | Documentary | In Mandarin & Bai dialect w/English subtitles

Up The Mountain is a portrait of a year in the painting studio of SHEN Jianhua in Dali, Yunnan Province. Originally from Shanghai, SHEN moved to the countryside to teach art and painting to the local Bai women. The film documents both the fading traditions of the local community and the impact of a rapidly changing modern China.

Sunday, April 7, 2:00 PM & 5:00 PM @ Heritage Museum of Asian Art
FOUR SPRINGS (四个春天) | Chicago Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with Director Lu Qingyi | Guest Moderator: Shelly Kraicer
China | 2018 | 105 Minutes | Documentary | In Mandarin w/English subtitles
Writer/Director: Lu Qingyi | Subjects: Li Quixian, Lu Yunkun

Filmed in the remote town of Dushan in southwest China over the course of four years, Four Springs captures the flow of life and everyday routines of the director’s own parents. We follow their daily chores, hobbies, walks in nature, visits of family and friends, reunions and departures. Their optimism, good humor, resilience and acceptance shine through, even in the face of irretrievable loss.

Friday, April 12, 6:30 PM @ Columbia College Chicago (Screening Room: 310)
CIRCLE OF STEEL | Chicago Premiere
Canada | 2018 | 85 Minutes | In English
Introduction and Q&A with Gillian McKercher and Chantelle Han.
Writer/Director/Producer: Gillian McKercher | Starring: Chantelle Han, Duncan Ollreneshaw, Tina Lameman

Amidst Alberta’s oil and gas crash of 2015, chemical engineer Wendy Fong (Chantelle Han) is new to Paloma North and unsure of the future she worked so hard for. As rumors of layoffs begin to circulate in her small, isolated team, her monotonous routine crumbles, giving way to ambivalence. Long days in the field and long nights alone begin to take their toll. With support, and often-questionable guidance from her coworkers, Wendy must navigate personal ethics and corporate interest within Canada’s most controversial industry. Sponsored by the Consulate General of Canada in Chicago, this special feature presentation, with Canadian filmmakers in attendance, aims to spark cross-borders conversations amongst Chicago-based independent filmmakers. All attendees are invited to an after party with complimentary refreshments and beverages together with our Canadian talents.

Tuesday, April 16, 7:00 PM @ AMC River East 21
THE PENSION | U.S. Premiere | Introduction and Q&A with featured director Deok-jae Junghuh
South Korea | 2018 | 113 Minutes | In Korean w/ English subtitles
Directors: Deok-jae Junghuh, Jang-ha RYU, Chang-mo Yoon, and Jong-hyeon Yang
Starring: Sun-Hee Hwang, Park Ji-Yeon, Han-chul Jo

The Pension, another word for a room or a temporary home, is a place where people come and go. Four stories unfold that possibly (or impossibly) could happen in a pension: parents who lost their child; a husband and wife growing tired of their married life; a woman who demands to stay a night in a particular suite; a man who is asked to manage the pension for a night….what could go wrong?

Wednesday, April 17, 7:00 PM @ AMC River East 21
Introduction and Q&A with Director Hyun-young Choi
South Korea/Japan | 2018 | 90 Minutes | In Korean/Japanese w/English subtitles
Director: Hyun-Young Choi | Starring: Sooyoung and Shunsuke Tanaka

Yumi, a 29-year-old civil servant, has gone to Nagoya, Japan looking for her fiancé after a long absence of news. There, she instead meets her fiancé’s new Japanese girlfriend, who’s already talking about their own marriage plan. Yumi decides to walk away from everything, wandering in an unfamiliar city and finding herself at a guesthouse at the end of a certain street. Will Yumi be able to overcome her broken heart and return home for a fresh start?

Tuesday, April 23, 7:00 PM @ Joffrey Ballet Tower Studio A
MEMORIES OF MY BODY (Kucumbu tubuh indahku) | Chicago Premiere
Indonesia | 2018 | 106 Minutes | In Indonesian w/English subtitles
Director: Garin Nugroho | Starring: Muhammad Khan, Raditya Evandra, Rianto, SujiwoTejo

Juno is just a child when his father abandons him in their village of Center Java. Alone now, he joins a Lengger dance center where men shape their feminine appearance and movement. But the sensuality and sexuality that come from dance and bodies, mixed with the violent social and political Indonesian environment, force Juno to move from village to village. Even if on his journey Juno gets attention and love from his dance teachers, his weird aunty, his old uncle, a handsome boxer and a Warok, he still has to face the battlefield that his body is becoming on his own.

Wednesday, April 24, 7:00 PM @ AMC River East 21 | Closing Night Film
Co-presented with the Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office, New York
TRACEY (翠絲) | Chicago Premiere
Introduction and Q&A with Director Jun Li and Producer/Writer Shu Kei
Hong Kong| 2018 |114 Minutes | In Cantonese w/English & Chinese subtitles
Director: Jun LI | Starring: Kara Wai, Philip Keung, Jennifer Yu, Siu-hin Ng, River Huang

A phone call about an old classmate’s death triggers a middle-aged man to look back on his past and the pained wish for a different past that may change his future.

Asian Pop-Up Cinema, a semi-annual Asian Film Festival, is the brainchild of Sophia Wong Boccio, founder of Sophia’s Choice, a Chicago-based 501 C (3) not-for-profit incorporated in 2015 with the multi-pronged mission of cultivating an interest in and understanding of Asian cultures via a diverse offering of Asian films; connecting the Asian film industry with local Chicago film professionals, educators and students; and promoting Chicago as a destination for international visitors.

Main Sponsors: Athena Design Group in Chicago, Hong Kong Economic & Trade Office in New York, Choose Chicago, Taipei Cultural Center in New York, BMO Harris Bank, and Consulate General of Canada in Chicago.
Co-presenters: Alliance Française de Chicago, Asian Studies Center of Michigan State University, AMC Independent, Chicago Film Office, Chicago Japanese American History Society, Columbia College Chicago, Consulate General of Japan in Chicago, Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Chicago, Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events of Chicago, Heritage Museum of Asian Art, Japanese Canadian Culture Center in Toronto, Japanese American Citizen League, Japanese Mutual Aid Society, Japanese American Service Committee, Michigan Taiwanese American Organization, Midwest Buddhist Temple and The Joffrey Ballet.

Flight Angels: Japan Airlines and Eva Air; Festival Hotel: The Whitehall Hotel

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