With support from US cultural diplomacy program American Film Showcase (AFS), Taiwan director John Hsu (徐漢強) attended the Convergence Track conference of the 2019 South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas this March.
The American Film Showcase is funded by a grant from the US State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and produced by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) to highlight the values of film in fostering understanding and cooperation, dialogue, and debate. Taiwan has been selected to participate in AFS-led initiatives from 2018 through 2020.
Upon a joint recommendation by the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and the Ministry of Culture, Hsu joined four other AFS fellows from Argentina, Lithuania, Malaysia, and Ukraine at SXSW in discussing the current opportunities and future potential afforded by the cinematic applications of digital technology such as virtual, augmented, and mixed reality.
Hsu also brought a new VR proposal to SXSW ― "The Moon Landing Conspiracy (登月大騙局)," an interactive film project supported by both Taiwan's Public Television Service and the Kaohsiung Film Archive's VR Film Lab.
Hsu, 38, first made his foray into the international VR scene with "Your Spiritual Temple Sucks (全能元神宮改造王)" in 2018. Traditional beliefs and new technologies clash in this 360-degree short film about a man who's told by his spiritual guardian to tidy up his life to save his marriage.
The hilarious short went on to be accepted by the Sundance Institute's 2018 New Frontier program ― the first VR project from Taiwan to receive this honor ― and captured the Best Innovative Storytelling Award at the 2018 World VR Forum in Switzerland.
In other related news, Deputy Culture Minister Celest Hsiao-ching Ting (丁曉菁) also led a delegation representing Taiwan's creative sectors to meet with SXSW organizers, Austin government officials, and local media representatives.