Director Tsai Ming-liang’s (蔡明亮) latest film, Stray Dogs (郊遊), suffered the same fate as Taiwanese film Seediq Bale at this year’s Venice Film Festival after the event organizers listed the 138-minute movie under “Chinese Taipei.”
The film, which centers on a homeless family living on the edges of modern society, is the only Chinese-language movie vying for the Golden Lion at the 70th Venice Film Festival, which began on Wednesday and runs through Sept. 7.
The Malaysian-born, Taiwan-based auteur has hinted that Stray Dogs could be his final work, after producing a number of award-winning films, including Vive L’amour (愛情萬歲), which won him his first Golden Lion in 1994, and The River (河流), which garnered the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival in 1997.
“We chose ‘Taiwan’ as the country of origin for the film when signing up for the festival this year, and ‘Chinese Taipei’ was not even among the options,” Tsai’s assistant said, adding that another of Tsai’s works, Diamond Sutra (金剛經), which was presented at the closing ceremony of last year’s film festival, was also identified as coming from “Chinese Taipei.”
In 2007, Help Me Eros (幫幫我愛神), a movie Tsai helped produce, was classified as from “China, Taiwan” at the film extravaganza.
“Of course the film represents Taiwan, but it is politicians rather than movie producers who should speak up in situations like this,” Tsai said at the time.
Taiwanese Oscar-winning film director Ang Lee (李安) suffered similar name woes at the same festival that year, when his spy thriller Lust, Caution (色，戒) was listed under “China-USA.”
The event organizers only agreed to change the classification to “USA-China-Taiwan” after Lee lodged a protest over the designation.
There was a diplomatic outcry in 2011, after Seediq Bale, a work by Taiwanese director Wei Te-sheng (魏德聖), was listed by the festival’s organizers under “China, Taiwan.”
The contentious designation was later changed into “Chinese Taipei” after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs negotiated with the organizers.
The classification of “Chinese Taipei” is still perceived by many as a degradation of Taiwan’s sovereignty.
However, the Ministry of Culture has found the designation satisfactory amid a spate of name woes in the international arena in recent years caused by objections from China, and it appears to have no plans to file a protest over the matter.