Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival highlights environmental issues, loss, love, and a statue of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen

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      The organizers of this year's Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival injected some humour into a recent news conference announcing this week's lineup.

      To highlight the screening of seven Taiwanese feature films and one Canadian short, one of the volunteers put a giant ball on his head.

      "It's actually just an eye that watches the movies," said UBC student Daphne Zeng.

      That was followed by a humorous exchange between members of UBC Literature Etc. over whether the festival's mascot has tears or eyelashes below the star that marks its iris.

      UBC Literature Etc., which is a student group, has teamed up with the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver and the Taiwanese-Canadian Cultural Society on the ninth annual festival. 

      The Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival takes place at the Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour Street) from Friday (June 19) to Sunday (June 21).

      This year's theme is "Beyond Taiwan", reflecting how the films address topics that stretch far beyond the borders of the East Asian island nation of 23 million.

      "Our film festival has a cultural dialogue between Taiwan (Republic of China) and Vancouver, but also, we would like to have a dialogue between Vancouver and Taiwan across the sea," said Peggy Hua, vice-chair of the student group.

      One of the highlights is Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above, a 2013 documentary by Chi Po-Lin. The film showcases the country's stunning natural wonders juxtaposed with images of sometimes ugly industrial development.

      Trailer for Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above.

      Some of the cinematography will remind Canadians of the work of Edward Burtynsky

      William Chuang, director general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver, said that he comes from a very densely populated country that is approximately the same size as Vancouver Island. 

      He said that environmental issues highlighted in Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above, are not only important to Taiwanese, but also to people living around the world.

      "A lot of money and time was spent on the documentary," Chuang noted.

      Another film, The Boar King, deals with the aftermath of a typhoon that has buried a hot spring that supported a family's hotel business. It, too, has an environmental theme, examining how people cope with loss and despair triggered by a natural catastrophe.

      Trailer forThe Boar King.

      Chuang emphasized that the festival not only gives Vancouverites an opportunity to learn about Taiwan's vibrant film industry, but also its open and democratic society.

      "Through cultural exchange, we hope that the distance between Canada and Taiwan can become shorter—not only culturally, but psychologically and spiritually, also."

      Another movie, Meeting Dr. Sun, is a dark comedy focusing on a poor teen plotting to steal a statue of the founder of modern China, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. 

      Trailer for Meeting Dr. Sun.

      (There happens to be a photo of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen on the wall in the boardroom of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver, where the news conference was being held.)

      Dr. Sun Yat-Sen looked down over the news conference.

      The other Taiwanese films being shown are Sex AppealSecond ChanceDesign 7 Love, and Conspiracy. All are in Mandarin with English subtitles.

      There's also a Vancouver-lensed 10-minute short in English, Nick and the Slingshots. It was directed by Vincent Kuan Lin, an SFU student of Taiwanese descent.

      The Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival takes place at the Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour Street) from Friday (June 19) to Sunday (June 21).