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April 17, 2024

Documentaries in Asia: How Do They Perform, And What Should You Watch?

Documentaries may not be the biggest television genre, but they’re certainly gaining lots of traction in Asia. By: Kritchanon Tan Kian Wei

Whilst they aren’t the most common television genre, you can’t deny the ability of a great documentary to pull you in and transport you to another world. How do documentaries perform in Asia? What are some of the best Asian documentaries to watch? Read on to find out.

According to Statista, a survey from the second quarter of 2020 found that documentaries and factual television content was the 8th most popular television genre in the Asia Pacific region, ahead of genres like talk shows, game shows and dramas, with 40% of respondents having watched a documentary in a typical week.

Though you might argue that the survey was conducted during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic when people were watching television programmes more, a March 2024 market report titled “Global Documentary Film and TV Show Market By Type (English, Chinese), By Application (Man, Woman), By Geographic Scope And Forecast” concluded that the documentary film and TV show market is experiencing rapid growth in Asia, due to the increased availability of streaming services, the rise of digital media, as well as an increase in content demand from Asian audiences

With that, it’s fair to say that documentaries have been doing great in Asia. If you’re looking for some Asian documentary recommendations, here are some documentaries to check out:

1. Street Food: Asia (2019) on Netflix

As the name implies, Street Food: Asia showcases some of the local delicacies around Asia, from Singapore’s chili crab to the takoyaki of Japan. This nine-part docuseries covers the delectable foods of Thailand, Japan, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines, giving you a well-rounded look at the dishes of Asia… and making you feel a little hungry. 

2. Midnight Asia: Eat · Dance · Dream (2022) on Netflix

Though New York City may be known as the city that never sleeps, this docuseries shows that lots of interesting things happen in Asia after hours as well. Midnight Asia: Eat · Dance · Dream is a six-part documentary that shines a spotlight on the astounding nightlife of Tokyo, Seoul, Mumbai, Bangkok, Taipei and Manila, highlighting some of the fun activities that happen past bedtime in Asia. 

3. Talking Point on meWATCH (Singapore) and CNA Insider’s YouTube Channel (Worldwide)

Last but not least, Talking Point is an ongoing docuseries created by CNA that covers all sorts of topics relating to Singapore and current affairs that affect the region, including topics like K-pop, health, food and so much more. Regardless of whether you live in Singapore, anyone can find several episodes they would enjoy, and the best part is that Talking Point is absolutely free to watch.

In the largest continent in the world, you’ll find lots of documentary lovers, as well as cultures and happenings to document. Though documentaries may not be part of the biggest genres in the region, they are quickly gaining popularity in Asia, and there certainly is no shortage of Asian documentaries to watch. 

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