Fri, Mar 15, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Tsai Ming-liang returns in triumph

CAMPAIGN The veteren director is back in Taipei, not only to promote his newest film, but to change the viewing habits of Taiwanese movie lovers

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang poses in front of posters from his past movies. Tsai is back in Taiwan to promote his newest movie What time is it there? and to persuade movie-goers to embrace homegrown productions.

PHOTO: WEI CHIA-CHIH, TAIPEI TIMES

Malaysian-born Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮) is showing that internationally recognized Taiwanese films aren't always ignored at home.

The premier of his acclaimed film What time is it there? (你那邊幾點) packed a Taipei County theater last night and attracted a number of political heavyweights.

"We are set to promote a campaign to encourage everyone to love watching our own films," said Tchen Yu-chiou, (陳郁秀), chairperson of the Council for Cultural Affairs. Her remarks prompted Tsai to give her a big, tearful hug amid a round of applause.

Tchen then announced that the government will select four theaters in Taiwan's major cities to be "local film theaters" (國片戲院), screening only Taiwanese films.

Tchen and Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), Taipei County commissioner, gave Tsai a red envelope containing NT$1,500 cash to pay for their tickets.

"This is symbolic," Su said. "We hope audiences will actually pay to come and see the film."

Last night's premiere at the Fu-ho theater was the first to take place in a Taipei County theater. Su said he hoped the premiere would help movie theaters in his constituency.

"You have provided a lot of encouragement and excitement for the film business in Taipei County," Su said.

Tsai's film company, Homegreen, is also based in the county.

Lo Wen-chia (羅文嘉), a DPP legislator and former deputy director of the Council for Cultural Affairs, also expressed his support for Tsai's film.

"The reason Taiwan's film industry is facing such a depression is because the government has surrendered in the face of an all-out advance by Hollywood films," Lo said.

According to statistics from the Government Information Office, the market share of Hollywood films in Taiwan has risen to over 99 percent.

Yesterday's audience, comprised of mainly college students and middle-class Taipei citizens, was the result of a month-long campaign that Tsai conducted himself.

Tsai began with a series of lectures at university campuses around Taiwan. The actors and crew of the film traveled with Tsai to more than a dozen cities in Taiwan. He even showed up at the Taipei International Book Exhibition last month, giving away autographs to attract interest in the film.

"It's an experiment to find out where my market is," Tsai said. Sales of advance tickets for the film have reached more than NT$1 million, a huge amount for a local film.

What time is it there?, Tsai's fourth film, won the technical prize at last year's Cannes Film Festival. It also won the jury's grand prize for best director and best cinematography at the prestigious Chicago Film Festival.

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