Fri, Jun 23, 2006 - Page 17 News List

Cheng Yu-chieh is a bright spark

Twenty-nine-year-old director Cheng Yu-chieh is ready to rock the film industry with his stylish first feature film 'Do Over'

By Ho Yi  /  STAFF REPORTER

Do Over is made up of five stories that take place in the same day.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ATOM CINEMA

A week before film director Cheng Yu-chieh (鄭有傑), 29, was due to premier his masterpiece Do Over (一年之初) at the Taipei Film Festival, he was still scrambling to coordinate subtitles with the movie’s frames at the Full Shine International Film Subtitling Company (福相國際電影字幕) in Ximengding (西門町).

“It’s better this way,” the young director said, referring to the looming deadline.

“Otherwise, I’d just keep making changes.”

Do Over, Cheng’s first 35mm feature film, is a NT$16-million budget production, and is the talk of the town. Cheng secured a generous government subsidy to cover half the production cost, and all that cash was apparently well spent: The film was selected to compete in both the local and inter-national categories of the festival, and will likely come away with top prizes.

But viewers beware: the plot requires your full attention. The movie weaves together five parallel stories that span 24 hours from the last day of an unspecified year to the first day of the next year. Although Cheng layers the narrative by depicting a film crew shooting a film (within the actual film) — a rather hackneyed theme in films shot by young directors who slip into self-indulgence in trying to make a movie about what they know best (ie. shooting films) — Do Over is nevertheless a sophisticated piece in terms of its visual style and storytelling.

Local media and critics have lavished Cheng with attention ever since his first film Baby Face (私顏) hit the screens and won an award at the TFF when Cheng was a junior at National Taiwan University (國立台灣大學). However, Cheng seems impervious to all the glam and glitter, and is more focused than ever on creating quality cinematic art.

The product of a loving and nurturing family, the young director embodied the ideal son and student. He also came into his own as a sensitive and perceptive artist at an early age. “When I was little, there was a movie theater under our home. I saw lots of movies,” Cheng told the Taipei Times, adding, “my after-school entertainment was to watch rentals at home.”

In college, Cheng began to approach filmmaking as a possible career. “When I first watched films by Jim Jarmush, Wim Wenders, and Krzysztof Kieslowski, I was like, ‘Wow, they are so cool.’” Cheng began experimenting with videorecording and wrote the script of Baby Face. He failed to secure government funds to shoot his script, but that didn’t deter him; he took matters into his own hands.

“I submitted an advertisement to the Taipei Film Archives (台北電影資料館) recruiting actors and a crew to shoot a short movie.” That was when veteran director and cinematographer Yeh Si-guang (葉斯光) came to Cheng’s aid. Aware that Cheng lacked the knowledge and experience to make the film successfully, Yeh volunteered to guide him through the production process from start to finish.

“That’s how things work in this business. When a person says that he or she has a new project to make, everybody will help the person and boost his or her confidence. The people who choose to stay in the industry are truly passionate about cinema, and we always try our best to help each other,” Cheng said.

After Baby Face, Cheng set out to make the 16mm, 30-minute film Summer Dream (石碇的夏天), which won the best short film award at the Golden Horse Festival and the best feature film award at the TFF. The film’s plot involves a college student who meets a Canadian girl during the summer at his grandmother’s grocery store. In

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