Taiwan has come up with ambitious plans for the American Film Market this year by presenting a virtual pavilion headlined by award-winning titles and recent film festival favorites, in the hope of boosting the self-governed island’s visibility internationally as a production hub as well as a choice of location shootings.
The growing appeal of Asian content in recent years, whether it is films or TV series streaming on international platforms, has made it possible to further promote Taiwanese content abroad, says Alice Chang, deputy CEO of Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA), an intermediary organization set up in 2019 supervised by the Ministry of Culture to promote the island’s content industries.
“The North American market is more and more interested in Asian works compared to the past. As long as the story could resonate with the audience, even though it’s local and Asian, it still could be seen and may make a stir in the international market,” Chang says.
Creative output from South Korea has been dominating the international market for Asian content, with the Oscar win of “Parasite” and most recently the Netflix sensation “Squid Game,” which became the streaming giant’s “biggest series launch ever” with a 110 million reach.
Taiwan may not have this kind of blockbuster exports yet but it did wow critics earlier this year with Chung Man-hong’s family drama “A Sun,” which is also streaming on Netflix. TAICCA, which is responsible for the Taiwan Pavilion at AFM this year, brings an array of dramas to follow up the “A Sun” effect.
TAICCA’s Taiwan Pavilion at AFM will feature 57 new titles from 32 exhibitors, including films that have done their festival-run in Cannes, Busan and the island’s homegrown festival Golden Horse. Among the highlights are “American Girl,” a debut feature of the Los Angeles-based Taiwanese-American director Feng-I Fiona Roan, which was shortlisted in the 2021 Tokyo International Film Festival’s Asian Future section; Chinese-Austrian director C.B. Yi’s first feature “Moneyboys,” which was featured in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard (pictured); and “Lives of Crime,” winner of the Nutrilite Award and the only Taiwanese film featured in the Busan International Film Festival’s Asian Project Market just recently.
Other highlights from TAICCA’s presentation include “Treat or Trick,” winner of Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival’s jury’s choice; the coming-of-age adventure animated film “City of Lost Things,” which was premiered at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival; and “Final Exam,” a heart-warming drama revolving around a substitute teacher that made its North American premiere at the Seattle International Film Festival earlier this year.
“The filmmaking scene in Taiwan is vibrant and the talents embrace all diversity of topics, which international audiences can resonate with,” Chang says. “All these fantastic films from Taiwan represent that its film industry is still thriving under the global pandemic situation.”
Despite the seemingly favorable circumstances and positive expectations, creating a big break for Taiwanese cinema in North America is not a smooth road.
“The main challenge to promote in the U.S. is to increase the recognition of Taiwan cinema and Taiwanese creators,” she says. “We hope to enhance the visibility of Taiwan content through the Taiwan Pavilion at each festival and market and to ultimately generate interest in Asian content and co-production in the North American market with the various programs that we offer.”
Besides Taiwanese productions, it is also hoped to lure international filmmakers to co-produce with talents from the island. TAICCA says it will also stress the Taiwan’s International Co-Funding Program at AFM as the funding program supports up to 30% of the film production budget, as well as several other funding opportunities available for filmmakers from all over the world who wish to collaborate with Taiwanese filmmakers and conduct location shooting on the island.