TAIPEI — With just four nominees from Taiwan in the running at the 40th Golden Horse Awards for Chinese-lingo pics, the kudos’ host country is doing some serious soul-searching.
Unlike past years, in which Taiwanese filmmakers actively protested snubs by withdrawing the few pics that did earn nods, they have turned reflective before this year’s kudocast, which unrolls its red carpet Dec. 13.
Taiwanese producers and directors cite a lack of government support, the poor positioning of its pics in the local market, and an unreceptive audience as the main factors contributing to the slow death of Taiwan’s film industry.
Some also privately question the Golden Horse Awards’ nomination process, which seems to routinely favor pics from Hong Kong. After mainland China withdrew its entries, this year saw a record low 44 pics vying for nods. That only four from Taiwanese made the final cut surprised many.
Jury head Wang Tong dismisses these suspicions. “We don’t even consider where a film is from when making nominations or selecting winners. That never enters the picture,” Tong emphasizes.
That said, pics from Hong Kong dominate this year’s affair. HK policer “Infernal Affairs” leads the pack with 12 nods, including picture, director and actor. Fellow Hong Kong cop drama and picture nominee “PTU” laps close behind with 11.
Taiwan made its strongest showing with helmer Tsai Ming-liang’s “Goodbye, Dragon Inn,” which picked up five nods, including picture and actress. “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” is also the island’s Oscar entry.
Central Motion Picture Corp., Taiwan’s oldest production house, fields only one pic. Its head of acquisitions and development, Jennifer Jao, says: “Taiwanese films are mainly exports. We do well abroad, but at home we’re usually ignored by the audience and award juries.”
Like many in the industry, Jao sees the Golden Horse Awards as another example of how Taiwanese films are marginalized by the mainstream. Jao hopes the poor showing will spur the Taiwanese government to help bolster the flagging local industry. Politicos briefly flirted earlier this year with a quota on foreign films, but the proposed law stalled in the legislature.
In 2002, Taiwanese films took less than 2% of the total B.O. pie. Last year was in fact a banner one for the local industry, with strong perfs by a string of Taiwanese pics, including scarefest “Double Vision” and teen drama “Blue Gate Crossing.”
The latter pic was withdrawn from last year’s Golden Horse Awards competition in protest of the nomination process — and still went on to become one of the year’s top-grossing local pics. Meanwhile, the eventual winner for best picture, Taiwan’s “The Best of Times,” earned less than $500,000 islandwide, proving that a Golden Horse win doesn’t necessarily translate into B.O.
For many filmmakers, then, the Golden Horse Awards serve mainly as an annual reminder of the poor state of the industry. Adding salt to the wound this year, Golden Horse jury members decided to nix the animated feature category after they deemed no entry worthy of distinction. Taiwan — home to hundreds of toon houses — prides itself on its animated and digital work.
In defense of the decision to drop the animated feature trophy, Golden Horse jury head Wang Tong says, “We don’t want to set a standard this year that won’t meet that of future films nominated in this category.”