An ambitious slate of more than 80 titles is featured in Taiwan’s debut at Toronto Film Festival’s TIFF Industry section this year, presenting a diverse mix of productions in various genres in a bid to showcase not just the island’s homegrown talent but also its potential as a co-production hub in the region.
“We want to emphasize our commitment in bringing Taiwan’s film and television works to the global stage, and at the same time, making Taiwan the best co-production partner in Asia,” says Izero Lee, CEO of Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA), which presents the slate at the market sector of the Toronto Film Festival this year. TAICCA is an independent agency set up by the Ministry of Culture and the cabinet (Executive Yuan) that has been actively promoting the island’s cultural and creative content globally.
“We are actively fostering relations with international companies, institutions, and festivals to meet these goals, while also promoting Taiwan’s own talent,” Lee says.
The production sales presentation from Taiwan sees a range of narrative features, documentary films, shorts, restored classics, and VR or immersive content released over the past year or recently completed, as well as projects that are still in development or pre-production with a target release date in 2023 and 2024.
Among the highlights of recent projects is crime drama “Goddamned Asura,” which is Taiwan’s submission for the upcoming best international feature film at the Academy Awards that was recently announced. Starring Mo Tzu-yi, Peijia Huang, Pan Gang-da, and Wang Yu-xuan, the film is the fourth feature of Lou Yi-An (“A Place of One’s Own,” “The Losers,” “White Lies, Black Lies”). Inspired by a news event involving a teenager committing a random shooting incident that ripped apart the lives of the characters involved. The film won the best support actress at the Golden Horse Awards last year and best screenplay, best supporting actress, and best music at the Taipei Film Awards this year. It was released in March in Taiwan. International sales handled by Hope Marketing Entertainment Co., Ltd.
Taiwan has been upping its game to boost the international exposure of its film projects in recent years, and the Academy Awards has been one key occasion in addition to international film festivals. Previously, “A Sun” and “The Falls” garnered a great deal of attention and market opportunities as the island’s entry for an Oscar. To follow up the previous success, TAICCA will be hosting a market screening for “Goddamned Asura,” and the film’s director Lou Yi-An will be attending a post-screening event. TAICCA says it hopes that the event can help expand the reach of Taiwan film production into the North American market.
International co-productions are another highlight of the TIFF Industry presentation. “A Holy Family,” “Pierce,” and “Tomorrow Is a Long Time” are among the international co-productions backed by TAICCA’s Taiwan’s International Co-Funding Program (TICP), an initiative that was launched last year.
“A Holy Family” is a documentary co-produced by Taiwan and France directed by Elvis Lu, who revisits a family history that involves his brother being a medium who could communicate with Taoist gods. International sales handled by Deckert Distribution.
“Pierce,” a joint-effort from Singapore, Taiwan, and Poland directed by Nelicia Low, follows the family drama of a closeted gay young man. It is still in post-production stage and the film’s company Flash Forward Entertainment is hoping to find pre-sales, international distribution, and festival opportunities at TIFF Industry.
“Tomorrow Is a Long Time” has backing from Taiwan, Singapore, France, and Portugal. Directed by Jow Zhi Wei, the film follows a father-and-son relationship set in Singapore. The film is in post-production stage. The film’s production companies Akanga Films, VOLOS Films Ltd., Potocol, Fabrica Nocturna Cinéma, and Oublaum Filmes, are pitching for different international opportunities.
Aspirations aside, pursuing international co-productions is not without challenges, says Dennis Yang of founder and CEO of Taipei-based Studio 76. Studio 76’s psychological crime thriller “You Have to Kill Me,” directed by Chan Chun-hao is among the titles featured in TIFF Industry, and the studio is looking for international distribution and festival appearances through this occasion. Yang, in the meantime, is teaming up with Patrick Huang, producer of gay drama “Moneyboys,” also featured in the TIFF Industry slate, for another yet-to-be announced international co-production.
“Taiwan needs more international co-production,” Yang says, adding that Taiwan has a lot to offer as a production location thanks to its relatively low costs, abundance of talent, and creative freedom. But the cultural setting of Taiwan, unlike that in Hong Kong and Singapore, makes it relatively difficult for Taiwanese filmmakers to reach out to the world. TAICCA might be building new bridges for local filmmakers, but at the end of the day, whether co-productions can be born out of these connections depends on the filmmakers.
“Producers from Taiwan need to be more active to reach out to the world,” Yang says. “It takes time, resources, networking, and experiences. Producers can only learn from real experiences in order to identify the right opportunities. But this is slowly changing.”