With record-breaking blockbuster Cape No. 7 (海角七號), 2008 saw a renaissance of Taiwanese cinema, which had been in decline since the early 1990s. The momentum has been maintained this year with more newcomers arriving on the scene. If new works by this younger generation of filmmakers are any indication, the auteur age that saw the rise of art-house masters such as Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢) and Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮) is a thing of the past. What follows is a new breed of filmmakers whose top priority is to tell a good story.
On the commercial end, Invitation Only (絕命派對), 25-year-old director Kevin Ko’s (柯孟融) feature debut, is a competent addition to the genre of horror films made popular by the Saw and Hostel series. More tender in tone, Norwegian-Taiwanese Hakon Liu’s (劉漢威) feature debut Miss Kicki (霓虹心) is a Taiwanese-Swedish co-production that mixes a road-movie style with a coming-of-age tale.
A considerable amount of diversity is shown in the directors’ choices of subject matter. The country’s new immigrants and migrant workers from Southeast Asian countries take center stage in film critic Rich Lee’s (李奇) debut feature Detours to Paradise (歧路天堂). Documentary director Kuo Chen-ti (郭珍弟) touches upon the life of the elderly (who are often overlooked in mainstream Taiwanese cinema) in dance genre flick Step by Step (練•戀•舞), which weds star charisma with comedy.
Taiwan’s tradition of producing strong documentaries continues with Wuna Wu’s (吳汰紝) Let’s Fall in Love (尋情歷險記), a humorous take on modern-day match-making. Baseball Boys (野球孩子) by Shen Ko-shang (沈可尚) and Liao Ching-yao (廖敬堯) dispenses with the dramatic moments and narrative climaxes popularized by documentaries such as Jump! Boys (翻滾吧！男孩) and My Football Summer (奇蹟的夏天) to dwell on snippets of everyday life in its portrait of a group of young athletes on the cusp of adolescence.
But the film deserving the most kudos this year is undoubtedly actor-turned-director Leon Dai’s (戴立忍) second feature No Pudeo Vivir Sin Ti (不能沒有你), which swept last month’s Golden Horse Awards (金馬獎) by winning in five categories including Best Feature Film, Best Director and Outstanding Taiwanese Film of the Year.
A long-term collaborator with director Singing Chen (陳芯宜), Lou Yi-an (樓一安) hands in his feature debut A Place of One’s Own (一席之地), a socially conscious film with a multi-threaded narrative. Like Chen, Lou is a name to watch, showing great potential in his insightful observations on contemporary Taiwanese society. However, Lou’s debut displays weakness that also can be found in Chen’s God Man Dog (流浪神狗人). In dealing with modern existential angst, both films lack subtlety, and the anguish of their protagonists comes across as more constructed than felt. The pair will be irresistible if they overcome this defect.
Box office success Hear Me (聽說) cements up-and-coming director Cheng Fen-fen’s (鄭芬芬) status as a whiz kid of youthful romance. An award-winning scriptwriter, Cheng has a flair for storytelling and knows how to turn this talent to her advantage when yarning lighthearted romances starring young pop idols.
After his rather messy feature debut Do Over (一年之初), director Cheng Yu-chieh (鄭有傑) returns with well executed Yang Yang (陽陽), a coming-of-age story tailor-made for half-Taiwanese, half-French star Sandrine Pinna (張榕容). Shot mostly in long takes with handheld, fluid camera and natural lighting, the film excels in a masterful control of cinematography and succeeds in creating a complicated heroine through a simple, focused narrative.
Finally, let’s not forget an old master who made Taiwanese cinema world famous. Tsai Ming-liang makes it to the Louvre with Face (臉) (runner up for Best Feature Film at Golden Horse), a deeply personal yet ambitious project posited as a cinematic dream in which the boundaries between life and film are blurred. With Face, Tsai once again proves that he is an artist like no other.
It has been 26 years since Nicholas Gould hosted his last Issues and Opinions radio show for ICRT a recording studio on Roosevelt Road. He remembers the familiar ‘whoosh’ as the door to the soundproof room closes and recognizes the carpet, but the recording equipment is gone, with half of the space being used for storage. Gould is filled with nostalgia as he greets his guests, two financial writers who are here to discuss Taiwan’s post-COVID-19 economy for his new podcast, Taiwan Matters. Gould had been thinking of revisiting his old career for a while, but being allowed access to
The 22nd Taipei Arts Festival (臺北藝術節) opens tonight with three productions, a slightly scaled-down pandemic version that seeks to keep its tradition of big ideas, challenging programs and international connections alive and moving forward in an increasingly uncertain world. The theme of this year’s festival is “Super@#S%?” — as good a term as any when descriptives and superlatives seem not only inadequate, but somewhat irrelevant in a world where so many people cannot imagine being able to return to theaters, either as performers or audience members — they are too worried about having a job and their health. Technically, however, it is
Shuanglianpi (雙連埤) is both a Hakka outpost and a place of great ecological interest. The conjoined body of water from which it gets its name is the centerpiece of the 17.16-hectare Shuanglianpi Wildlife Refuge (雙連埤野生動物保護區). No waterways of significance fill or drain this scenic lake in Yilan County’s Yuanshan Township (員山鄉). During the 1895 to 1945 period of Japanese rule, the colonial authorities — struggling to secure Taiwan’s foothills — encouraged Han people to settle in areas adjacent to indigenous communities. Around 1910, a 49-year-old Hakka pioneer called Tsou Cheng-sheng (鄒成生) from what’s now Taoyuan decided to begin farming at
Wild Sparrow (野雀之詩) is simple and extremely slow paced, told through the eyes of Han (Kao Yu-hsia, 高於夏), an introspective, shy grade schooler who lives with his great-grandmother in the verdant countryside. Han has a fascination with sparrows, which are either flying high in the sky or trapped in cages and nets, providing a constant metaphor throughout the film. In the most ironic scene, a man catches the birds just to charge people to set them free again, taking advantage of Buddhists who engage in the ritual of “releasing” animals from captivity. Han takes a badly injured sparrow home and