The past year saw Taiwanese cinema broaden its horizons with record-breaking, big-budget genre flicks and a strong showing of auteurist potential.
The year’s highlight is Wei Te-sheng’s (魏德聖) Seediq Bale (賽德克．巴萊), a two-part, four-hour long action epic that centers on the little-known 1930 Wushe Incident (霧社事件), when tribal chief Mouna Rudo led warriors of the Seediq tribes in a violent uprising against their Japanese oppressors.
With a budget of US$25 million, Wei’s saga is the costliest Taiwanese production to date.
Though the end result is weighed down by second-rate CGI, the movie is a giant step forward for Taiwan’s filmmaking industry.
And for something completely different: You Are the Apple of My Eye (那些年，我們一起追的女孩), directed by best-selling writer Jiubadao (九把刀 or “Nine Knives”), tells a tale of puppy love based on a real-life romance that the author experienced in his youth, when he was known by his real name, Giddens Ko (柯景騰). The briskly paced blockbuster grossed more than NT$400 million at the box office in Taiwan and made its leads, Ko Chen-tung (柯震東) and Michelle Chen (陳妍希), immediate superstars.
Other box office hits include Lin Yu-hsien’s (林育賢) Jump Ashin! (翻滾吧！阿信), a motivational sports movie inspired by the life story of the director’s gymnast brother. Though the film’s narrative is uneven, Jump Ashin! is immensely entertaining and its leads, Eddie Peng (彭于晏) and Lawrence Ko (柯宇綸), turn in stellar performances.
Moving on to the year’s art house productions, director Lee Chi-yuarn (李啟源) strikes a fine balance between style and content in Blowfish (河豚), his newest romance movie. With scant dialogue, the film depicts a love story through acute feelings and nuanced emotions.
Other notable movies include prolific commercial and music-video director Chen Hung-i’s (陳宏一) second feature, Honey Pupu (消失打看), a meticulously crafted visual wonder filled with glittering imagery and enigmatic characters, and veteran commercial director Teng Yung-shing’s (鄧勇星) Return Ticket (到阜陽六百里), a slice-of-life tale of migrant workers living in Shanghai.
In the realm of documentaries, Hand in Hand (牽阮的手), by director couple Yen Lan-chuan (顏蘭權) and Juang Yi-tzeng (莊益增), threads together interviews, found footage, animation, archival records and manuscripts to bring to life the six-decade relationship between democracy activists Tien Meng-shu (田孟淑) and Tien Chao-ming (田朝明). The documentary is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of Taiwan’s democracy movement, and for people who don’t think it affects them.
Last, but not least, 10+10 boasts a list of creators that reads like a who’s who of Taiwanese cinema. This compilation of 20 short films is an ambitious joint effort by 10 established directors and 10 up-and-coming talents, each of whom contributed a five-minute work dealing with an issue that he or she thinks is unique to Taiwan. Participating directors include Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢), Chung Mong-hong (鍾孟宏), Cheng Wen-tang (鄭文堂) and Cheng Yu-chieh (鄭有傑).
With most of his village preferring to converse in Mandarin, opportunities are scant for 81-year-old Kacaw to use his mother language of Amis. But things are changing in his household — one day the family was having an animated discussion when his plucky four-year-old granddaughter Nikal bursts into the room: “You should talk in the mother tongue,” she tells them loudly in Amis. Another time, Nikal’s uncle Yosifu, a well-known artist, overheard her arguing with her grandmother over rights to the television remote — “in our mother tongue,” he tells me excitedly. “With such visible change, I can see hope
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