A Hong Kong film company has been ordered to return a government subsidy, with interest, over the controversy surrounding the 2008 movie Miao Miao (渺渺).
The teen romance movie was directed by Cheng Hsiao-tse (程孝澤), a young up-and-coming Taiwanese director, and was made in collaboration with Hong Kong-based Jet Tone Films. It starred Alice Ko (柯佳嬿) and Chang Yung-yung (張榕容).
Under an incentive program from the now-defunct Government Information Office (GIO) to help develop the domestic film industry, Jet Tone Films received a NT$4 million (US$134,934) subsidy for the production.
The government body revoked the subsidy and demanded the return of the money after the film was entered in the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival as a Hong Kong, rather than Taiwanese, production.
Miao Miao was later pulled from the film festival along with films from China and Hong Kong to protest the festival’s screening of a documentary about exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer.
As the Miao Miao project had received government funding, the decision to pull out of the film festival sparked outrage in Taiwan.
Jet Tone Films argued that the movie was withdrawn to avoid it being entangled in political disputes.
Under the GIO’s subsidy program, a GIO spokesperson said Jet Tone Films signed a contract on Dec. 30, 2005, supporting filmmaking in Taiwan.
“The contract stated that upon the completion of the movie, Miao Miao shall enter international film festivals as a Taiwanese production. If not, the subsidy shall be returned,” the spokesperson said.
He said the film company had violated the contract, by listing Miao Miao as a Hong Kong entry, and also withdrew from the festival in conjunction with Chinese films, and therefore has no grounds for keeping the subsidy.
A representative from Jet Tone Films said the contract did not cover the Melbourne International Film Festival, adding that the GIO should not misinterpret the conditions of the contract.
Also, as Miao Miao was withdrawn prior to the opening of the film festival, the film actually did not participate in the event, the representative said.
“Therefore the GIO should not ask for a return of the subsidy because of the political circumstances,” he said.
The Supreme Court said the film company had clearly violated the terms of the contract and must return the NT$4 million plus accrued interest.
In a press release on Thursday, the studio said it regretted the court’s decision, but would not give up its efforts to make movies in Taiwan and to discover talented actors.
Additional reporting by Tsou Nien-tsu