53rd Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival
Taiwan, November 4 - November 24 2016
While many film festivals aim to be unique, very few are. The Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, which started in 1980, might actually be one of those few. It’s not just the fact that it takes place over three weeks, which is far longer than most similar affairs. What really makes this pleasant event so special is the close connection with its eponymous awards ceremony, which fashions itself as the Oscars for Chinese-language cinema.
Some of the festival’s sections, such the ones titled Master Class and Viva Auteur, offer a sample of highlights from Cannes, Venice and other major festivals, while others consist of retrospectives: this year, there were small programs dedicated to Abbas Kiarostami, Krzysztof Kieslowski’s The Decalogue cycle, and film adaptations of Shakespeare.
The main program, however, comprises every film nominated in any of the 23 categories for a Golden Horse Award. It gives the audience the chance to sample a very broad selection of contemporary Chinese-language cinema from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Malaysia, ranging from ridiculous horror flicks to masterfully nuanced black-and- white arthouse films.
Three of the four main festival venues are located on downtown Taipei’s so-called Cinema Street, a rather small street which boasts the megacity’s densest concentration of cinemas. This is why attending a festival screening does not differ much from a relaxed, regular visit to the multiplex.
One of these cinemas is housed in a commercial multi-storey building, whose shabby appearance becomes charming only after one learns that this is the place where Tsai Ming- liang met Lee Kang-sheng and in which he shot parts of his Rebels of the Neon God. The contrast between that film and the glamour of the Golden Horse Awards could hardly be starker. While the ceremony takes place shortly after the festival has officially ended, it effectively serves as the event’s climax. (Holger Römers, edited by Lesley Chow)