Fri, Jul 02, 2010 - Page 13 News List

Brazil on the big screen

This year’s Taipei Film Festival features a lineup of 150 works, from feature films and documentaries to animations and shorts, with a focus on the cinema of South America’s biggest country



Carnival, football and samba are typical images of Brazil. But you won’t find any of those in the Brazilian program at this year’s Taipei Film Festival (台北電影節). What you will get are more than 20 feature and documentary films selected to show different facets of the South American country from the 1950s to the present day.

Among the festival’s rare finds is Rio, 40 Degrees (1955) by Nelson Pereira dos Santos, which illustrates the complexity of social relations through a semi-documentary portrait of five peanut venders in Rio de Janeiro. Santos’ black-and-white feature debut is often regarded as the first major work of Cinema Novo, a Brazilian new wave movement that flourished in the 1950s and 1960s.

Cinema Novo’s directors are noted for using the country’s impoverished hinterland and urban slums as settings for critiques and commentary on imperialism and neocolonialism. Glauber Rocha’s Earth Entranced (1967) and Antonio das Mortes (1969) are two Cinema Novo magnum opuses that allegorically portray the political scene after Brazil’s 1964 coup ushered in an era of authoritarianism that forced many artists into exile.

Festival curator Jane Yu (游惠貞) said this year’s Brazilian program presented a challenging task. The less-than-systematic preservation of films in Brazil meant it took more time and effort to track down certain movies. Brazil’s enthusiasm for football also presented an obstacle when organizers tried to invite the country’s filmmakers to Taipei. “You [get] responses like, ‘It’s World Cup month. Is there any way you can re-schedule your festival?’” Yu said.

Another central feature of this year’s festival is a retrospective for what would have been the 100th birthday of Chinese actress Run Lingyu (阮玲玉). The silent movie star made 29 movies before she took her own life in 1935 at the age of 25. The festival’s program features Run’s eight surviving movies on loan from the Beijing Film Archive (北京電影資料館).

Festival notes

What: 12th Taipei Film Festival (2010 台北電影節)

When: Through July 15

Where: Taipei Zhongshan Hall (台北市中山堂), 98 Yanping S Rd, Taipei City (台北市延平南路98號), Taipei Shin Kong Cineplex (台北新光影城), 4F, 36, Xining S Rd, Taipei City (台北市西寧南路36號4樓) and Governor Cinemas (台北總督影城), 219, Changan E Rd Sec 2, Taipei City (台北市長安東路二段219號)

Admission: NT$200 or NT$180 for students and people with disabilities, available through ERA ticketing outlets or online at

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Run’s legendary life was immortalized half a century after her death in Hong Kong director Stanley Kwan’s (關錦鵬) Center Stage (阮玲玉, 1992), featuring Maggie Cheung (張曼玉) as Run. Kwan’s film will also be screened at the festival.

To make Run’s silent movies more accessible to contemporary audiences, special screenings of three selected films will be accompanied by live music performances and a pien shih (辯士), or onstage narrator, a job from the silent movie era that involved explaining the movie and commenting on the plot.

Taipei Film Festival organizers faced criticism two years ago when they decided to focus on feature-length films at the Taipei Awards, an annual competition and an important platform for young filmmakers in Taiwan. The disputed changes included more award categories for feature-length films and limiting the top prize of NT$1 million, previously open to all types of film, to feature-length works.

In response to the criticism, the Taipei Film Festival changed the rules this year and made all feature, documentary, animation and short works eligible for award categories including best director, best cinematography and best editing, as well as the coveted top cash prize.

“Our film committee members think the festival should maintain its spirit, which encourages openness and creativity,” said festival director Hu Yu-feng (胡幼鳳).

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