The Taiwan Pavilion is back at the market with a robust delegation of exhibitors, including distributor Applause Entertainment, which is staging its market debut as a sales agent.
While no Taiwanese titles have been selected for Cannes this year, two films set to premiere here are co-productions with funding support from Taiwan. Tiger Stripes by Amanda Nell Eu is the first Malaysian film selected for Critics’ Week and the first Malaysian woman director to play in Cannes, with Taiwan’s Patrick Mao Huang credited as a co-producer, while Chilean film The Settlers by Felipe Galvez, which has Taiwanese sound designer Tu Duu-Chih among its crew, screens in Un Certain Regard.
Back in Taiwan, the first quarter of 2023 saw box office increase by 5% to $65m (nt$2bn), compared to the same period in pre-Covid 2019. The frontrunner was LGBTQ+ supernatural comedy Marry My Dead Body, directed by Man In Love producer Cheng Wei Hao. It has grossed more than $11.6m (nt$357m) to become the seventh-highest grossing local film of all time in Taiwan.
Two further films have also gained international recognition in recent months. Fu Tien-Yu’s Day Off received the audience award and Yakushi Pearl Award for veteran actress Lu Hsiao-Fen — her first film role in 20 years — at Osaka Asian Film Festival. The film went on to pick up the Mulberry Award for best screenplay at Udine’s Far East Film Festival in Italy.
Bad Education was given a special mention in the young cinema competition (Chinese language) category at Hong Kong International Film Festival and the most promising talent award for actor-turned-director Kai Ko, also at Osaka.
Be With Me
Dir. Hwarng Wern Ying
Filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien serves as executive producer on this feature debut by his collaborator Hwarng, winner of best art director and best makeup and costume design at the Golden Horse Awards for Flowers Of Shanghai and The Assassin respectively. Ariel Lin (A Choo), Vic Chou and Ethan Juan star in this family drama about the spiritual and emotional journey of a woman told over three time periods as she reminisces about her late grandfather. Sinomovie.com is a main backer with support from Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture, Taipei Film Fund and Taichung Film Development Foundation. Hwarng worked as a supervising art director on Martin Scorsese’s Silence, which shot in Taiwan.
Contact: Joy Chai, Applause Entertainment
Eye Of The Storm
Dir. Lin Chun-Yang
Inspired by the hospital lockdown that shocked Taiwan at the start of the SARS pandemic in 2003, this drama centres on a surgeon, two nurses and a tabloid journalist who are among the 1,000 people trapped in a local hospital. The film is produced by Aileen Li of horror hit Detention and stars Wang Po-Chieh (White Lies, Black Lies), Tseng Jing-Hua (Your Name Engraved Herein), and Chloe Xiang and Hsueh Shih-Ling, both from The Abandoned. After opening Golden Horse Fantastic Film Festival, the film was released on April 14 with positive reviews. Director Lin’s credits include The Soul Of The Bread and award-winning drama series The World Between Us.
Contact: June Wu, Distribution Workshop
Island Of The Winds
Dir. Hsu Ya-Ting
Independent filmmaker Hsu has been working on this documentary for two decades, tracking the life stories of leprosy patients in a sanatorium built by the Japanese in 1930 on the outskirts of Taipei and recording their struggle against the authorities to erase a history of segregation. This Taiwan-Japan-France co-production is produced by Hsu, Okinawa-based Huang Yin-Yu and Baptiste Brunner. The project was selected for 2022 Doc By The Seas editing lab where it won the Current Time TV prize and will be presented as a work-in-progress in this year’s Cannes Docs. Hsu previously directed award-winning short documentaries The River and Life With Happiness.
Contact: Moolin Films
Kiss My Ass Boss
Dir. Arthur Chu
Adapted from I’m Mark, a popular Taiwanese comic strip with nearly 900,000 Facebook followers, this screwball comedy is billed as a cross between Extreme Job and Harry Potter. The film revolves around a young man, disillusioned at work, who finds himself being mistaken for the grandson of his company’s biggest shareholder and is willing to risk everything to maintain the lie. Playing the lead role is award-winning singer/songwriter Crowd Lu, who won the prize for best original film song at the Golden Horse Awards for 2020 Taiwanese hit film Your Name Engraved Herein, which is produced by director Chu. A local release is set for September 28, in time for Taiwan’s Mid-Autumn Festival public holiday.
Contact: Selina Chen, Flash Forward
Lost In Perfection
Dir. Sung Hsin-Yin
Previously known as Love Is A Bitch, this psychological thriller is about a career woman who embarks on an investigation of her father’s new bride as a ‘black widow killer’. The cast includes Ivy Shao (More Than Blue: The Series), Lin Mei-Shiu and Rhydian Vaughan (Light The Night series). Director Sung’s feature debut On Happiness Road earned several accolades including best animation feature at the Golden Horse Awards in 2018. Lost In Perfection marks the first feature film of Screenworks Asia, the production subsidiary of streaming platform Catchplay, known for award-winning drama series such as Twisted Strings.
Contact: Kat Yeung, Screenworks Asia
Dir. Giddens Ko
Novelist-turned-director Ko’s latest film is adapted from his own short story Precisely Out Of Control, and follows the unlikely romance between a gang boss and the shampoo girl who saved his life. Daniel Hong of hip-hop band Nine One One and Vivian Sung of hit fantasy romance Till We Meet Again play the lead roles with Kai Ko and Emerson Tsai co-starring. Machi Xcelsior Studios, Harvest 9 Road Entertainment and My Story Entertainment are among the main backers. It will receive its world premiere as the opening film of Taipei Film Festival in June. Ko’s Till We Meet Again opened the same festival in 2021.
Contact: Barunson E&A
Dir. Hsiao Ya-Chuan
Set in the late 1980s, this family drama is about an 11-year-old boy who befriends his landlord, nicknamed Old Fox, and learns from him how to survive in a rapidly changing world as well as things his poor father would never be able to teach him. Experienced child actor Bai Run-Yin (Dear Tenant), Liu Kuan-Ting (A Sun) and veteran actor Akio Chen are in the cast. Like on director Hsiao’s previous three films, filmmaker Hou Hsiao-Hsien serves as executive producer. Hsiao’s debut feature Mirror Image played in Directors’ Fortnight 2001, followed by Taipei Exchanges and Father To Son, which premiered in Rotterdam’s VPRO Big Screen Award competition.
Contact: Eric Chou, Greener Grass Production
Dir. Lien Chien-Hung
This feature debut is about a chicken farmer in Taiwan, who travels to Paris to look for her online French lover despite her fellow villagers believing it is a scam. Starring Austin Lin (IWeirDo) and Esther Liu (Light The Night series), the film has renowned producer Lee Lieh (Zone Pro Site, Detention) as executive producer. This Taiwan-France co-production won a hat-trick of prizes at the recent Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF), including the top WIP award for a non-Hong Kong project and HAF Goes to Cannes programme, through which the film will be presented at the Cannes market.
Contact: Amanda Manyin Reinert, ENLA Media
Two Old Fellas
Dir. Pan Jhih-Yuan
This latest film by Pan can be seen as a follow-up to his 2006 pickpocketing drama The Touch Of The Fate, which was nominated for four Golden Horse Awards. Now the pickpocket has just been released and the police officer who sent him to jail is retiring, both are searching for their own redemption and hope. Veteran actors Cai Zhen-Nan and King Jieh-Wen lead the cast. The project won an Excellent Screenplay Award from Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture in 2020. Director Pan previously directed Sashimi, starring Lee Kang-Sheng, and produced horror film 49 Days.
Contact: Big Think International Entertainment