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Taiwan in the Global Cinema Marketplace - LA Symposium

  • Date:2017-10-28

An industry panel focused on Taiwanese filmmaking in the global cinema marketplace was held at the Billy Wilder Theater of the Hammer Museum, on Sunday, October 22nd, as part of the inaugural film series, “What Time Is It There? Taiwanese Film Biennial," co-hosted by Taiwan Academy in Los Angeles and UCLA Film & Television Archive.

The industry panel aimed to provide realistic perspectives and a practical approach on the growth and development of the Taiwanese film industry, with topics encompassing the varying historical roles of Taiwanese cinema in the global marketplace from past, present and the future. Panelists invited to this event include Jane Yu, film critic and programmer of the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and Women Make Waves Film Festival; Chen Mei-Juin, director of “The Gangster’s Daughter”; Robert Cain, film producer of Pacific Bridge Pictures; Robert Chi, professor of Asian Languages & Cultures of UCLA and co-curator of the Taiwanese Film Biennial; Eugene Suen, second-generation Taiwanese American independent film producer. The panel was moderated by the co-curator of the Taiwanese Film Biennial, Paul Malcolm of the UCLA Television and Film Archive.

Preceding the industry panel was the North American premiere of documentary “Face Taiwan: Power of Taiwan Cinema” by director Hsiao Chu-Chen. A genuine re-telling of not only the struggles faced by the current generation of Taiwanese filmmakers, from the shadow cast upon them by the veteran directors of the Taiwanese New Wave Cinema movement in the 80s, legendary auteurs such as Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tsai Ming-liang, Ang Lee and Edward Yang; as well as how these upcoming filmmakers were also simultaneously supported and nurtured by the masters’ guidance and ingenuity. A consensus among the panelist was that the international impression of Taiwanese cinema still lingers on the remnant of the Taiwan New Wave era. As a result, the vibrant energy and brilliant potential of the new generation of Taiwanese filmmakers had been vastly underappreciated, underexposed and undervalued, with an abundance of innovative filmmaking coming from directors such as Chung Mong-Hong, Midi Z, Chen Yu-Hsun and Chang Tso-chi overlooked. Their works are being featured in the inaugural Taiwanese Film Biennial, to combat these exact issues of perception in the global cinema marketplace.

The influence of Taiwan New Cinema is undoubtedly deep and far-reaching; Chen Mei-Juin, director of the Biennial’s opening night film, “The Gangster’s Daughter”, expressed that much of her film editing process were directly inspired by Hou Hsiao-hsien. To the new generation of Taiwanese filmmakers, the veteran directors of Taiwan New Cinema not only motivated them creatively, but also helped them tremendously in tangible ways, passing down valuable experiences and methods of filmmaking directly, as well as always being accessible and available for these aspiring filmmakers to give them feedback and constructive criticism. Another key trait of Taiwanese cinema, as discussed extensively by the panel, is the high level of self-awareness and strong sense of identity; powerful and unique qualities in comparison to many other cinema scenes around the world. Storytelling from these filmmakers are often fully immersed in distinct visual and scriptwriting elements specifically Taiwanese, and these grassroot methods and subject matters resonate well internationally, standing out especially in a global cinema scene saturated with generic Hollywood influences. The fact that these creators in Taiwan fully embraces the diversity on the island and aim to pinpoint those unique aspects of Taiwanese society, culture and landscape, is creating a body of works that feature the most fascinating, exotic and unique stories of Taiwan, creating cinematic experiences completely fresh to the eyes of international audiences.

As the development of the Taiwan film progresses, the interlocutors agreed unanimously affirms that the support by the Taiwan government on the notion of facilitation and incentives provided to its creators continue to radiate ripples. In fact, most Taiwan film creators had more or less received aid in the production of varied aspects. Curator Mao Huizhen believed that the Taiwan government regards films as cultural rather than industrial, therefore, the subsidy. Thus, high quality of art films from earlier years emerged. Recent years, the subsidized films in Taiwan begin to emerge nationwide, illustrating the relativity of investment while truly demonstrated the utilization of subsidy. So, as a whole, eventual promotion of industrial development will be duly anticipated.

Regarding the development of the Taiwan film industry, the panelists unanimously affirms the dedicated support from the Taiwanese government, in being the catalyst of making most of the domestic production possible through their extensive network of grants and incentives, undoubtedly having had an immense and consistent impact on the development of Taiwanese cinema. In fact, the panelists describe that almost all Taiwanese film creators rely on financial aid directly from central or local government in the film production process, to varying degrees. Jane Yu believes that the Taiwanese government historically regards filmmaking as an integral cultural activity, rather than an industrial component, therefore facilitated a large volume of high quality arthouse films that saw international success and recognition at film festivals in the past decades. In recent years however, the policies regarding filmmaking had start to take into account box office performances as well as return on investment, signaling a transition into an equal consideration of promoting industry growth and nurturing innovation and artistic excellence. Overall, the panel shows general optimism toward this new direction as observed by both the filmmakers and producers on the panel.

At the panel’s concluding Q&A portion, the audiences were still very curious about the historical fluctuations in the development of the industry of Taiwanese cinema, raising numerous questions regarding the government's subsidy program and screening quota systems, development differences between the artistically-oriented films and genre films, as well as many other topics, expressing a high level of engagement. Looking toward the future, propelled and challenged by the success of the Taiwanese New Wave, the current film industry in Taiwan will strive for more opportunities abroad and reinvigorate its creative energy to develop even more films that crosses the barrier between the arthouse and genre film labels, finding harmony between commercial viability and artistic merit.

According to Taiwan Academy of Los Angeles, Taiwan Film Biennial continues to provide a series of events, including the upcoming “Conversation with the Curators “ on November 2nd, 2017 with Paul Malcolm and Robert Chi, co-curators of the film series. On November 5th, 2017, we will continue the series with the screening of the “ La Moulin “ with its director Huang Ya-Li in person.