Film industry tongues were wagging last week after Chinese officials announced that Tuya's Marriage and Blind Mountain were banned from competing in Taiwan's Golden Horse film awards because the Chinese government prohibits films with exclusively Chinese investment from competing in the event.
Luan Guozhi (欒國志), director of international cooperation at China's Film Bureau, said the Golden Horse awards evaluate Taiwanese movies and that movies made in China should not be considered Taiwanese.
Having fewer films from China competing in the awards could have been a boon for Taiwanese cinema because it would have enabled other films from Taiwan to be nominated.
This, however, didn't happen. Instead, Eye in the Sky replaced Tuya's Marriage in the Best Picture category and Protege and The Sun Also Rises replaced Blind Mountain in the Best Director category. The first two films are Hong Kong productions, while the other is from China.
One doesn't need to be a film critic to see that the Golden Horse awards have, over the past few years, favored films from Hong Kong and increasingly China -- productions that have more financial resources and often achieve a high degree of recognition at the box office.
That China banned two films from entering the Golden Horse awards because they feel that the awards evaluate Taiwanese movies is rather ironic because nothing could be further from the truth.
Which begs the question: What are the Golden Horse awards for and whose interests do they serve?
Though it is justified to call the Golden Horse awards a Chinese version of the Oscars, it seems strange that to qualify, the language of the film must be some variety of Chinese -- a bizarre rule in the world of film festivals.
Other, smaller, film festivals provide a platform for introducing films that are ignored by the mainstream film industry. To take two examples, the Vancouver Gay and Lesbian Film Festival showcases some of the best cinema featuring gay and lesbian themes and the Sundance Film Festival provides a forum for low-budget, independent films. The point here is that these two festivals have a clear identity: to promote films that might not otherwise receive the recognition -- and distribution -- they deserve.
Unlike the Golden Horse awards, the Taipei Film Festival has a clear identity of its own by serving as a platform for Taiwanese cinema. The increased visibility of the festival this year attracted curators and film professionals from South Korea, the Netherlands and Canada, to a name but a few markets.
But that festival suffers from a dwindling budget and regulations that prevent it from having a permanent executive body, which means that organizers have a limited amount of time and cannot plan for the future.
So why not amalgamate the two festivals and call it the Taiwan Film Awards? Organizers could still have the "Global Chinese" cinema category, but the emphasis would be on films of all kinds produced in Taiwan.
Having two film festivals, one that celebrates the ambiguous and archaic concept of a pan-Chinese community and another that is preoccupied with its bureaucratic structure and budget, does little to promote Taiwanese cinema.
The Golden Horse is suffering an identity crisis that can only be resolved by amalgamating with the Taipei Film Festival.