Prima Donna (當家花旦)
A documentary following the preparations for the 15th anniversary performance by the Snow White Entertaining Troupe (白雪綜藝劇團), an amateur troupe that has established itself as a nonpareil of local drag shows. The four men who are at the center of the show, all have daytime jobs, but when it comes to celebrating 15 years behind the footlights, they take every aspect, from the shade of eyeliner to the choreographing of the light show, with the utmost seriousness. The enduring popularity of this drag show provides unexpected insight into normally conservative Taiwan, and although there is something of the behind the scenes concert movie about it, Prima Donna is much more about being, and expressing, who you are.
The Triangle Land (幸福三角地)
A founding figure of Taiwan New Wave cinema, director-cinematographer Chen Kun-ho (陳坤厚) made several important works including Growing Up (小畢的故事, 1983), His Matrimony (結婚, 1985) and Osmanthus Alley (桂花巷, 1987). His most recent film is a venture in nostalgia for a rural Taiwan that is gradually disappearing, telling the story of a young boy growing up in a dysfunctional family who realizes that he must grow up fast if he is to escape the cycle of acrimony and shame that surrounds him and win the love of a new US-born student at his school. Heavy on sentiment and manipulative in manner, the cast list of young celebrities will still draw audiences.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Beasts of the Southern Wild has elicited words like “wondrous” and “magnificent” from critics, many of whom regard it as one of the best films of 2012. The heroine, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis), is destined to be an icon of young adult culture together with the likes of Kaitness Everdeen of Hunger Games and Princess Mirida of Brave. Hushpuppy lives with her father Wink (Dwight Henry) in a small community at the end of the world. When Wink contracts a mysterious illness, nature flies out of whack, temperatures rise, and the ice caps melt, unleashing an army of prehistoric creatures called aurochs. Hushpuppy has to be strong to face these dangers as she embarks on a journey to find her mother. The flood of contemporary hot topics, from climate change to the importance of family might prove too much for some, but the film manages to avoid the worst pitfalls of moralizing tales.
Nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the 2012 Oscars, Monsieur Lazhar has been sweeping up awards on the art-house festival circuit. The film explores the complex relationship between an Algerian immigrant, who is hired to replace a popular teacher who committed suicide in her classroom, and his students, teasing through the complex and fragile bonds of trust and respect that exist in a classroom. It also looks inward into the title character’s own experience of profound grief. The leading role is taken by Mohamed Fellag, whose performance has won lavish praise from critics for its sensitivity and humor (Fellag is a comedian and himself an exile from Algeria), and the film, written and directed by Philippe Falardeau gains much of its power from not asking specific questions, but rather simply looking at a situation with sympathy and humility.
The advent of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has spawned a new genre of fantasy and science fiction in which males (invariably white) argue that it is an “opportunity” or that the government should open up and let the virus run its course. After all, Omicron is “mild,” as numerous studies are now showing, and even more so among the previously infected and/or vaccinated population. It’s time, they argue, to accept that COVID-19 will be with us forever and re-open the country. The government must face reality, must “move from denial to acceptance” as one recent poster on LinkedIn put
It’s as if the outside world conspired to rob Yanshuei (鹽水) of its importance and prosperity. As waterways filled with silt, access to the ocean — which had made it possible for this little town, several kilometers from the sea in the northern part of Tainan, to become a major entrepot — was lost. The north-south railway, a key driver of economic development during the 1895-1945 period of Japanese rule, never arrived. Then, in the 1970s, the sugar industry went into terminal decline. Like Taiwan’s other old settlements, Yanshuei used to be a walled town. The defensive barrier is long
Are you in control of your smartphone or is it in control of you? Sometimes it is difficult to tell. One minute you might be using FaceTime to chat with loved ones or talking about your favorite TV show on Twitter. Next, you’re stuck in a TikTok “scroll hole” or tapping your 29th e-mail notification of the day and no longer able to focus on anything else. We often feel like we can’t pull ourselves away from our devices. As various psychologists and Silicon Valley whistleblowers have stated, that is by design. Many people are making efforts to resist and step away
Who on earth wants fish tank wastewater, chicken poo, tumble-dryer lint, loo roll tubes, “a plaster mould of a Komodo dragon’s foot” or half a broken toilet? No one, you might think, but the Buy Nothing community begs to differ: these are all real “gifts” snapped up by more than 5 million members worldwide, who give away their unwanted items in the local community. It’s living proof that “one person’s trash is another’s treasure,” as Alisa Miller, the administrator of the group puts it. Miller offered her daughter’s broken toy birdcage with little hope anyone would want it; it was snapped