Culture: Briefing / Global
Our inventory of cultural unmissables includes a tense paella western, an original Ukrainian crime drama and a collection of top-grade South African sonics.
Gülsah Ayla Bayrak: The Start of Something
Foam at MAQAM, Amsterdam
Photography museum Foam is collaborating with maqam, a cultural organisation with a Turkish, Persian and Arabic focus, for this show by Belgian-Turkish artist Bayrak. Using photos, collage and images from pop and classical culture, she plays with takes on identity, blurring perceived boundaries between East and West.
‘The Start of Something’ runs until 18 June
Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo is now an international name and his paintings sell for millions at auction. Since 2020 he has been giving studio space and guidance to young artists. This has now evolved into a David Adjaye-designed destination in Accra, home to a studio, library and exhibition space. A show of Boafo’s portraits will travel here from New York’s Gagosian
The latest novel by one of the world’s greatest living writers follows Elsa M Anderson, a concert pianist who publicly unravels mid-performance. Escaping to Athens, she briefly encounters an oddly familiar stranger and embarks on a journey to track her down. A melancholy yet lyrical portrait of identity and memory.
‘August Blue’ is released on 4 May
Caleb Azumah Nelson
Azumah Nelson’s debut, Open Water, made many prize lists when published in 2021. Its follow-up is set over three years in the life of a young man who believes that “the one thing that can solve most of our problems is dancing”. But during summers in London and Ghana, he’s forced to find comfort in new things. This rich coming-of-age tale explores family, art and faith.
‘Small Worlds’ is released on 11 May
Rebecca F Kuang
Athena Liu has a book deal with a big publishing house and a TV deal with Netflix. But she is dead. Her “friend”, June Hayward, a less starry writer, steals her unpublished manuscript and passes it off as her own. Kuang’s thriller will leave readers reeling with its pace and dark humour.
‘Yellowface’ is released on 16 May
One of South Africa’s most lauded contemporary artists, Mabandla’s mix of electronica and Xhosa folk is captured beautifully on this new album, produced by Mozambican musician Tiago Correia-Paulo. The mysterious, ethereal record is embellished by Mabandla’s rich and melodic voice. Highlights include the sunny “Hlala” and the emotional punch of “Hamba”. No wonder previous tours of his home country sold out in no time.
‘AmaXesha’ is released on 5 May
Tirer La Nuit Sur Les Étoiles
Having enjoyed a career of more than 40 years, France’s beloved king of pop is back with an impressive album that celebrates the joys of nightlife. Single “Boyfriend” is a sultry delight, while the title track, a duet with singer-cum-actress Vanessa Paradis, is a standout. So too is “Virus X”, a dance floor-ready song punctuated by electro beats.
‘Tirer La Nuit Sur Les Étoiles’ is released on 12 May
Amazon Prime Video
This “paella western”, set in Spain, is a farcical comedy-drama following two cleaners, Cata and Desi, who become involved in a murder after discovering a body at a mansion and deciding to tidy up the crime scene. Their poor judgement lands them in a tight spot: chased by police, they’re also followed by Russian hitmen – and members of the victim’s family too.
An adaptation of a major Norwegian film, this limited-edition series set around the outbreak of the Second World War is based on a true story. The three episodes examine the fate of 30,000 merchant sailors who worked for Allied forces while in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, joining a conflict they never expected to be part of.
Love to Love You, Donna Summer
This hbo documentary delves into Donna Summer’s era-defining sound, which influenced countless artists. Featuring never-seen-before footage, the show provides an intimate look at Summer beyond the stage to explore the challenges and controversies in her personal life, all with compelling contributions from collaborators.
Pamfir returns to his village in western Ukraine to find that crime (specifically, contraband cigarettes and other wares) is the only way to make a living. When his teenage son accidentally sets fire to the town church, Pamfir is pushed into smuggling – and the attention of the local crime boss. Part-character study of a good man in a bad place and part-thriller, this is a misty, atmospheric take on the “one last job” genre.
‘Pamfir’ is released on 5 May
Return to Seoul
Having been adopted as a small child, French twentysomething Freddie travels to Seoul to find her birth parents. Her father responds but her mother doesn’t. Park Ji-min delivers a nuanced performance as a young woman struggling to meet expectations about who she’s supposed to be. The film is also a touching portrait of the unsettled identities of people who grow up between cultures. — abo
‘Return to Seoul’ is released on 5 May
Beau is Afraid
After Hereditary and Midsommar, Ari Aster steps out of the comfort zone of horror into more absurdist territory. His new feature stars Joaquin Phoenix as the eponymous Beau, a man riddled with anxiety and paranoia, who is thwarted in increasingly extreme ways as he tries to visit his mother. It feels like an extension of Aster’s 2011 short film Beau, where a man is so crippled by his fears that he’s unable to even leave his room.
‘Beau is Afraid’ is released on 19 May
Soft and Weak Like Water
The 14th edition of South Korea’s Gwangju Biennale uses water as a metaphor to explore resistance, co-operation and care due to its power to precipitate change. Curator Sook-Kyung Lee has gathered 79 artists, including Lebanese composer Tarek Atoui, Indian photographer Dayanita Singh and Cuban-born María Magdalena Campos-Pons.
‘Soft and Weak Like Water’ runs until 9 July
thai film archive
Thailand’s leading film critic Rithdee worked for the Bangkok Post for 20 years before joining the Thai Film Archive in 2018. He picks the best films from Southeast Asia this year. —
You & Me & Me
Wanweaw and Weawwan Hongvivatana
These twin sisters have shot some interesting short films before; this is their first feature-length production.
Regretfully At Dawn
Kongsakul has a distinctive visual style. This film is loosely based on the story of his grandfather, an army veteran.
This cross-border drama, co-produced with Davy Chou, is about a male Burmese masseuse in Chiang Mai. There are a lot of these collaborative productions in Southeast Asia.
A mystery by Parkpoom Wongpoom is always a treat. His new work is said to be about the concept of deleting someone from your life.
Every year we restore an old Thai film at the Film Archive and show it in cinemas. This domestic family drama is by late Thai master Vijit Kunawut.
Amanda Nell Eu
The story focuses on adolescence and the way young women’s bodies change.
Last Shadow at First Light
Nicole Midori Woodford
Woodford’s debut is about a young girl who can see into the world of the dead. It’s different to most Singaporean films.
Mubarak’s award-winning first film is about a boy befriending a former military general in rural Indonesia.
The Beer Girl in Yangon
Sein Lyan Tun
There aren’t many films coming out of Myanmar right now, so this one about a bar girl in Yangon is important.
Song Kang-ho of Parasite fame plays a director who’s obsessed with re-shooting an old film’s ending.