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Taiwanese Cinema Makes Its Mark at Busan International Film Festival

Overcoming challenges brought on by COVID-19, the island’s film industry is entering a new era of productivity, bringing nine features to South Korea

Despite being shrouded in the shadow of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Taiwan’s film industry has continued to thrive in 2021. This is thanks to precautions being taken on a local level, enabling a diverse array of new works to blossom.

The industry’s continued productivity is evident in the number of Taiwanese films that are screening at this year’s now-underway Busan International Film Festival. Nine Taiwanese projects are part of the South Korea-based festival’s official sections, displaying an abundance of creative energy and signaling the opening of an exciting new chapter in Taiwanese cinema.

The festival’s A Window on Asian Cinema section features four Taiwanese selections: “Days Before the Millennium,” “Increasing Echo,” “Moneyboys” and “The Falls.”

“Days Before the Millennium,” the debut feature of Chang Teng-Yuan, is an ambitious historical epic that shows the struggles of newly arrived Vietnamese migrants in Taiwan.

Accomplished cinematographer Chienn Hsiang’s second directorial effort, “Increasing Echo,” was part of the festival’s Asian Project Market in 2017, and now the completed film will make its world premiere at the festival as an official selection. Chen Shiang-Chyi stars as a repressed wife who finally releases years of pent-up frustration and resentment toward her husband (Chen Yi-Wen) after receiving a distressing phone call.

“Moneyboys,” a co-production among Taiwan, Austria, France and Belgium, has been a topic of much discussion since its premiere in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes this summer. The highly anticipated LGBTQ+ drama delves into the gap in values between urban and rural regions thanks to the country’s rapid development.

And Taiwanese auteur Chung Mong-Hong’s pandemic-set tale “The Falls” will be introduced to Asian audiences at BIFF after screening at Venice and Toronto earlier this year.

Several anticipated Taiwanese documentaries can be found in BIFF’s Wide Angle section: “Taste of Wild Tomato,” “Crossing’s End” and “Rain in 2020.”

“Taste of Wild Tomato,” a new work by Lau Kek-Huat, delves into one of the most traumatic events in Taiwan’s history, an infamous massacre that took place on Feb. 28, 1947, remembered as the “228 Incident.” This anti-government uprising was brutally suppressed; thousands died. Lau weaves together archival footage alongside modern-day interviews, reflecting on Taiwan’s historical scars and offering new insights into its history.

“Crossing’s End,” directed by activist and reform advocate Shih Yu-Lun, takes a deep dive into the controversial Houfeng Bridge case, in which two Taiwanese men were wrongfully convicted of murder. Shih spent years following the accused and their families, offering multiple viewpoints and dialectical perspectives. Both defendants were acquitted of all charges in 2019, making the film’s premiere especially meaningful and timely.

Then there is “Rain in 2020,” the latest from Myanmar-born director Lee Yong-Chao, whose works have appeared in festivals around the world. With “Rain in 2020,” Lee spent seven years documenting a family in Myanmar as they faced the floods brought by the country’s rainy season. The impact of the pandemic is exposed through their daily conversations and illuminated through subtle details, capturing the changing times and the lives of the common people.

BIFF’s Wide Angle Asian Short Film Competition includes “Good Day,” the directorial debut of renowned cinematographer Zhang Zhi-Teng. Crafty and humorous, this short presents a precise depiction of a failed father’s family “adventure” on a typhoon day.

Taiwanese-Bolivian producer Estela Valdivieso Chen’s anthology “Lives of Crime” will be part of BIFF’s Asian Project Market. Helmed by four talented emerging female filmmakers — Hsieh Pei-Ju, Yang Chieh, Lee I-Hui and Huang Dan-Chi — co-written by Wang Jen-Fang and produced by Hazel Wu, the innovative anthology is told from the different perspectives of women in crime.

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Courtesy of TAICCA

This year, the Taiwan Creative Content Agency has also been an active participant in BIFF’s Asian Contents & Film Market. As the representative of Taiwanese cinema, TAICCA brought 55 new Taiwanese works to the market, including the comedy “Treat or Trick,” which won the Jury’s Choice at the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival; “Jang-Gae: The Foreigner,” a selection of the Jeonju International Film Festival; the coming-of-age adventure animation “City of Lost Things,” which had its international premiere at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival; and “Final Exam,” which premiered in North America at the Seattle International Film Festival.

For more information on these films, visit TAICCA’s website and watch its showreel.