The producers of Taiwan Film Festival Edinburgh have announced their plans for the first ever, free to access Festival, taking place digitally between 18 and 27 of September via their website. Originally planned as a physical event, the Festival was repivoted to a purely digital form in light of the global pandemic of Covid-19, and the chief curator, Kuan-Ping Liu, spoke with The Fountain about what to expect from this digital offering.

TF: What is Taiwan Film Festival Edinburgh?

Originally planned to take place physically, the Festival had to be reshaped to a purely digital form and takes place online between 18 and 27 September. To ensure wide reach, all films are free to access – limited to 400 users per title.

It has been great to witness the global surge in interest in Taiwanese cinematography over the last decade and we hope this Festival helps introduce some of the lesser-known talent to wider audiences as it charts the fascinating journey of Taiwanese cinema from the 60s until now.

From wuxia classics such as A City Called Dragon, through adaptations of romance novels by Chiung Yao, possibly the most influential writer of this genre in the Chinese-speaking world to a selection of works by one of the most celebrated young filmmakers, Midi Z, the Festival’s offer is truly comprehensive and diverse and certainly not only for film buffs! Worth noting that half of the programme are UK premieres. Plus, to ensure wide access to the event, all titles are free to watch (although limited to 400 users per film).

TF: Where did the idea for the Festival come from?

I’ve lived in Edinburgh for five years now and I have always been amazed at how receptive and diverse the audiences are! We wanted to contribute to the extremely varied and rich Edinburgh cultural scene by producing Taiwan Film Festival. The aim is to forge stronger relationships between Taiwanese and Scottish film professionals and audiences as we feel the conversation needs to be more robust. Taiwan’s rich cinema offer is still relatively hard to come by in the UK outside arthouse cinemas such as Edinburgh’s Filmhouse or Glasgow Film Theatre, our hope is to help improve that!

TF: Which Festival titles would you recommend to someone who’s never seen a Taiwanese film before?

I’d recommend they watch all the Festival titles in chronological order to witness the changes throughout the decades. There’s only 20 of films in the programme and some are short films too!

But if I had to choose, I’d say start with The Husband’s Secret (Lin Tuan-Chiu, 1960), a love triangle drama that, unlike other films of the era, gave a greater voice to female characters and invited audiences to reconsider established family structures. Quite ahead of its time!

It would be very remiss of me not to include two absolute classics: A City Called Dragon (Tu Chun-Hsun, 1970), a masterclass in wuxia (adventure films with a heavy focus on martial arts) and Four Moods (Li Han-Hsiang, Pai Ching-Jui, Li Hsing, King Hu, also 1970), directed by the most well-known filmmakers outside Mainland China of that period, it is a series of four sections creating a fascinating world where the deceased live alongside humans. Another one to recommend is The Sandwich Man (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Tseng Chuang-Hsiang, Wan Jen, 1983), a prime example of Taiwanese New Cinema, inspired by French New Wave and Italian neorealism. From the more contemporary cinema, our selection of Midi Z works is just fantastic! It includes Ice Poison which won the Best Film in 2014 at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and represented Taiwan in the 2015 Academy Awards for the Best Foreign Language Film. There’s so much more to choose from though, I’d encourage everyone to visit the website and have a browse!

TF: Which films are your personal favourites?

I’m a big fan of memes and a lot of our titles lend themselves beautifully to the inspiring world of memes! Our Melodrama Divas strand is great for this, with the overly dramatic narrative, expressions and cringy dialogues, many of the works are hugely memed in the Mandarin-speaking parts of the Internet, not just in Taiwan. I’d say Where the Seagull Flies but to be honest one character in A City Called Dragon (which is part of A Borrowed Hong Kong, the Imagined China in Taiwan and Trans-regional Cinema strand in the Festival) is the most gif-worthy. Have a look for yourself!

TF: Tell us more about the accompanying programme of events.

In collaboration with Scottish Documentary Institute, Taiwan Film Festival Edinburgh presents live Q&A sessions. The first one is with the director and producer of a documentary film Out/Marriage, Nguyen Kim Hong and Tsai Tsung lung (Monday, 21 September at 10am). Out/Marriage is the first ever Taiwanese documentary filmed by a female immigrant. It is an autobiographical story of Kim-Hong who moved from Vietnam to Taiwan for marriage. After years of domestic abuse, she was forced to divorce and became a single mother to her young daughter. Overcoming the cultural and language barrier, Kim-Hong becomes a filmmaker and documents stories of four other women with very similar experiences.

The second Q&A session is with the director of The Mountain, Su Hung-En (Wednesday, 23 September at 10am). The Mountain follows the life of Su’s grandfather, Teymu Teylong, a famous hunter in Ciyakang village in Hualien, Taiwan. The film portrays his everyday life which has not changed despite the passing of time and passing of the various governments. Teymu spends his days farming and hunting in the mountains, chanting to the young fallen souls in the local cemetery and offering sacrifices to ancestral spirits. His daily routines are contrasted with footage of indigenous people in the past who were colonised by various occupiers.

Hosted by the director of Cinetopia, Amanda Rogers, the Festival also features a panel discussion with three film curators sharing their expertise on Taiwanese cinema: Chris Berry, Wafa Ghermani, Wang Yi who will share their thoughts on Taiwanese Hokkien-Language films, film noir and queer films. This takes place on Saturday, 26 September at 2pm.

All events are free to access to audiences worldwide and will be hosted on our YouTube channel.

TF: What are your plans for the future?

I cannot confirm anything at this stage but we are still hoping to organise physical screenings at some point later this year. We’re currently speaking to a few venues so please stay in touch with us via socials for latest updates using #TaiwanFFE.

The Taiwan Film Festival Edinburgh runs from 18th until 27th September and for more information click here.