Fri, Jun 27, 2014 - Page 12 News List

16th Taipei Film Festival

The annual event will showcase more than 150 films from around the world with a focus on cinema from Poland

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

Ulrich Seidl, Animal Love.

Photo Courtesy of Taipei Film Festival

Kuo Ming-jung (郭敏容), the new program director of the Taipei Film Festival (TFF, 台北電影節), says she doesn’t want to make her mark by introducing structural changes out of respect for the audience who have grown familiar with the annual event, now in its 16th year. It is true that when one looks at this year’s festival, which distinguishes itself by focusing on the cinema of different countries and new filmmaking talents from around the world, nothing seems to have changed. But a closer look reveals an endeavor to challenge conventions and be spontaneous and experimental.

The conventional way people view films, for example, is challenged in the section titled Captives: Watching Animals, Watching Us, which contains several non-fiction works Kuo has seen in recent years and found intriguing, but was unable to fit into the regular categorization.

“In comprehensive film festivals like the Golden Horse and TFF, few attempts are made to introduce films using a concept. P.O.P Cinema [a film showcase at Spot — Taipei Film House] used to do it, but it was for a small niche audience ... I would like to bring something experimental to the big festival. I think that audiences in Taiwan, especially in Taipei, are mature enough, and you really don’t need to rely on popular films to attract them,” Kuo told the Taipei Times.

The selected works all shed a different light on the relations between animals and humans. In Masked Monkey — The Evolution of Darwin’s Theory, wild monkeys are captured and taken to the slums of Jakarta to entertain. Both wearing masks during the spectacular monkey shows, the animals and their trainers seem similar in that they are all subject to exploitation as they struggle to survive on the street.

Festival note

What: 16th Taipei Film Festival (2014台北電影節)

When: Today through July 19

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); Shin Kong Cineplex (新光影城), 4F, 36 Xining S Rd, Taipei City (台北市西寧南路36號4樓); Spot — Huashan Cinema (光點華山電影館), 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號)

Admission: Weekday matinee screenings (before 6pm) cost NT$150 and weeknight and weekend screenings are NT$200, NT$180 for students and NT$100 for senior citizens aged 65 and up and people with disabilities. Tickets are available through 7-Eleven ibon kiosks

On the net:

The act of looking between observers (humans) and the observed (animals) is further contested and blurred in Bestiaire by Canadian director Denis Cote, a meditative portrait of humans and non-humans at a Quebec safari park.


Cote, one of the directors in focus at this year’s festival, is another example of the new direction under Kuo’s leadership. Deemed as one of Canada’s daring auteurs, the Quebec-based director is known for using formal experimentation to create a contemplative cinematic landscape, exploring new ways of seeing through traversing the boundaries between fiction and documentary. The director’s debut feature Drifting States in 2005 already shows a distinctive aesthetic as the genre-bending work follows the voyage of a fictional character into an arctic town to weave together a compelling tale of alienation and isolation.

Wondering if the unique sensibility in Cote’s films can be understood and interpreted by a Taiwanese audience, Kuo, who studied European cinema in the UK for six years, says there is a distinct difference in preferences and tastes between the audience in Taiwan and Europe.

“As the gatekeeper, we [the curators] would more or less filter out films that we think Taiwanese audiences wouldn’t understand or feel familiar with. This is not to say that we would block them altogether. We would introduce few of such films at a time. The works I choose naturally reflect my own sensibility, and it remains to be seen if the audience will accept them or not,” Kuo says.

Cote will hold a question-and-answer session after the screening of Bestiaire on Tuesday.

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