Work commitments mean I’m a bit behind on the news – one example being the recent Classic Taiwanese Film Festivals held in Tâi-pak (Taipei), Tâi-lâm (Tainan), Sin-tek (Xinzhu) and Phêⁿ-ô͘ (Penghu). The history of Taiwanese-language film is one marked by a long hiatus during the latter half of the martial law period (1945-1987) when the authorities decided to crack down on native language media (in favour of the National Language of the Republic of China, i.e. Mandarin).
When people talk of “classic” Taiwanese films, generally what is meant is the early part of Chinese Nationalist (KMT) rule in Taiwan, before the restrictive measures came in to place. Films produced towards the end of military rule are generally regarded as “modern”, possibly starting with Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s 1989 masterpiece “City of Sadness“, which was also the first major film to challenge the KMT’s version of history and openly discuss the events surrounding the 2-28 Incident.
Films on display at the recent festivals included 王哥柳哥遊台灣 (Wang and Liu Wander Taiwan), 舊情綿綿 (Neverending Memory) and 再見台北 (Goodbye Taipei), all from the late fifties or early sixties. Southern residents can still pick up DVDs of some of these classics at the National Taiwan Literature Museum (台文館) in Môa-tāu (Madou), Tâi-lâm (Tainan) County.
For those interested in finding out more about the impact of literature and moving pictures on Taiwan’s post-war cultural and political experience, June Yip’s Envisioning Taiwan: Fiction, Cinema, and the Nation in the Cultural Imaginary is highly recommended.