Made in Taiwan - Taiwanese Cinema and Television

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 7, 2010 06:30pm | Post a Comment

Taiwan’s official status is complicated. Some view it as a region of China, others as the sole legitimate government of the mainland. Still others believe it to be an island with a unique history stretching back thousands of years and with a distinct culture made up of Austronesian, Han, Japanese and other influences ...and then there are those that think it's the same thing as Thailand, or as the mysterious origin of all our stuff. 

Taiwanese Film Under the Japanese

The first films shown in Taiwan were brought by the Japanese, as early as 1901. As with Japanese films, they relied on a narrator (rather than intertitles) by figures known in Taiwan as benzi. The first Taiwanese benzi was also a musician and composer, Wang Yung-feng.

In 1903, Japanese director ????? (Takamatsu Toyojiro) began exhibiting films from Europe and Japan and built eight theaters. In February 1907, he filmed ??????? (Introducing Taiwan today), a documentary shot in over a hundred villages and meant to showcase Japan’s civilizing influence on Taiwan. The first Taiwanese feature film was Tanaka King's Da fo de tong kong (The eyes of Buddha), a 1922 film that starred Liu Xiyang, the country's first film actor.

Other noteworthy films from this era include Whose fault is it? (1925) and ????? (Sayon's bell ) (1943), the latter depicting helpful interactions between the Japanese and Taiwan's indigenous Ayatal.

Taiwanese Film Under the Chinese Nationalists

After the Chinese Civil War, many Chinese filmmakers sympathetic to the Nationalists came to Taiwan. During this era, Taiwanese language films dominated. In 1962, seven films were shot in Mandarin and 113 in Taiwanese.The Nationalists promoted the use of Mandarin over Taiwanese. In 1963, the Central Motion Picture Corporation introduced the "Health Realism" genre, designed to promote the ROC's agenda. The last Taiwanese film shot exclusively in Taiwanese was in 1981.

Meanwhile, martial arts films, not seen as overtly political, also grew in production numbers and popularity in a climate subject to strict moralistic censorship. ??? (King Hu), in particular, introduced the wuxia genre, which literally took martial arts to new heights (with the strings and stuff -- get it?). The Beijing-born director got his start with the Shaw Brothers and moved to Taiwan in 1966, where he filmed ???? (Dragon Gate Inn), which broke several box office records.

Popular Film Stars of the Era

   ??? (Lin Feng-chiao)                                                    ???  (Charlie Chin Hsiang-lin) 

                               ??? (Brigitte Lin)                                                       ??? (Sylvia Chang)

?? (Sihung Lung)

Glove Puppetry

??? (Po-te-hi), a form of operatic puppetry, began in the 17th century in Fujian, just across the Taiwan Strait. It soon spread to Taiwan. Traditionally the puppets had cloth costumes and wooden heads.

In 1985, ?? (Pili) began televising, a popular drama that still airs today. The puppets have grown more ornate over the years and now seem to even cry tears and cough blood. In 2000, Pili made a film, ???? (Legend of the sacred stone).

New Taiwan Cinema

In part to combat the juggernaut of Hong Kong films, in the early 1980s the CMPC began supporting home-grown directors with highly artistic sensibilities.

???(Edward Yang)

The New Taiwan Cinema, also called the Taiwanese New Wave, began with ????? (In our time), which featured four shorts by ???(Edward Yang), Te-Chen Tao, I-Chen Ko and Yi Chang. In contrast to melodramas and action films, the New Wave films were grounded in more muted tones and dealt with the comparatively mundane struggles of normal people.

??? (Hou Hsiao-hsien)

Key films include of the era include 1983's ????? (Growing up), 1985's ???? (Taipei story) and 1989's ???? (A city of sadness) (1989). Other important directors include ??? (Hou Hsiao-hsien) and his frequent collaborator, Chen Kunhou.

New Taiwanese Cinema Under Democracy

In 1987, after nearly forty years, Taiwan’s long, brutal era of martial law and political suppression, the White Terror, finally ended. The films that followed tended to be (sometimes) less somber but still grounded in the same realist tradition. Without a doubt the biggest name associated with this era is 
?? (Ang Lee).

?? (Ang Lee)

After directing 1995’s British production of Sense & Sensibility, he set his sights on Hollywood, where he went on to direct The Ice Storm, Ride with the Devil, Brokeback Mountain and… Hulk.

Other key filmmakers include ??? (Tsai Ming-liang)??? (Wu Nien-Jen) and ???(Stan Lai). Other key films of the scene include 1991's ?? (Pushing hands); 1993's ?? (The wedding banquet); 1994's ???? (Eat drink man woman); ???? (Vive l'amour),and ???? (A Confucian confusion); and 1998's The Hole.

Key Taiwanese actors of the period include:

                          ??? (Wu Chien-lien)                                                    ??? (Takeshi Kaneshiro)

                                                      ?? (Qi Shu)                                                                    ??? (Richie Ren)

                                ??? (Rene Liu)                                                                   ??? (Nicky Wu)

                                ?? (Chang Chen)                                                            ??? (Yang Kuei-mei)


Although Taiwan continues to produce popular films, including 2008's ???? (Cape no. 7) and 2010's ?? (Monga) and ???? (Au revoir, Taipei), overall film audiences are declining. 

In the last decade, ?????, or Taiwanese Drama, has exploded in the wake of Korean Drama’s global popularity. Lack of acting talent isn’t always an impediment to success in TDrama. So-called  “vases" are cast primarily to please the eyes. Pop stars and members of boy bands are also frequent actors. “Idol Dramas" developed out of girls comics and usually deal, fairly tamely, with puppy love and crushes.

Popular TDramas include 100% Senorita, Autumn’s Concerto, Brown Sugar Macchiato, Bull Fighting, Corner With Love, Devil Beside You, Down With Love, Easy Fortune Happy Life, Fated To Love You, Hanazakarino Kimitachihe, Hi My Sweetheart, Hot Shot, Invincible Shan Bao Mei, It Started With a Kiss, KO 3an Guo, Love Contract, Love or Bread, MARS, Meteor Garden, Miss No Good, Lucky Star, Mysterious Incredible Terminator, Pi Li MIT, Rolling Love, Romantic Princess, Smiling Pasta, Staying by You, Summer’s Desire, The Legend of Brown Sugar Chivalries, The Outsiders, The Prince Who Turns Into a Frog, The Rose, The X-Family, They Kiss Again, ToGetHer, Tokyo Juliet, Why Why Love and Ying Ye 3 Jia 1.

Popular actors in TDramas include Ady An, Alec Su, Amber Kuo, Ambrose Hsu, Angela Zhang, Ariel Lin, Barbie Xu, Chen Qiao En, Cyndi Wang, Danson Tang, Eddie Peng, Ethan Ruan, Genie Zhuo, Gui Gui, Ivy Chen, Jimmy Lin, Joe Cheng, Johnny Yan, Kingone Wang, Kwai Lun-mei, Mike He, Nicholas Teo, Penny Lin, Rainie Yang, Roy Chiu, Ruby Lin and Show Luo.

Eric Brightwell is an adventurer, essayist, rambler, explorer, cartographer, and guerrilla gardener who is always seeking paid writing, speaking, traveling, and art opportunities. He is not interested in generating advertorials, cranking out clickbait, or laboring away in a listicle mill “for exposure.”
Brightwell has written for Angels Walk LAAmoeblogBoom: A Journal of CaliforniadiaCRITICSHidden Los Angeles, and KCET Departures. His art has been featured by the American Institute of Architects, the Architecture & Design Museum, the Craft ContemporaryForm Follows FunctionLos Angeles County Store, the book SidewalkingSkid Row Housing Trust, and 1650 Gallery. Brightwell has been featured as subject in The Los Angeles TimesHuffington PostLos Angeles MagazineLAistCurbedLAEastsider LABoing BoingLos Angeles, I’m Yours, and on Notebook on Cities and Culture. He has been a guest speaker on KCRWWhich Way, LA?, at Emerson College, and the University of Southern California.
Brightwell is currently writing a book about Los Angeles and you can follow him on AmebaDuolingoFacebookGoodreadsInstagramMubiand Twitter.

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Idol Drama (1), Potehi (1), Chinese (4), Japanese (10), Asian Cinema (15), Taiwanese Cinema (1), Taiwanese New Wave (1), Silent Film (33), Propaganda (1), Taiwan (3), Martial Arts (18), China (19), Tawianese Drama (1), Tdrama (1), Pili (1)