Kolkata Film Festival: The Cinema of Taiwan

Kolkata, Nov 10 (/calcutta Tube / IBNS) The 17th Kolkata Film Festival (KFF) offers cinebuffs of the city a rare opportunity to watch some select films from Taiwan.

Other than internationally renowned and extremely talented New Wave directors one got to watch only at international film festivals, Taiwanese cinema has not been explored like films from European countries.

 This year,seven contemporary films from Taiwan have been invited for screening. There is also a retrospective of five films of Hou Hsiao-Hsien. TWF Correspondent Shoma A. Chatterji offers a ringside view.

The Taiwanese films confirmed by the 17th KFF are – Me 19 directed and written by Frank Cheng, Leon Dai’s I Can’t Live Without You, Odds in Love directed jointly by Lisa Chen / De Jun Gon, Mong-Hong  Chung’s  The Fourth Portrait, Wen-Pin Chen’s Everlasting Moments, Hsiao Ya-chaun’s Taipei Exchanges and Juliets jointly directed by three filmmakers Chen Yu-Hsun, Shen Ko-Shang, Hou Chi-Jan.

Hou Hsiao Hsien is counted as one of the approximately ten directors who participated in the New Cinema Movement in Taiwan between 1983 and 1989.

 Each of these ten directors, interestingly, all of them men, developed his own style and has made his own contribution to the New Cinema.

Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s films in the beginning are strongly autobiographical. These are The Boys From Fengkuei (1983), A Time to Live and A Time to Die (1985), Son’s Big Doll, the first episode in The Sandwich Man (1983), A Summer at Grandpa’s (1984), and Dust in the Wind (1986).

These films throw up authentic images of the rural life and people in Taiwan where his style follows the documentary approach of observation, use of long takes, working on a non-linear narrative, discontinuous editing and holding up a reality-based, flesh-and-blood portrait of the Taiwanese people in their day-to-day struggles of living. Several of his films were nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

Hou also played the lead role in Edward Yang’s Taipei Story (1984.) He portrayed Lung, a former Little-League baseball star stuck in a no-exit groove of operating an old-style fabric business, but keeps longing for his past days of glory. He gets distanced from his girlfriend and tries to find his way in the city of Taipei.

Hou’s films have been awarded prizes from prestigious international festivals such as the Venice Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, Hawaii International Film Festival and the Nantes Three Continents Festival.

Hou Hsiao-hsien has been acclaimed as the most representative auteur of Taiwan’s national cinema by local film critics.

His personal victories on the international film festival circuit, including his receipt of the Golden Lion at Venice for City of Sadness, have represented a triumph and vindication of the Taiwanese New Cinema.

– Shoma A Chatterji

(Shoma A Chatterji is a National Award winning film writer.)

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