BENJAMIN BARRETT WRITES — Like other travel documentaries, Midnight Asia: Eat. Dance. Dream. captures the food, art and culture of various Asian cities, but what makes this documentary series different is that it is solely focused on nightlife. The Netflix original, which premiered in 2022 and was directed and produced by Joe Evans, focuses on nightlife in six major cities across Asia: Tokyo, Seoul, Mumbai, Bangkok, Taipei, and Manila.
The exclusive focus on the nightlife of each place makes it a compelling watch. For example, the first episode, on Tokyo nightlife, features an 85-year old DJ Sumirock, whose flashy outfits include sparkles, glitter, large sunglasses and of course headphones. DJ Sumirock actually holds the Guinness World Record for oldest professional club DJ. In the same episode, viewers can see a fetish party, where people are interviewed who provide their personal perspectives on such parties.
In the Bangkok episode, the focus is on two brothers, Nack and Neno, who are trying to revive Likay in Bangkok; this is a slowly dying performance art now popular in Thailand. Likay is a unique form of theater that relies on very elaborate costume designs, improvisation, and the imagination of the audience. Nack and Neno talk about performing Likay, what it means to them, and how it’s been hard dealing with malfunctioning equipment at times.
While watching this documentary series, without even realizing it, you learn lots about the different cities’ history and culture. For example, the reason Likay is slowly dying in Bangkok is that in recent years the city has been losing its sense of connectedness and community.
Since the episodes themselves are not connected, though, you can pick and choose what order to watch them in. Still, the series can get a little monotonous at times in part due to the way episodes are filmed – mostly interviews or background video, so someone who is not that interested in travel tv might have a hard time really getting into the series.
Even though it might not be binge-worthy, the fascinating people who are interviewed really carry the series, making it an enjoyable watch-a nice balance between being educational and informative as well as visually appealing. This series is a must watch for anyone who is curious about some hotspot cities in Asia.