Cinema of Taiwan
|Cinema of Taiwan|
|Number of screens||574 (2011)|
|Gross Box Office (2011)|
|National films||$23.7 million (17.46%)|
The Cinema of Taiwan is deeply rooted in the island's unique history. Since its introduction to Taiwan in 1901 under Japanese rule, cinema has developed in Taiwan through several distinct stages. It has also developed outside of the Hong Kong mainstream and the censorship of the People's Republic of China.
- 1 Characteristic
- 2 Early cinema, 1900–1945
- 3 Taiwanese cinema after 1945
- 4 New Wave Cinema, 1982–1990
- 5 Second New Wave, 1990–2010
- 6 Revival of Taiwanese Films after Cape No. 7
- 7 Notable directors, actors and actresses
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 External links
In recent years, Taiwan's film industry has been supported by a group of silent film makers. Hou Hsiao-hsien and Edward Yang have built their director's position in international film. In addition, Tsai Ming-liang, an oversea Chinese student from Malaysia, has gained the world's attention as a Taiwanese director.
New directors usually like to explore the theme of nostalgia and historical memory. However, Tsai Ming-liang put his focus on the lives of urban men and women. Among them, the early works, "Rebels of the Neon God" observed the empty life of young people.The winning entries, "Vive L'Amour" touched on lonely urban men and women licking each other's wounds. Tsai Ming-liang's film gives a feeling of a modern fable, but is difficult to understand. Moreover, the new directors in the 1990s, such as Chen Kuo-fu, Tsui Siu Ming times, and Wang, Yi Chih, Yeh Lin, Chang, and independent producer Huang Ming-chuan Lai, etc., also had quite a masterpiece.
Influence of the Government
Since the late Japanese colonial period to martial law in Taiwan, the development of Taiwanese film has been dominated by the official camp studio development. In fact, the production of film at that stage is mainly news footage taken by the government-run studio (Taiwan film companies, the Central Motion Picture Corporation, China Film Studio) and the production of political commercials. Until today, the Taiwan government-funded "Film Fund" is still an important way to explore Taiwan's film talent; this film grant brings a lot of criticism. However, from the "creative, active point of view of Taiwan's film industry" point of view, it remains its subject certainly. In fact, many people believe that the grant is in fact a counseling structure of the Taiwanese culture.
The Government Information Office is in charge of the film grant. Grants are given to film uses "film" as a unit, and is divided into two groups of five million and 800 million. Amounts of money spent should be at least $120 million in 15 films. On the application, there are certain specifications. For example, the purpose of the group of five million grant is to encourage new directors directing a feature film for the first time.
In addition to the well-known directors and their film,Taiwanese documentaries are flourishing as well. The development of Taiwanese documentaries is primarily the result of the lifting of martial law in 1987 and the popularity of small electronic camcorders. Another success factor comes from the support and promotion by the Taiwan Council for Cultural Affairs. In fact, other government units and private organizations are also actively supporting. They have established a variety of film festivals and awards to encourage the production of excellent documentaries.
Recently, Taiwan has produced a group of young documentary filmmakers. They are from all sectors of the Taiwanese society; the themes of their works are varied.Themes arise from the subject himself or his family, and explore serious social or political issues. The documentary spindle also explores the social issues in order to explore the personal lives and problems. Overall, Taiwanese documentaries have gained international attention gradually, and there are many international film festival award-winning records.
Early cinema, 1900–1945
The first film was introduced into Taiwan by Toyojirō Takamatsu (高松豊次郎; see 高松豐次郎) in 1901. From 1900 to 1937, Taiwanese cinema was the first and one of the most important of Japan's colonial film markets. This was during the era of Japanese rule, and in 1905, Takamatsu raised 10,000 Japanese yen in donations to the Japanese military from the proceeds of films screened in Taiwan about the Russo-Japanese War. By 1910, the Taiwan Colonial Government coordinated the efforts of independents such as Takamatsu and others to establish a more organized approach to the exploitation of film in the colony of Taiwan. Films played a vital role in enabling the larger colonial project of imperializing or cultural assimilation of Taiwanese subjects into the Japanese empire. Takamatsu noted that early films were produced mostly for Japanese audiences rather than for local Taiwanese. Hence, early films tended to be educational in nature, lauding Japan's modernizing presence on the island. Other films catered to Japanese audiences exotic desires for Taiwan as a place of adventure and danger such as Conquering Taiwan's Native Rebels (1910) and Heroes of the Taiwan Extermination Squad (1910).
Many conventions in Japanese films were adopted by the Taiwanese filmmakers. For example, the use of a benshi (narrator of silent films), which was a very important component of the film-going experience in Japan, was adopted and renamed piān-sū by the Taiwanese. This narrator was very different from its equivalent in the Western world. It rapidly evolved into a star system but one based on the Japanese system. In fact, people would go to see the very same film narrated by different benshi, to hear the other benshi's interpretation. A romance could become a comedy or a drama, depending on the narrator's style and skills. Lu, a famous actor and benshi in Taiwan wrote the best reference book on Taiwan cinema. The first Taiwanese benshi master was a musician and composer named Wang Yung-feng, who had played on a regular basis for the orchestra at the Fang Nai Ting Theatre in Taipei. He was also the composer of the music for the Chinese film Tao hua qi xue ji (China, Peach girl, 1921) in Shanghai. Other famous Taiwanese benshi masters were Lu Su-Shang and Zhan Tian-Ma. Lu Su-shang, is not primarily remembered for his benshi performances, but mainly for writing the inestimable history of cinema and drama in Taiwan. The most famous benshi of all was possibly Zhan Tian-ma, whose story is told in a recent Taiwanese biographical film, March of Happiness (Taiwan, 1999, dir: Lin Sheng-shing). Benshi masters frequently were intellectuals: many spoke Japanese, often traveled to Japan and/or China, and some were poets who wrote their own librettos for each film. Since 1910, films had been distributed with a script, but these poets of the darkness would rather explore their personal style. Notable films during this period include Song of Sadness (哀愁の歌, 1919), The Eyes of Buddha (仏陀の瞳, 1922), and Whose Mistake? (誰の過失, 1925).
Unlike Japanese-occupied Manchuria, Taiwan never became an important production market for Japan but rather was a vital exhibition market. Japanese produced newsreels, shorts, educational, and feature films were widely circulated throughout Taiwan from the mid-1920s through 1945 and even after decolonization. As in Japan's other colonial film markets, the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1937 marked the beginning of an era of enhanced mobilization for the Japanese war effort throughout Asia and Taiwan's film markets were purged of American and Chinese films as a result. The Japanese strove to transform the locals into Japanese citizens, giving them Japanese names, a Japanese education, encouraging them to wear Japanese clothes and the men to cut their long hair. Films such as Japanese Police Supervise a Taiwanese Village (1935) illustrated how "proper" imperial subjects should dress and act as well as promoting their superior farming skills thanks to the Japanese overlords. Taiwanese directors would vividly revisit the legacy of this process of cultural annexation in such films as Hou Hsiao-Hsien's City of Sadness (1989) and The Puppetmaster (1993), as well as Wu Nien-jen's A Borrowed Life (1994).
Taiwanese cinema after 1945
Taiwanese cinema grew again after 1949, when the end of the Chinese civil war brought many filmmakers sympathetic to the Nationalists to Taiwan. Even then, the majority of films were still made in Taiwanese Hokkien and this continued for many years. For example, in 1962, out of a total of 120 films produced, only seven were made in Mandarin; the rest were made in Taiwanese. However, the production of films in Taiwanese began to decline, due to a variety of reasons, ranging from limited scope and waning interest for such films, to the Nationalist government's promotion of Standard Chinese in mass media and its deeming of Taiwanese as too "coarse". The last movie filmed entirely in Taiwanese was made in 1981.
The 1960s marked the beginning of Taiwan's rapid modernization. The government focused strongly on the economy, industrial development, and education, and in 1963 the Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC; see 中影公司) introduced the "Health Realism" melodrama. This film genre was proposed to help build traditional moral values, which were deemed important during the rapid transformation of the nation's socioeconomic structure. During this time, traditional kung fu films as well as romantic melodramas were also quite popular. The author Chiung Yao is especially famous for the movies made in this time period which were based on her widely read romantic novels.
New Wave Cinema, 1982–1990
By the early 1980s, the popularity of home video made film-watching a widespread activity for the Taiwanese. However, the Taiwanese film industry was under serious challenges, such as the entry of Hong Kong films, well known for their entertainment quality, into the Taiwanese market. In order to compete with Hong Kong films, the CMPC began an initiative to support several fresh, young directors. In 1982, the film In Our Time (1982), which featured four young talented directors (Edward Yang, Te-Chen Tao, I-Chen Ko, and Yi Chang), began what would be known as the rejuvenation of Taiwanese cinema: the New Wave.
In contrast to the melodrama or kung-fu action films of the earlier decades, New Wave films are known for their realistic, down-to-earth, and sympathetic portrayals of Taiwanese life. These films sought to portray genuine stories of people living either in urban or rural Taiwan, and are often compared stylistically to the films of the Italian neorealism movement. This emphasis on realism was further enhanced by innovative narrative techniques. For example, the conventional narrative structure which builds the drama to a climax was abandoned. Rather, the story progressed at the pace as it would in real life.
Due to its honest portrayal of life, New Wave films examined many of the important issues facing Taiwan society at this time, such as urbanization, the struggle against poverty, and conflicts with political authority. For instance, Hou Hsiao-Hsien's A City of Sadness portrays the tensions and the conflicts between the local Taiwanese and the newly arrived Chinese Nationalist government after the end of the Japanese occupation. Edward Yang's Taipei Story (1985) and A Confucian Confusion (1994) talk about the confusion of traditional values and modern materialism among young urbanites in the 1980s and 1990s. The New Wave Cinema films are, therefore, a fascinating chronicle of Taiwan's socio-economic and political transformation in modern times. Chen Kunhou's 1983 film Growing Up provides a nuanced perspective on the experience of a very young boy, from an ordinary family, getting into progressively more trouble.
Second New Wave, 1990–2010
The New Wave gradually gave way to what could be informally called the Second New Wave, which are slightly less serious and more amenable to the populace, although just as committed to portraying the Taiwanese perspective.
For example, Tsai Ming-liang's Vive L'Amour, which won the Golden Lion at the 1994 Venice Film Festival, portrays the isolation, despair, and love of young adults living in the upscale apartments of Taipei. Stan Lai's The Peach Blossom Land (1992) is a tragi-comedy involving two groups of actors rehearsing different plays on the same stage; the masterful juxtaposition and the depth of the play's political and psychological meanings helped it win recognition at festivals in Tokyo and Berlin.
Ang Lee is perhaps the most well-known of the Second New Wave director. His early films Pushing Hands (1991), The Wedding Banquet (1993), and Eat Drink Man Woman (1994) focus on the generational and cultural conflicts confronting many modern families. His Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) revived the wuxia genre successfully. Although not in the tradition of New Wave or Second New Wave, it is a commercial success which placed Asian films firmly in the international domain. The recent films Eternal Summer (2006), Prince of Tears (2009) and Winds of September (2009) have pushed the boundaries of Taiwanese film-making and broken the island's long-standing taboos about the depiction of controversial subject matter.
Taiwanese cinema is now facing difficult times competing with Hollywood blockbusters. Box office for local films is dwindling to less than 20 films annually and many Taiwanese viewers prefer watching Hong Kong or Hollywood productions, making the country's film industry dominated by foreign repertoire. The once successful Taiwan's film industry went into decline in 1994 and collapsed in 1997 because of spiraling levels of piracy. There have been a few bright spots though, as in the high box office takings of Cape No. 7 (2008), which had become so popular in Taiwan that on November 1, 2008, became her highest grossing domestic film, second in the country's cinematic history to Titanic (1997). Another recent popular local film is the gangster flick Monga (2010).
Revival of Taiwanese Films after Cape No. 7
In 2008, Cape No. 7 directed by Wei Te-Sheng was a huge box office success in Taiwanese film history. It raked in 530 million TWD (17.9 million USD) domestically, setting an all-time box office record for a Taiwanese film. It has won 15 awards to date, such as The Outstanding Taiwanese Film of the Year at the 45th Golden Horse Awards in 2008. The record-breaking achievement led the revival of Taiwanese cinema, e.g. Monga (2010), Seven Days in Heaven (2010), Night Market Hero (2011).
After the success of Cape No. 7, the Taiwanese movie industry recovered from a slump that lasted for about 10 years. The head of the Government Information Office described, "2011 will be a brand new year and a new start for Taiwanese films".  The director of Cape No. 7, Wei Te-Sheng's follow-up movie, Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale part 1 and part 2 was released in September 2011.  It was shown in competition at the 68th Venice International Film Festival and it was selected as a contender for nomination for the 84th Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film in 2011 and was one of nine films shortlisted to advance to the next round of voting for nomination.
Some more examples are: The Killer Who Never Kills, which is based on a short story in the Killer Series from Taiwanese Writer, Giddens Ko. Additionally, the popular TV series Black & White The Movie. In 2012, Giddens Ko's romance You Are the Apple of My Eye earned about NTD 460 million, followed by Fung Kai's Din Tao: Leader of the Parade which earned NTD 315 million.
Teng Sue-feng used Cape No. 7 to discusse how the profit is shared in Taiwan. Teng estimated the revenue to be NTD 520 million, and the production cost to be NTD 50 million. After the deducting the cost, 60% of the profit goes to movie theaters, 10% to the distributor. The director gets about NT$140 million.
Notable directors, actors and actresses
- Chinese Culture and Movie Center
- Cinema of the world
- Culture of Taiwan
- Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards (Taipei)
- List of Taiwanese actresses
- List of Taiwanese submissions for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film
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- Chinese Taipei film Archive (Chinese (Taiwan))
- Chinacinema.fr A French site on Chinese/Taiwanese cinema (French)
- Database of Taiwan Cinema (Chinese (Taiwan))
- Asia Society: The Cinema Scene[dead link]- Asia Society's regular podcast program containing news, reviews and interviews related to Asian Film
- Taiwanderful Taiwan Movie Guide - A community index of Taiwanese movies.
- Taiwan Cinema
- Taiwan Movies at GMOAT