Over the past decade, the Urban Nomad Film Festival has brought some of the most exciting and thought-provoking indie films from around the world to Taipei. Now in its 11th edition, the event runs from Thursday to April 22 at Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914). Films will cover topics ranging from writer William S. Burroughs to Filipino exploitation movies.
Though this year’s theme is ostensibly art and technology, Urban Nomad founders David Frazier and Sean Scanlan seek a broad range of submissions every year. Since launching in 2002, Urban Nomad has cultivated a youthful audience filled with socially aware, culturally savvy viewers.
Culture, technology and activism “are the three really big areas that are happening in terms of documentary right now,” says Frazier. “We’ve found a really awesome audience for these films in Taiwan. I don’t know if it was so obvious before we started showing these kinds of movies.”
This year’s festival starts on Thursday next week with The Taiwan Oyster, a US feature-length drama directed by Mark Jarrett, who lived in Taichung from 1999 to 2001. Two expat English teachers steal the body of a coworker after he dies in an accident and travel with it across Taiwan, determined to give their former colleague a proper burial and make it to Spring Scream on time.
“It is the first film that talks about what it is like to be an English teacher here, what it is like to consider life and death, and the reality of making your home in a foreign country. And it is totally about Taiwan,” says Frazier.
“If you look at Taiwanese cinema, it is all very much in the eyes of the Taiwanese. So to see a foreign director come here and produce a different interpretation of this country is very interesting and also needed,” he adds.
What: Urban Nomad Film Festival
When and where: Starts at 7:30pm on Thursday with a screening of The Taiwan Oyster, followed by a question-and-answer session with director Mark Jarrett. All screenings will take place in Building 3 East A (3東A ), Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914), 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號). The festival runs through April 22
Admission: Tickets are NT$220 per screening, or NT$170 with a valid student ID
On the net: Visit urbannomaden.blogspot.com for a complete schedule and to preorder tickets
Singaporean director Tan Siok Siok’s (陳惜惜) Twittamentary, which screens on April 22, offers viewers an interactive experience. The film originated as a crowd-sourcing experiment in which Twitter users were invited to contribute story ideas, videos and other media. Tan then took a road trip across the US to interview users of the microblogging platform, including a homeless woman, a prostitute who uses Twitter as a personal “GPS” and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. The film will be shown in dual screen mode with a “live” Twitter wall that users can contribute to using the hashtag #twittamentary.
Other films in this year’s lineup include Morgan Spurlock’s latest documentary The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, which tackles the ubiquity of product placement, marketing and advertising in US culture.
Recommended to Frazier by an Urban Nomad audience member, Kinshasa Symphony is about Central Africa’s only symphony orchestra, based in the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The German documentary, which will be shown on April 22, follows the lives of the musicians, many of whom are self-taught, as they live among the 10 million inhabitants of one of the world’s poorest cities. Directed by Claus Wischmann and Martin Baer, Kinshasa Symphony has already won more than 15 awards at film festivals across the world.
Australian director Mark Hartley pays tribute to Filipino genre movies of the 1970s and 1980s in Machete Maidens Unleashed! Cheap labor, exotic scenery and non-existent health and safety regulations created an anything-goes environment for exploitation filmmakers, including cult movie icons like Roger Corman, Joe Dante, John Landis, Sid Haig and Eddie Romero, all of whom are featured in interviews in the film. Machete Maidens Unleashed! screens on April 16 and April 21.