“Synapses,” a Taiwanese family drama directed by Chang Tso-chi, has been set as the opening film of the 2019 edition of the Golden Horse Film Festival in Taiwan. “The Garden of Evening Mists,” a Malaysia-set reconciliation drama directed by Taiwan’s Tom Lin Shu-yu, will close the event.
The festival, which runs Nov. 7-24, has not yet revealed its complete lineup, so it is too early to assess the full impact of the mainland Chinese boycott of the festival and its prestigious Golden Horse Film Awards. But the selection of two Taiwanese films may be indicative.
China’s National Film Administration has banned mainland Chinese talent and film from participating in the festival and awards as a result of last year’s prize ceremony, at which one of the winners called for Taiwanese independence. China regards Taiwan as a rebel province with which it will ultimately be reunited, by force if necessary.
The Golden Horse Awards are open to films produced in all variants of the Chinese language, including the Cantonese dialect. But in recent weeks it has become clear that several studios from Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong will follow the mainland example and shun this year’s prize ceremony on Nov. 23.
“Synapses,” starring Lu Hsueh-feng, is the story of a husband suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, a chaotic relationship with an adult daughter just out of jail and a secret disclosed by the visit of an acquaintance. Multiple Golden Horse winner Chang (“The Best of Times,” “When Love Comes”) based the screenplay on real events involving his mother.
“The Garden of Evening Mists,” which stars Taiwan’s Sylvia Chang, Japan’s Hiroshi Abe, Malaysia’s Lee Sin-je and British actors David Oakes and John Hannah, is based on a novel by Malaysian author Twan Eng Tan, adapted by Scottish writer Richard Smith. It depicts the scarred lone survivor of a brutal Japanese wartime camp who seeks solace among the jungle-fringed plantations of Northern Malaya, where she grew up as a child.
The big-budget production is backed by HBO Asia and Astro Shaw, part of Malaysian pay-TV group Astro. International sales are handled by Korea’s CJ Entertainment.