Kolkata Film Festival: Taiwanese films unfold wider diaspora

Kolkata, Nov 15 (Calcutta Tube / IBNS) The 17th Kolkata Film Festival is playing host to Taiwanese cinema this year.

Taiwanese cinema has an interesting and challenging history. It is part of the film revolution that has seen a paradigm shift in filmmaking destinations from Western cinema, mainly from Spain, Italy, France, countries who were pioneers in the art of filmmaking who offered the only challenge to mainstream Hollywood cinema.

This shift has brought into focus, the culture-specific cinema of South Asian countries like Taiwan, Thailand, Korea and Japan.

Interestingly however, there was no Taiwanese cinema per se in Taiwan in the beginning.
For the first 20 years since 1920, documentaries and feature films were made only by the Japanese.To keep the colonial structure undisturbed, the filmmakers did not take any Taiwanese actors at all. The break came in 1922 with a film called The Eyes of Buddha.1925 saw the screening of the first entirely Taiwanese film called Whose Fault Is It?

Akira Chen, one of the hot-shot, young Taiwanese directors who presented his film Everlasting Moments, says, “Over the ages, people from different provinces of China had migrated to the little island of Taiwan. The multi-lingual and multi-cultural interface as a consequence led to major conflicts that went on to influence the first era of Taiwanese filmmaking.”

Taiwanese cinema today represents a culturally important genre of filmmaking that is unique in terms of its influences from China, Hollywood and Japan.

The checkered political history of the island has shaped and redefined contemporary Taiwanese cinema. But Chen insists that the later decades of the 20th century marked a new beginning in Taiwanese cinema based on the socio-political lives of its people.
The films in the 1980s portrayed the village ambience of Taiwan filled with poverty while the 1990s portrayed a distinct change influenced by the financial book that focussed on metropolitan cities as background and their people as subjects.The New Wave Taiwanese filmmakers are unfolding a wider diaspora in world filmmaking. The most interesting quality is that the government is very supportive of cinema in Taiwan in terms of grants and subsidies to filmmakers of yesteryears placed within the changing socio-political clout of China, Japan and USA.

Chen says, “Contemporary Taiwanese cinema truly depicts creative genius stripped of bureaucratic influences.” For example, his film I Can’t Live Without You’s story is based on real-life characters and incidents.

“The incident which inspired the film happened in 2003.  More than six Taiwanese TV channels broadcast live coverage of the man threatening to jump off the pedestrian bridge with his daughter.  It went on for twenty minutes.

Next day, though, it was all forgotten. There were no follow-up news items, no analyses of the social issues or of the particular difficulties faced by this man,” he sums up.

– Shoma A. Chatterji

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