Meet the next poster child for Taiwan’s filmmaking industry: the documentary.
Twelve made-in-Taiwan films are slated for mainstream release between July 11 and year’s end, according to the Ministry of Culture (MOC). But with the exception of Jay Chou’s (周杰倫) action musical The Rooftop (天台), none of the films are touting originality. Two — As the Winds Blow (戀戀海灣) and Apolitical Romance (對面的女孩殺過來) — are classic rom-coms, while Soul (失魂) is horror with the blood and cadavers you expect.
On the season’s roster, the most popular genre is the documentary and docudrama, which have minimal creative license.
“The documentary needs no fancy special effects — the director simply uses the camera to capture the actual story,” said Chu Wen-chin (朱文清), director of the MOC’s Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development (影視及流行音樂產業局).
BOX OFFICE HIT
But the genre seems to do well with local audiences, Chu added. “Taiwan’s movie-goers have embraced it, and documentaries have enjoyed great box office success,” he said.
This year, that success could be ready to repeat itself. 27 Degrees Celsius — Loaf Rocks (世界第一麥方ㄆㄤ) surpassed 10,000 pre-sale tickets three weeks before opening day. The film, about a baker who flourished overseas after rejection at home, is a bluntly rendered fable of how diligence can overcome political and economic adversity.
The other documentaries tell different stories, toward an equally uplifting end. Tang Chen-yu’s (唐振瑜) Battle Spirit (戰酒) shows how the people of Kinmen County rose from poverty by the careful cultivation of a new crop, sorghum, which is used to distill the fiery kaoliang liquor.
Bridge Over Troubled Water (拔一條河) is about children who win at tug-of-war even after their mountain hamlet is devastated by Typhoon Morakot, and Rock Me to the Moon (一首搖滾上月球) tells of six middle-aged fathers who tend to their disabled children and, in their spare time, form a rock band.
Yang Li-chou (楊力州), director of Bridge Over Troubled Water, thinks of the film as his response to a deepening need.
“It seems to me that today’s Taiwan desperately needs to stand up,” said Yang. “After Typhoon Morakot, the adults [of the village] couldn’t see a future anymore, but some children found a way to get back up on their feet. My documentary wants to encourage something like that,” he said.