After a resurgence in 2008 on the back of the success of Cape No. 7 (海角七號), Taiwanese cinema quietly consolidated in 2009. While there were no great successes at the box office there were a number of quality films released.
The Taiwanese films I saw and reviewed in 2009 were Detours to Paradise (歧路天堂), Beautiful Crazy (亂青春), A Place of One’s Own (一席之地), Yang Yang (陽陽), No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti (不能沒有你), Tears (眼淚) and Miss Kicki (霓虹心). Among these I think Yang Yang, No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti and A Place of One’s Own stood out.
A key point is that many directors struck a good balance between artistic merit and commercial value. However, this still hasn’t translated into success at the box office. While the government has provided financial support to the film industry, there is perhaps a need for more intervention by mandating the screening of more local content in cinemas.
Taiwanese directors also continued to make their mark internationally. Tsai Ming-liang’s Face, set in the Louvre Museum in Paris, continued his work as an auteur. Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock looked back to the momentous rock festival at Woodstock in 1969. Dan Bloom mused about what Ang Lee’s film meant for Taiwan.
There were a number of other interesting movies that I didn’t get the chance to see or review. Prince of Tears (淚王子) was a drama by Hong Kong director Yonfan set in the White Terror period, Hear Me (聽說) a romance with a deaf character released around the time of the Deaflympics and Somewhere I Have Never Travelled (帶我去遠方), a coming of age story set in small town Taiwan.
The Taipei Film Festival and Golden Horse Film Festival continued as the major festivals with large and diverse programs. There was also a wide range of smaller film festivals. I enjoyed the biennial Ethnographic Film Festival especially for the two documentaries about the Atayal by Pilin Nabu. Urban Nomad continued to develop as a festival for alternative short films and documentaries.
2010 will see the release of Formosa Betrayed which has got positive reviews from its screenings in North American film festivals. Although it is a little ironic that this highly anticipated film about Taiwan was produced in the USA and Thailand. Production on Wei Te-sheng’s Seediq Bale is now underway with a planned release date of mid-2011.