Often neglected by mainstream festivals and lacking regular showcases of its own, short filmmaking will have a moment to shine as the annual Golden Harvest Awards and Short Film Festival is slated to open next Friday, featuring a lineup of 65 fictional, animation, experimental and documentary shorts by Taiwanese filmmakers.
Organized by the Chinese Taipei Film Archive (國家電影資料館) under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture (MOC), the double-bill event is composed of the Golden Harvest Awards (金穗獎), the oldest film festival in Taiwan and an important platform for new talents and film students, and the lesser-known showcase which went by the name of Alternation Film Festival (交替影展), before it joined hands with the Golden Harvest last year, which screens short films funded by subsidies handed out by the MOC.
For the Golden Harvest Awards, 53 films were selected from 210 entries to compete for a total of NT$3 million in prize money, in the categories of fiction, animation, documentary, experimental and student films. The awards ceremony will take place at Legacy Taipei, located inside the Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914), on March 30.
Many of the country’s established directors tried out their skills at the Golden Harvest when they were budding filmmakers. Past winners include Ang Lee (李安), Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮), Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖) and documentary veteran Yang Li-chou (楊力州).
Unlike previous years, experimental cinema has done surprisingly well at this year’s competition with six works making it to the nomination list. The one that has grabbed the most attention is new-media artist Niu Chun-chiang’s (牛俊強) Even They Never Met (即使她們從未相見). Developed from the project Niu did during his residency at an artist village in Los Angeles a couple of years ago, the film weaves together monologues of eight women, each of whom is given a photograph of a stranger by the artist and asked to imagine the life she shares with the stranger and her memory about the person. The work eloquently illustrates how experimental filmmaking is itself a contemporary art form.
In the more conventional realm of the fictional cinema, the subject of familial relations ranging from daughter-mother relationships to skipped-generation families is among the topics most frequently explored in the works of young filmmakers. Blessed with a solid cast that features Indie folk singer Enno Cheng (鄭宜農) and veteran actress Pao Cheng-fang (鮑正芳), Daily Life (過站) is noted for its well-scripted simplicity in telling a slice-of-life tale of a daughter returning home to visit her mother during the course of one day.
Also focusing on motherly love, Last Day of the Year (煙火) won praise for its ability to convey nuanced emotions and mood shifts through a simple story about a mother’s wish to spend the New Year’s Eve with her grown-up son.
Apart from familial matters, school bullying is another recurrent theme at the Golden Harvest. This year’s The Coward (救命) visits the territory of teen brotherhood and betrayal through the story of a high-school student who is both an aggressor and a victim of aggression.
On a much lighter note, The Peacefuland (逃What源記) shows the ambition and creativity of young director Yeh Tsung-hsuan (葉宗軒), who draws on the youthful anxiety of getting into a good college to paint an imaginative adventure of a teen who makes his great escape from the reunion dinner on Lunar New Year’s Eve.
In the animated domain, award-winning artist and professor Jack Shih (史明輝) puts forth his first 3D work The Solidary Pier (寂寞碼頭), which draws inspiration from Shih’s memory of his late grandfather, who was a fisherman and had gone missing during a fishing trip. The technically polished, 22 minute-long animation tells of a lone, old fisherman who is forced to take action when a giant shark and a strange woman put an end to his solitary life.
As most of the screenings are followed by question-and-answer sessions, audiences will have a chance to talk to the participating filmmakers about their works in person. Film professionals, including veteran director Arthur Chu (瞿友寧) and blockbuster filmmaker Jiu Ba-dao (九把刀), as well as independent film producer Li Ya-mei (李亞梅), will hold panel discussions and lectures during the 10-day event.
The combined festival runs until March 31, after which it will tour the rest of the country including Yunlin, Pingtung, Hualien and Kinmen until May 4. For more information, visit the event’s Web site at www.movieseeds.com.tw or its blog at blog.sina.com.tw/movieseeds.