Contemplating the State of Asian Cinema

in 50th Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival

by Harumi Nakayama

Jackie Chan, Chen Chang and the great Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien, are some of the better known winners of the Taipei Golden Horse awards of previous years. They are now joined by the young filmmaker Anthony Chen who was named Best New Director for his film ”Ilo Ilo” that also took the Best Film award. This is the first time a Singaporean film receives this award.

The 50th Golden Horse awards ceremony was held on November 23, 2013, at the National Dr. Sun-Yat-sen Memorial Hall in a grand scale to celebrate this milestone, and no one anticipated this drastic choice for a winner.  Jury chair Ang Lee gave us an interesting surprise.

”Ilo Ilo” is a story of a Singaporean family experiencing an economical crisis, as seen through the eyes of a Filipina maid.  It won 4 awards including Best Supporting Actress (Yeo Yann Yann) and Best Original Screenplay (written by the director). I believe this sweep presents the jury’s desire to encourage the Singaporean film industry.

The FIPRESCI jury chose to honor ”Rigor Mortis” by Juno Mak, one of the 9 films by new and young directors screened at the festival. The 30 year old director created an innovative homage to ”The Living Dead” films that used to be part of the Hong Kong film tradition which is now dying.

Among the other films there were two more that I want to mention. ”Bends” by Flora Lau takes place on the border of China and Hong Kong, and ”Longing for the Rain” (Chunmeng) by Yang Li-na (also from Hong Kong) deals with the sex problem of Chinese women. Both films are of high quality and I was shocked to find big differences between them and films made by young Japanese directors.  The Japanese are, in most cases, satisfied with expressing their own limited world, whereas films by young Chinese directors have width and describe society and culture through their small family unit and organization. I sincerely hope that young Japanese directors take note of these Chinese films.

Along side the Festival there was an exhibition at The Songshan Cultural and Creative Park which used to be a cigarette factory during the Japanese occupation. Among the wonderful exhibits were trophies of past Golden Horse winners, director’s chair of King Hou, direction plan of ”A City of Sadness” (Bei qing cheng shi) by Hou Hsiao-Hsien, storyboards and costumes of Warriors of the Rainbow: Seediq Bale (Sàidékè balái) by Wei Te-Sheng which won The 48th Golden Horse Film Award.

Edited by Yael Shuv