When Taiwan auteur Chung Mong-hong’s acclaimed drama “A Sun” became a hit among film critics and film buffs from around the world after Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge named it the best film of 2020, it had reignited the hope and expectations of the island’s cinematic offerings. The buzz and excitement were seen as what could be the beginning of a comeback of Taiwanese cinema on the international stage.

Nearly two years on, the momentum is still there, but Taiwanese filmmakers are approaching the international stage with a more pragmatic approach. “A Sun,” and the director’s follow-up feature, “The Falls,” which both premiered on the international festival circuit (and now stream on Netflix), have certainly brought Taiwanese projects more exposure, according to industry insiders, but it was not yet enough to revive the glory from the golden days of Hou Hsiao-Hsien (“City of Sadness”) and Edward Yang (“Yi Yi”).

There is certainly the bright side. The Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA), a professional intermediary organization established in 2019 under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture to promote the island’s content industries locally and abroad, is still eager to present the island’s latest offerings across international film festivals and markets, including this year’s virtual European Film Market at the Berlinale. There’s also a lot more Taiwanese content streaming on Netflix and other international or regional platforms than ever before, making it much more accessible to viewers abroad. Sony Pictures Intl. Prods. also announced that it would partner with Taiwan’s Activator to co-produce paranormal comedy “Dead Talents Society,” directed by John Hsu (“Detention”).

However, as Chung predicted in an interview with Variety in September, the tide was not going to turn easily with the success of just a handful of films. And Taiwanese filmmakers, especially those from a younger generation, are still finding a balance between reaching a wider audience who may be culturally very different and maintaining a connection with local fans.

“The international exposure of ‘The Sun’ has certainly helped to generate more buzz for Taiwanese cinema, and perhaps given investors a confidence boost in investing in Taiwan projects. But at the heart of the issue is quantity — we need a high enough number of productions in order to make a difference,” says Hung Tzu-Hsuan. He was nominated for the new helmer award at last year’s 58th Golden Horse Awards for his directorial debut, action drama “The Scoundrels.”

The abundance of OTT platforms may have offered new opportunities for exposure of Taiwanese content, but at it has also done the same for other series and features, making it challenging for Taiwanese projects to be noticed, notes Clifford Miu, producer of family drama “American Girl,” winner of Golden Horse Audience Choice Award and the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival’s Fipresci prize last year.

A greater diversity of genres could be an important factor for the future of Taiwanese cinema, says Hung, especially for filmmakers from a younger generation. Hung notes that among all the film genres, supernatural horror and romance are among the most developed, with a larger followers’ base, which made them easier to promote locally. “But for other genres, it’s much harder,” says Hung, who focuses on action thrillers.

Nevertheless, Hung believes action thrillers have a chance to break out globally. His latest project is tentatively titled “96 Minutes,” and follows a fictional tale about a bomb threat on a train ride from Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan, to Kaohsiung, located in the southwest region of the island. And while it is supposed to be a genre film, at the heart of it is a story about human relations and emotions, he says, which can be understood by an international audience.

To the Los Angeles-based Taiwanese American helmer Fiona Feng-i Roan, who won the new director award at last year’s Golden Horse Awards with “American Girl,” understanding the audience is key. “We try to always keep an international audience in mind with each project, but we like to believe that any film with a universal theme and an emotional core will ultimately resonate with a global audience,” she says.

“The appeal of certain stories largely depends on personal taste and can change over time. We can’t speak for others, but we’d ideally like to tell stories that are moving yet personal to us,” she adds.

Finding the right investors to work with would be another key issue, notes Miu. “American Girl” is backed by investors from around the region, including Hong Kong’s Media Asia, Splash Pictures from Taiwan and GHY Culture and Media from Singapore, and having investors from different territories and regions can certainly help to boost the film’s exposure abroad.

“There are some benefits from having an international company to work with. You have to be clear what you are going for when you make your pitch,” Miu says. However, he insisted that it was not a must to have overseas investors in order to court a film’s international exposure, “as long as a story has universal appeal.” After all, finding investors was never an easy task, he notes.

Aiming to reach an audience abroad is certainly the way to go. A TAICCA report released last year showed that overseas revenue accounted for 39.7% of the domestic motion picture industry’s total revenue in 2019. In addition to mainland China and Hong Kong, the United States and Southeast Asia are also among the major markets for Taiwan. International OTT platforms account for 12.24% of overseas licensing for domestic motion pictures in the same year, and this percentage was expected to be higher after 2019 amid an accelerating growth of international OTT platforms in the region.

This is encouraging news to Hung, despite all the challenges. He sees himself standing at the forefront of what could be one of the greatest turning points for the art of filmmaking in history. “With the rise of online streaming, we are living in a moment that is comparable to the times when we went from silent to sound movies, from black and white to color films. There are more opportunities to tell the stories I want to tell, stories that are original and emotionally connected with audiences,” Hung says.