By Devika Girish in the November-December 2018 Issue
Per its owner’s website, AsianCrush aims to be the “one-stop portal for Asian entertainment”—a lofty ambition that seems to necessitate a Netflix-esque emphasis on breadth over focus. Unlike Crunchyroll and the late DramaFever, high-profile SVOD services specializing, respectively, in anime and K-dramas, AsianCrush features a more slapdash mix of genres and formats united solely by the fact that they’re Asian productions. Its film collection includes a smattering of the likes of Hong Sangsoo (The Power of Kangwon Province, Oki’s Movie), Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Loft, Doppelganger), and Tsai Ming-liang (The River, Vive l’amour), alongside an extensive catalog of kung-fu movies and popular Korean rom-coms (My Sassy Girl, Scandal Makers). It’s a somewhat hard-to-navigate glut, not helped in the least by vague thematic filters like “Inspirational,” “Tearjerker,” and the inexplicable “Cute.” But these are all trivial complaints considering that the majority of AsianCrush’s 800-odd titles are available for free—with a monthly subscription option to get rid of ads and access some exclusive content.
The site does offer some lightly curated programs, which range from the millennial-themed “#Feels” and “K-Pop Triple Threat” sets to more traditional spotlights like “NYAFF Favorites” and “New Taiwanese Cinema.” These collections are a bit skewed, however, by the geographical and temporal limits of the AsianCrush library. At press time, almost half of the site’s offerings are from South Korea, and the rest are mostly from Japan, Hong Kong, and China; moreover, most of the films were released in the last two or three decades, making it a fairly recent (though not exactly current) collection. Scattered throughout is the occasional film by an internationally renowned director (Sion Sono’s 2012 The Land of Hope; Shinji Aoyama’s 2013 Backwater; Im Kwon-taek’s 2014 Revivre), but a bit of dedicated browsing yields some of the more obscure diamonds in the rough—like Thai director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s debut feature, Fun Bar Karaoke (1997), a giddily stylish genre-mash about a young woman embroiled in mob drama, or the whimsical Liza, the Fox-Fairy (2015), a Hungarian mytho-comedy about the relationship between a naïve nurse and the ghost of a Japanese pop star.
Since July, AsianCrush has also been adding a new Chinese blockbuster each week, including Ann Hui’s mesmerizing World War II epic Our Time Will Come (2017; pictured at top) and Feng Xiaogang’s Cultural Revolution-set coming-of-age drama Youth (2017). These films, secured through a deal with distributors China Lion and Orchid Tree, are part of the site’s growing commitment to bringing to a wider audience popular Asian movies that usually receive limited releases in the U.S.—and which are rarely seen outside of diasporic circles. The move suggests that AsianCrush could, in time, be a very useful (and hopefully better-designed) resource for cinephiles looking to keep up with contemporary Asian film culture.
Devika Girish is a freelance film critic. She grew up in India and currently lives in Los Angeles.