Thu, May 10, 2018 - Page 13 News List

A Taiwan-Italy silver screen romance

In a picture-postcard tiny Italian town, popular Taiwanese commercial films that are usually overlooked in Europe take the spotlight every April

By Paige Lim  /  Contributing reporter in Udine, Italy

Nostalgia-tinged youth romance dramas have certainly been all the rage at FEFF, starting with the premiere of Wei’s Cape No.7 (海角七號) in 2009. In recent times, audiences have been treated to the campus-set stories of Cafe. Waiting. Love (等一個人咖啡, 2014), Our Times (我的少女時代, 2015), At Cafe 6 (六弄咖啡館, 2016) and this year, Take Me to the Moon and All Because of Love (痴情男子漢, 2017).

Freelance writer David Pountain, who hails from London, was pleasantly surprised by the range of “fun and endearing” Taiwanese films in his last two visits to the festival.

“Previously I didn’t know much about Taiwanese cinema beyond the meditative, somewhat esoteric works from filmmakers like Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮),” he says.

“But last year I got to see the gleefully gruesome Mon Mon Mon Monsters, sweet musical 52Hz, I Love You and a brooding road movie like Godspeed (一路順風). It’s a shame that so many of these films still don’t get proper distribution in the West.”

Others such as Slovenian translator Sanja Struna believe Taiwanese films are fueled by “a sense of innocence” that Korean and Japanese cinema struggle to obtain.

“There is something natural and genuine about Taiwanese films that deserves attention. For instance, Take Me to the Moon has a story that could have easily been featured in a Korean or a Japanese movie, but the Taiwanese cast and production gave it a simpler, more innocent feel, which I liked a lot.”


FEFF has come a long way since its humble beginnings, but what continues to serve as the linchpin of its success is a passionate, close-knit community of Asian cinema fanatics who have supported the event over the last two decades.

“The audience here is always very enthusiastic, and they have a strong appreciation for film,” says Chang San-ling (張三玲), the festival’s Taiwan program consultant. “Especially for Taiwanese directors making their debut, I say it’s important for them to come to Udine to experience this kind of atmosphere at least once, to build up their confidence.”

At a weekday screening of Taiwanese animated feature On Happiness Road(幸福路上, 2017), director Sung Hsin-yin (宋欣穎) was nearly brought to tears when spectators erupted into a five-minute standing ovation. It was an affecting moment for the first-time filmmaker — even with critical acclaim, the animation reaped a dismal domestic box office gross in January.

“I’ve never received this kind of reception at other film festivals. I was really surprised at how many people came to see this film, and that a few even cried,” she recalls.

And despite containing specific cultural and historical references, at the core of the festival’s Taiwanese film picks reside themes with universal resonance. Sung says of On Happiness Road: “It’s about how you love, yet also hate, your homeland and family, and growing up under a wave of social and political change. It’s also about dreams being broken, thinking we might become ‘something’ when we grow up, but turning out to be nothing.”

Likewise, the world premiere of Taiwanese famed screenwriter Mag Hsu (徐譽庭) and music director Hsu Chih-yen’s (許智彥) family drama, Dear Ex (誰先愛上他的), left nary a dry eye in the theater.

“When the film ended, and the spotlight fell us, we felt like we were in a dream,” says Mag.

“It’s encouraging for us to realize,” she adds, “that in a little Italian town, there’s a festival paying so much attention to Asian films and filmmakers; that there are people far away looking forward to seeing our films.”

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