A drunken dad, lone grandson and a high-school girl doubling as a psychic medium are among the subjects explored at this year’s Golden Harvest Awards and Short Film Festival, which opens today with a lineup of 70 fictional, animated, experimental and documentary shorts by young Taiwanese filmmakers and film students.
Rewarding excellence in short filmmaking, 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 talent, and the short films funded by subsidies handed out by the Ministry of Culture each year.
For the Golden Harvest Awards, 54 films were selected from 214 entries to compete for over NT$5 million in prize money, in the categories of fiction, animation, documentary, experimental and student films. Led by renown director Cheng Wen-tang (鄭文堂), the panel of judges including scholar and documentary filmmaker Lee Daw-ming (李道明) and musician Lim Giong (林強) will announce the winners at the awards ceremony slated to take place at Legacy Taipei, located inside the Huashan 1914 Creative Park (華山1914), on March 29.
Though relatively unknown outside film circles, the event is said to be the cradle of Taiwanese cinema in which luminaries such as Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮) and Ang Lee (李安), as well as younger talents Lin Jing-jie (林靖傑) and Tom Shu-Yu Lin (林書宇), all found early recognition.
A look at this year’s lineup reveals the topics most frequently explored in the works of budding filmmakers, ranging from familial relations to the experience of growing up. One Night Home (烏歸), for example, tells of the surreal journey an alcoholic and neglecting father takes one night through the alleys of Greater Tainan in the hope of mending his relationship with his estranged son. In On the Air (為你點首歌), a discarded radio player becomes the connection between a teenage boy, obsessed with Jay Chou (周杰倫), and his grandmother, who supports the two by scavenging.
Youthful angst and yearning surface in The Pool Man (泳漾), a finely executed, visually polished work that centers on a portly young man who secretly watches the girl in his dream swimming in a pool from afar, while developing a friendship with a swimming coach with a hidden past.
Meanwhile, the aspiration and anxiety of young filmmakers come under the microscope in Catch the Dreamcatcher (捕夢網), in which a production assistant falls into a deep sleep in the middle of the work and dreams of becoming a director in a parallel universe.
Real-life baseball umpire Liu Po-chun (劉柏君) is also among the subjects popular with budding directors, inspiring not one but two films of different genres. While the documentary She is an Umpire (安派兒) reveals how difficult it is for Liu, a female athlete, to work in a male-dominated sport, The Busy Young Psychic (神算) is a fictional work based on Liu’s life experiences when, as a high-school girl, her ability to communicate with the spirits lands her a job as a medium, but all the young psychic cares to know is whether she should confess her love to one of her male teammates.
Usually the weakest part of the competition, the experimental section contains seasoned filmmaker and writer Cheng Li-ming’s (鄭立明) new work, Looking for Siraya (尋找木柵女), which starts a personal search for the nation’s past with photography of an Aboriginal mother and her baby son taken by Scottish photographer John Thomson during his trip to Taiwan in 1871.
Apart from the regular programs, the organizers put together a section of selected new works from past Golden Harvest winners. One that particularly grabs attention is Hsu Han-chiang’s (徐漢強) The Great Escape from Cafe City (小清新大爆炸). Screened earlier this year at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the fantastic comedy pokes fun at the popular lifestyle of “little happiness” (小確幸), which mostly involves youths riding bikes, taking selfies, hanging out at coffee shops and feeling content with their small life.
Most of the screenings are followed by question-and-answer sessions, where participating filmmakers discuss their works with audiences. Film professionals, including blockbuster filmmaker Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖), Umin Boya, the director of Kano, as well as film composers and musicians Chu Yueh-hsin (朱約信) and Owen Wang (王希文), will hold panel discussions during the 10-day event.
The combined festival runs until March 30, after which it will tour the rest of the country including Hsinchu, Miaoli, Yunlin, Greater Tainan, Pingtung, Hualien, Taitung and Kinmen until May 11. For more information, visit the event’s Web site at www.movieseeds.com.tw or its blog at blog.sina.com.tw/movieseeds.