The Venice International Film Festival has decided to ban the Republic of China (ROC) flag and demanded that Taiwanese films be labeled as from “China, Taiwan” following a “flag incident” that “angered” China in 2007, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.
“We were told by festival organizers that our demands for the use of ‘Taiwan’ would be in vain because of China’s protests four years ago,” Representative to Italy John Lai (賴建中) said in a telephone interview yesterday.
On Wednesday, the opening day of the 68th Venice International Film Festival, Lai met with a staff member of festival chairman Marco Muller to “express strong dissatisfaction” with the amended country-of-origin label “Chinese Taipei” for Seediq Bale (賽德克巴萊), which had originally been labeled as from “China, Taiwan.”
The meeting failed to convince the festival to revert to the “Taiwan” designation used by the film production company when it entered the film for competition, but Lai said he would continue to bring up the issue with Muller during the festival.
The organizers did not accept that “Art is art and should not be complicated by politics on any occasion” and that “issues like [the name controversy] should be dealt with in a flexible, rather than a rigid way,” Lai said.
The government sent a protest letter in late July to the festival, demanding the country designation be corrected to either “Republic of China” (ROC) or “Taiwan” within a month. However, it wasn’t until Monday that the designation was changed from “China, Taiwan” to “Chinese Taipei,” in line with the Olympic model. The ministry said the new appellation was still unsatisfactory.
The main reason the organizer did not consider “Taiwan” acceptable was because of an incident during the 64th festival in 2007, when the ROC flag was displayed and Ang Lee’s (李安) Lust, Caution (色戒), which won the Golden Lion, was labeled as being from Taiwan, Lai said.
Lust Caution was designated as a “Taiwan, China” production at the festival and festival organizers banned the display of flags of countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Italy, Lai said. The organizers also decided to use “China, Taiwan” for Taiwanese-made films from then on, he said.
Taiwan was not aware of those decisions until recently, he said.
Lai said he had been told to demand the organizer change “China, Taiwan” to either “ROC” or “Taiwan,” adding that the designation “Chinese Taipei” was suggested by the festival.
“We offered no other options than ‘ROC’ or ‘Taiwan,’ and we are not satisfied with ‘Chinese Taipei,’” he said.
Nevertheless, the organizers’ suggestion to use “Chinese Taipei” should be seen as a “gesture of goodwill,” he said.
He said the organizers told him that since “Chinese Taipei” was used at the Olympic Games and other international occasions, it was internationally recognized as a reference that made it easy to distinguish between Taiwan and China.
“During the negotiations, the organizer had other options, such as ‘China-Taiwan,’ among others, all of which would just confuse people,” Lai said.
Asked for comment, Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Philip Yang (楊永明) said the government did not accept the use of “Chinese Taipei” at the festival.
“‘Chinese Taipei’ is what we use to participate in UN-related organizations, but the Venice -International Film Festival is a non-government event,” Yang said, adding that accepting “Chinese Taipei” would set a precedent.
Taiwanese films have not faced similar problems at the Festival de Cannes in France, the Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin, Germany, or the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada, the GIO said — and had never faced such a problem in Venice before 2007.
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