Voices in the Clouds: a search for identity and belonging

Voices in the Clouds poster

Voices in the Clouds (眾族同聲) had its Taiwan premiere at the closing of the Urban Nomad Film Festival in Taipei on Sunday night. The documentary is a moving and personal story of a man’s search for identity and belonging.

Tony Coolidge was born in Taiwan, but moved to the United States of America with his mother and step-father at a young age. While growing up in the USA his mother kept details of her life in Taiwan hidden. She encouraged her children to speak English so they could fit in. A year after his mother passed away from cancer Tony returned to Taiwan to meet his mother’s family. Only then did he discover that his family were indigenous people belonging to the Atayal group.

After making this discovery Tony returned to Taiwan again several years later along with his younger brother and Taiwanese wife to further explore his roots and connections with Taiwan’s indigenous people. His journey of self-discovery takes him into indigenous communities around Taiwan. Continue reading

Film festival to promote dialogue on death penalty issue

The Murder by Numbers Film Festival  (殺人影展3:亞洲與世界的對話), featuring films and documentaries on the theme of the death penalty, is on from 8-10 October in Taipei. It will be followed by screenings in Hsinchu and on university campuses later in the month. The festival coincides with the World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10 October.

The festival is the third to be organised by the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (台灣廢除死刑推動聯盟). The first festival was held in 2004 and the second in 2007. The theme of the third festival is a dialogue between Asia and the world. Asia is one of the regions of the world where the death penalty is most frequently carried out. Taiwan had an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty from December 2005 until April this year when four prisoners were executed. These executions again brought the death penalty debate into the spotlight and showed that Taiwanese society is deeply divided on the issue. Events like this film festival provide an important opportunity for people to engage in dialogue about the death penalty issue. Continue reading

2010 Taipei Film Festival

The 12th Taipei Film Festival (台北電影節) opens on Friday 25 June and runs until 15 July. The venues for the screenings are Zhongshan Hall (中山堂) and the Shinkong Cineplex (新光影城) in the Ximending area and Governor Cinemas (總督影城) in Chang’an East Road. This year’s city in focus is Rio de Janeiro. There is also a section for 3D films reflecting a recent trend in cinema.

The Taipei Awards section contains a good line up of films, documentaries, shorts and animations by Taiwanese directors. Most of the feature films have already been released so it is a good chance to catch them in the cinema if you missed them first time around. These include Tears (眼淚), Au Revoir Taipei (一頁台北), Tsai Ming-liang’s Face (臉), Hear Me (聽說), Monga (艋舺), Pinoy Sunday (台北星期天) and Taipei Exchanges (第36個故事). Forthcoming films in the Taipei Awards are Seven Days in Heaven (父後七日), The Fourth Portrait (第四張畫) and Everlasting Moments (靈魂的旅程). Everlasting Moments is directed by Chen Wen-bin (陳文彬). It is a follow up to his short film about Atayal culture, Msgamil: Once Upon a Time (走過千年). In this film an ancient Atayal warrior goes to the city.

There are also free screenings at the Taipei Cinema Park (台北市電影公園). These begin with Taipei Live! from 25 June culminating in the awards on 1 July. On the 2-4 July there is Family Taipei. The Taipei Film Festival in cooperation with the Goethe Institute is presenting a series of films on green issues  from 9-11 July. All the events at the Taipei Cinema Park begin at 7:00 pm.

Most films in the festival have both English and Chinese subtitles, but check the website to be sure. Tickets are available at the venues throughout the festival.

Taiwan premiere of The Cove

The 2010 Urban Nomad Film Festival (城市遊牧影展) began on Friday night with the Taiwan premiere of The Cove at the Armed Forces Cultural Centre in Taipei. The Cove won the 2010 Academy Award for best documentary and the premiere was ahead of the documentary’s general release in Taiwan on 7 May. Continue reading

Taiwanese cinema in 2009

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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. Continue reading

2009 Taipei Film Festival

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The 11th Taipei Film Festival (台北電影節) is on from 26 June to 12 July. This year the film festival venues are all conveniently located in Ximending. Most screenings will be at the Shinkong Cineplex (新光影城) and Zhongshan Hall (中山堂). There are also some outdoor screenings at the Taipei Cinema Park (台北電影主題公園) and a special exhibition about director King Hu (胡金) in the Red Theatre (紅樓).

The festival’s Taipei Award acts as a showcase for Taiwanese cinema. The award has been expanded this year to include individual awards for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Editing. The line up for the awards starts with Yang Yang (陽陽), directed by Cheng Yu-chieh (鄭有傑). It is the first film produced under Ang Lee’s “Pushing Hands Project” and is also the opening film of the festival. I reviewed the black comedy Parking (停車) last year. The other films in the Taipei Award are Ayu (遺落的玻璃珠), A Place of One’s Own (一席之地), Finding Her (查無此人), Miao Miao (渺渺), No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti (不能沒有你), Somewhere I Have Never Travelled (帶我去遠方) and the animated film Port of Return (靠岸).

The City Voices section this year focuses on Berlin. There is also a section for films from Latin America. There are several films on the theme of deafness screening in support of the upcoming Deaflympics. They are Beyond Silence, Talentime and  Island Etude (練習曲), a 2007 Taiwanese film about a young hearing impaired man who cycles around Taiwan.

Please check the festival website for exact times and dates. Most films have Chinese and English subtitles, but check to be sure. Tickets are available through www.artsticket.com.tw or venue box offices. I will post reviews of some films in the coming weeks.

Taiwanese cinema resurgent in 2008

The big news in Taiwanese cinema in 2008 was Cape No. 7 (海角七號). It broke box office records becoming the highest grossing Taiwanese film ever. Its box office takings were double those of The Mummy, the next highest film at the box office in 2008.

Much has been written about the reasons for the Cape No. 7 ‘s success which was achieved largely through word of mouth. Basically it hit on a formula of good production values along with characters and a story line that appealed to a wide audience. The film also used a mix of Hoklo Taiwanese, Mandarin and Japanese languages reflecting the mix of languages in Taiwan today.

While Cape No. 7 garnered awards and headlines Taiwanese cinema offered rich variety in 2008. My favorite Taiwanese film of the year was Orz Boyz (囧男孩). This was not just a children’s film, but a rich and complex drama with appeal across age groups and cultures. Continue reading