Hello! Tapir

嗨!神獸
Drama, Fantasy, Animated
Mandarin, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Kethsvin Chee
Starring: Charlie Yeung, Bai Run-yin, Lu Hsueh-feng, Lee Lee-zen
Distributor: Man Man Er Co., Ltd

People in Taiwanese fishing villages live in close contact with nature. They leave their homes to spend long periods of time on fishing boats where they are exposed to the forces of nature. This becomes all too evident to Ah Keat whose father does not return from such a trip one day. What happened to him? The boy’s family give no answers and start avoiding the issue. He is still just a boy and cannot understand, anyway. But his father once told him a story about a magical tapir he had seen in the wild as a boy – a creature with the body of a pig, nose of an elephant, the ears of a horse and feet like a rhinoceros. Perhaps this mythical creature can help Ah Keat solve the mystery. Afterall, legend says it can devour nightmares.

Hello! Tapir by young director Kethsvin Chee not only uniquely combines a live-action film and animation, but it subtly depicts a world of a boy grieving and his thirst for knowledge. It sensibly brings together comic and touching moments and conveys to the audience the creative mind of a child. It stands somewhere between family dramas of Hirokazu Koreeda and adventure trips of The Rapid Arrows. Hello! Tapir is surely the only picture of its kind able to captivate all generations.

My Missing Valentine

消失的情人節
Comedy, Romance, Fantasy
Mandarin, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Chen Yu-hsun
Starring: Liu Kuan-ting, Patty Lee
Distributor: MandarinVision

What other motion picture could more fittingly represent contemporary Taiwan cinematography than one of the most popular and successful rom-coms of the last decade. My Missing Valentine collected five prestigious Golden Horse awards last year and became a favourite of domestic audience. This subversive romantic comedy with ingenuous story line has finally made its way here!

Hsiao-chi, a woman who has always been one step ahead of others, cannot wait for Valentine’s day. She falls asleep on the eve of Valentine’s day and wakes up only to find out Valentine’s day is gone. She composes herself and immediately begins to untangle the mystery of the missing day. We should not say any more of this intricate story because it is the gradual revelation of many narrative secrets that makes the experience of this film so gratifying. This surprisingly well-thought comedy makes good use of stylized hyperbole and subversion of other classical genre tropes. It is at times fairly touching, absurdly witty and strikingly concerning.

The Husband’s Secret

丈夫的秘密
Drama
Minnan, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Lin Tuan-qiu
Starring: Chang Mei-yao, Chan Pan-yang
Distributor: Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute

In this classic melodrama of conflicting duties and desire, a wife comes home to tell her husband she has run into an old friend, now in need of help. When she moves her into their home with her little boy, the husband is overwhelmed with guilt – the wife’s friend is his former lover, and he fears the son is his. Flashbacks within flashbacks and frames with frames signal the twists and turns of a plot adapted from a Japanese novel and transposed to Taiwan to reveal Lin Tuanqiu’s perhaps surprising theme of female solidarity as the solution to life’s crises. Read more

Foolish Bride, Naïve Bridegroom

三八新娘憨子婿
Comedy, Romance
Taiwanese, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Hsin Chi
Starring: Chin Mei, Shi Jung, Chin Tu
Distributor: Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute

Bun-tik is a handsome but not too bright young man who is chased by all the girls in the neighbourhood. His father closely guards his chastity, but he sneaks off with his girlfriend, Kui-ki, who is determined that they should get married. However, they run into new opposition when Bun-tik’s father meets Kui-ki’s mother and they discover they were lovers 30 years before. Xin Qi’s lively gender-reversal comedy stands with the younger generation. A swinging sixties farce, it pokes fun at the Confucian moral conventions that were the bedrock of melodramatic angst just a few years earlier. Read more

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

卧虎藏龙
Wu-sia / Wuxia
Mandarin, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Ang Lee
Starring: Chow Yun-fat, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang
Distributor: Park Circus

Calling Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon a cult classic is still a grave understatement of how important this film really is. Besides Oscar nominations and a premiere at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival it secured the Taiwanese filmmaker a firm spot among leading Hollywood directors. In 2000 he used US funding to make a nostalgic and revisionist take on wuxia pian epics and managed to sell it to the West. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a film encyclopaedia of sort, in which Lee summarizes dozens of external influences. The plot is based on the literary tradition of Chinese knight stories and several scenes refer explicitly to the works of another Taiwanese great, King Hu. Lee and Hu also share what film critic Jaime Rebanal calls a contemplative action. Martial arts sequences are phenomenally choreographed by legendary Yuen Woo-ping and serve primarily as a form of communication. Characters conduct dialogues with their fists and kicks lighter than air! They practically dance through space and prove that filmmakers can add completely new perspectives to conventional action scenes. All these are pretty solid reasons to revisit Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on the big screen once again. After all those years it has certainly not lost any of its magic.

Days

日子
Drama
Without dialogue
Director: Tsai Ming-liang
Starring: Lee Kang-sheng
Distributor: Homegreen Films

In Days, director Tsai Ming-liang turns attention to the crippled body of his favourite actor Lee Kang-sheng. Kang’s desire to relieve himself of pain and his constant solitude brings him to a massage parlour with a young masseur. The trajectories of these two men with different backgrounds shortly meet in a moment filled with intense sensory experience and cause a stir in their solitary lives. After a series of films with no plot and intimate personal stories, Days see the Taiwanese director’s return to a slow-paced, delicately melodramatic narrative. It is, in the best possible way, a nurturing and hypnotising film infused with moments of unforgettable transience. Read more

Yi Yi

一一
Drama, Romance
Mandarin, Minnan, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Edward Yang
Starring: Wu Nien-jen, Elaine Jin, Kelly Lee
Distributor: Pony Canyon

Yi Yi is the crowning achievement of director Edward Yang, a key figure of the Taiwanese New Wave. The film that received the Grand Prize at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival is a family chronicle captivating the audience with its broadness of scope, unpretentious formal sophistication, sense of characters and their life journeys. It deals with the nature of co-existence and communication in contemporary society, but it also casually asks philosophical and spiritual questions. The character of Yang-yang, a boy, may be seen as the director’s young alter ego. Read more

Execution in Autumn

秋決
Drama
Mandarin, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Li Hsing
Starring: Chen Hui-lou, Chou Shao-ching
Distributor: Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute

Autumn is associated with melancholy, loneliness and hopelessness. This is why it is the season when executions are carried out. Pei Gang, stubborn and angry man convicted of a triple murder is also awaiting one. Although he claimed to have acted in self-defence, the verdict is definitive – he has one year to live. His grandmother who has been getting Pei Gang out of trouble his whole life once again intervenes and tries to revert the death sentence. At stake is not only her beloved grandson’s life, but also the future of their rich family with Pei Gang being the only heir. Apart from showing the effort to avert the irreversible, this drama about waiting to die gradually peels off hidden layers of the characters, brings out the significance of family ties and character development in the face of suffering. The audience sees the inner world of main characters through dialogues, but also through a moving camera closing in on tragic facial expressions of people afflicted by fate. Li Hsing, aka the godfather of Taiwanese film, directed a remarkable piece dealing with accepting one’s past doings and their bitter consequences.

The Green, Green Grass of Home

在那河畔青草青
Drama
Mandarin and Minnan, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien
Starring: Kenny Bee, Meifeng Chen
Distributor: Cinémathèque royale de Belgique

Hou Hsiao-hsien is often regarded as a cinephile favourite and a regular guest at art festivals. But The Green, Green Grass of Home is a reminder of his earlier works, strongly influenced by a popular cycle of Taiwan romantic comedies. Hong-Kong popstar Kenny Bee portrays a town school teacher who finds himself working in a village and has to deal with a group of mischievous kids, illegal fishing and blooming love.

What Hou made is, however, not simply a commercial comedy, he is infallibly accurate in choosing beautiful compositions and thoughtful direction of movement within a frame. Apart from environmental issues he builds up a conventional romantic plot and finds inspiration in Ozu’s student films from 1930’s. The Green, Green Grass of Home is a unique experience that brings together a radical auteur with a non-traditional approach to a commercial and genre subject matter.

Student Short Films

Short Films from Taiwanese students at FAMU.

A Camping Trip
露營
Czech with English subtitles
Director: I-Ju Lin
After losing her job, a middle-aged career woman goes on a camping trip which reconnects her and her family.

Leaves of Grass
草葉集
Without dialogue
Director: Michelle Tseng
An elderly botanist is sorting out leaf specimens in the reading room alone. Fragments of childhood began eroding his thinking. He used to set an ambitious kind, although the goal was superficial. In the course of time, his will collapse and fall with wilted leaves.

Trust Game
信任遊戲
Czech with English and Mandarin subtitles
Director: Chihyu Lin
Two lovers share unique chemistry, they are meant to be together. This is a metaphorical film that Sofia is making. In order to reach the “realness” of her film, the director, Sofie, puts all her efforts at any cost, even making her husband actor and the actress fall in love with each other.

Life as a Game
定命遊戲
Czech with English and Mandarin subtitles
Director: Shen-Hao Yang
Hana, an actress, wants to terminate her pregnancy. She encounters obstacles that prevent her from following through with her decision. The agreed-upon words no longer apply once Hana realizes that she is playing a role in a play she didn’t want to take part in. Who will dictate the rules this time?

 

Hear Me

聽說
Drama, Romance
Mandarin, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Cheng Fenfen
Starring: Ivy Chen, Eddie Peng, Michelle Chen
Distributor: Trigram Films

Hear me proves that even a well-established genre of romantic comedy may become a space for experimenting, in this particular case, experimenting with spoken language, or rather its absence. Director and screenplay writer Cheng Fenfen together with producer Peggy Chiao raise the issue of whether it is possible to shoot a film about the hearing-impaired using a sign language and still communicate to the audience strong emotions of romantic love. The limited use of a spoken language does not, in any way, handicap the love story, quite the contrary! The classical rom-com concept filled with speeches, cries and wordy expressions of love is here replaced with silent glances and gentle gestures. It is silence where the sensitivity of the filmmakers’ approach is most apparent. All the more combined with specifically Taiwanese physical comedy and overly expressive acting style of the main duo – superstar Eddie Peng as Tian-Kuo, a delivery boy in a family-run restaurant, and hearing-impaired Yang Yang played by the talented Ivy Chen. They also made it possible for Hear me to make a unique journey within the genre of melodrama practically without words. There’s no love like quiet love!

Our Times

我的少女時代
Comedy, Romance
Mandarin, English and Czech subtitles
Director: Chen Yu-shan
Starring: Vivian Sung, Darren Wang, Dino Lee
Distributor: The Spring Thunder Entertainment Co.,、Hualien Media International Co., Ltd.、Huace Pictures Co., Ltd.、Focus Film Limited 

Since one of the festival sections is dedicated to Taiwanese women filmmakers, TV veteran Frankie Chen could hardly go unmentioned. Our Times was her directorial debut, but she had already worked on more than a dozen vastly successful television dramas. In cooperation with screenplay writer Sabrina Tseng, they took their changes on the big screen and once again succeeded. In our selection she represents a versatile female author who has established herself in Taiwanese culture across various formats and media. In Our Times she introduces the story of Lin, an unhappy girl who often buries herself in memories in a quest to get away from the present. The issue of escapism plays a central part in this comedy-drama, but it, at the same time, unfolds an emotional search for a long-lost love. The narrative takes place in two time lines that complement each other and each has its own rhythm, whereas the narrative taking place in the past makes great use of the aesthetic of the 1990’s.

Yilan, a Taste of Home

宜蘭在遠方
Documentary Short
Mandarin, English and Czech subtitles
Director: MoMo Tseng Hsing Ying

When chef Andoni and his colleagues take a trip to Yilan to attend a forum, they do not expect much. As specialists in Basque cuisine, they simply want to share their experience with others. But the Taiwanese region quickly captivates them. They become mesmerized with picking fresh tea leaves, morning marketplaces filled with local produce and unexpected culinary discoveries. The parallels between Basque and Yilan cuisines are apparent both in techniques, traditions, and cultural identity. Talented documentary filmmaker MoMo Tseng made a document about food, international collection of flavours, traditions and identities. No matter where you live, this film will make you understand what a taste of home is.