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Five-part interview series with Taiwan filmmakers now on YouTube

  • Date:2019-12-23
Five-part interview series with Taiwan filmmakers now on YouTube

The Taipei Cultural Center in New York and The City University of New York's City Cinematheque (CUNYTV) presented the five-part "An Island of Stories" film series on TV this autumn. Interviews with the featured Taiwanese filmmakers — Wei Te-sheng, Chung Mong-hong, Chang Tso-chi, Midi Z, and Yang Ya-che — are now available on YouTube.

The collaboration, "An Island of Stories: Recent Films from Taiwan," was an exciting curation of five contemporary films from Taiwan, which were screened alongside original interviews conducted and taped specially for this series. Jerry W. Carlson, City Cinematheque producer and CUNY professor, flew to Taiwan to meet one-on-one with each of the five filmmakers to ask after how they adopt bold and fresh perspectives on film aesthetics and genres to broaden Taiwan's cinematic landscape.

"I wanted to tell my own stories… I had stories to tell," said Wei, director of the immensely popular "Cape No. 7" that uses the Hollywood musical tradition of young people putting up a show to explore the colonial vestiges and forgotten history of Taiwan. It remains the highest-grossing Taiwanese film of all time at domestic box offices.

"Taiwan is a place where people never know who they belong to, like a small child whose soul has left him. Who does the body belong to?" asked Chung, whose neo-noir "Soul" x-rays the Taiwanese family in the way David Lynch looks at America.

"The stories we shoot are the ones we are most familiar with… I, myself, belong to the lower and middle class," explained "Thanatos, Drunk" director Chang, whose intimate naturalism takes a candid look at the Taiwanese race to prosperity. His realism approach focuses on people at the margins of society.

"For filmmaking or telling a story, location for me is the most important thing," recalled Midi Z, director of slow-burn drama "The Road to Mandalay," where Taiwan becomes the promised land that impoverished young people from Myanmar risk their lives to reach. The 2016 Golden Horse Outstanding Filmmaker of the Year also speaks out about Taiwan's freedoms and lack of censorship.

"I introduced a three-female family to display the system of corruption in [Taiwanese] society," stated Yang, director of gangster epic "The Bold, the Corrupt, and the Beautiful" and weaver of a tale of deception and collusion worthy of the Corleones, a Taiwan- and women-centric response to "The Godfather." He seeks the answer to "why do you think the world… should pay attention to cinema from [Taiwan]?"

"A treasure trove of films thrilling in their diversity and pure cinematic craft... No film, of course, can tell the whole truth about being Taiwanese. But taken together, the five movies project a beautiful prism, each color telling its own part of the story in its own light," writes Carlson in the program for "An Island of Stories."