[ FILM FESTIVAL ] The next big things

Budding directors show off their creativity and vision at the Golden Harvest Awards, which start today

By Ho Yi  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, May 08, 2009 - Page 13

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Users of a bulletin board system (BBS) restlessly await the moment when the hacker, Intoxicant, unleashes a series of promised attacks. A man suffering from manic depression follows the director’s advice and starts growing plants in the City of Technology.

Stories ranging from the fantastic to the mundane are played out at the Golden Harvest Awards (金穗獎). Now in its 31st year, the oldest film festival in Taiwan remains an important platform for young directors and film students to show their raw creativity and vision.

Thirty-five films selected from among 177 entries will compete for a total of NT$3 million in prize money, in the categories of fiction, animation, documentary, experimental and student films.

The thin line between reality and virtuality is neatly crossed in the 35mm short Intoxicant (匿名遊戲) by Hsu Han-chiang (徐漢強). In the story about the threat of a viral attack on a BBS, the virtual realm acquires a real-life representation as IDs are portrayed by real persons and the BBS takes the form of a lecture hall. Featuring up-and-coming actors Sandrine Pinna (張榕容) and King Chin (金勤), the film ingenuously blends computer culture with the spy genre and throws in plenty of humorous moments when the characters banter in wacky chat-room language or freeze when making incorrect commands.

Like Hsu, currently a postgraduate at Shi Hsin University (世新大學), Cheng Wei-hao (程偉豪) is another talented young filmmaker who deserves close attention. His film, You Are Not Alone (搞什麼鬼), is a hilarious, self-reflecting parody on the ghost story genre. Plots and images from horror classics such as The Eye (見鬼), One Missed Call and Ju-on: The Grudge are more about the making of a ghost movie rather than giving audiences a good scare. The tension and drama between what is real and what is fictional is amusingly revealed throughout the story about a director writing a script for a ghost flick.

Tsai Tsung-han’s (蔡宗翰) My Grandma (曬棉被的好天氣) serves as a good example of how to tell a simple story well by using the short-film format. An accomplished scriptwriter for Winds of September (九降風) and What on Earth Have I Done Wrong?! (情非得已之生存之道), Tsai uses slices-of-life dialogue to portray a lovable grandmother and her two grown-up grandsons.

Also notable for its well-scripted simplicity is The Skirt (裙子) by Wang Tung-yun (王同韻). Nothing really takes place in the film, which tells of a high school girl’s budding feeling of love for her best friend. It is through the seemingly insignificant moments in life that nuanced emotions and mood shifts are revealed and remembered.

The man-meets-woman-in-big-city tale is played out by a tow truck driver and an art teacher in Chiang Hsiu-chiung’s (姜秀瓊) Hopscotch (跳格子). The cast of non-professional actors add a realistic feel to the slightly forced plot with a surprising twist at the end. For his role as the driver, Chiang Sheng-min (姜聖民) won the award of Best New Performer at last year’s Golden Horse Awards (金馬獎).

In order to bring new perspectives into the competition, the festival added a bloggers’ recommendation award three years ago. This year’s winner is The Skirt, while both Intoxicant and You Are Not Alone received special mention.

Following the hype and excitement surrounding Cape No. 7 (海角七號), the festival is also organizing a program on Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖), a three-time Golden Harvest award winner. The lineup includes three shorts made between 1995 and 1997, as well as the director’s now well-known five-minute film about his ambitious historical project Seediq Bale (賽德克巴萊), which is currently being made into a feature film.

Wei’s 1999 feature debut About July (七月天) shows the director as an effective storyteller infused with a strong New Wave sensibility. The visuals are simple yet poignant and are able to convey the restless emotion in this coming-of-age story about a country boy.

Up-and-coming directors Lee Yun-chan (李芸嬋) and Cheng Hsiao-tse (程孝澤) will share their experiences in commercial moviemaking tomorrow at Eslite Xinyi Store. Experimental filmmaker and academic Tony Wu (吳俊輝) will examine the relationship between experimental filmmaking and contemporary art on May 12.

The festival runs until May 17, after which it will tour the rest of the country until the end of September.

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