Normally, the Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival showcases contemporary films with actors from the democratic island nation off the east coast of China.
That tradition will continue with this year’s 14th annual TWFF, which runs for free online from Friday (September 11) to September 20, with the Canadian premiere of the psychological drama Nina Wu.
Directed by Myanmar-born Midi Z, Nina Wu was screened at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and was written by and stars Taiwanese actor Wu Ke-Xi. Her character, Nina Wu, endures pain, exploitation, and humiliation as she tries to launch an acting career.
In addition, Wu will participate in a videotaped panel discussion with Carleen Kyle, president of Women in Film and Television Vancouver, to discuss how women are treated in the film industries in Taiwan and Canada. The audience size is being limited to 300, with free registration through twff.ca/.
The festival’s assistant director, Ian Lin, told the Straight that in addition to this relatively recent release, the TWFF will present two restored films from a bygone era. As well, it will screen two shorts made in 2019 that were inspired by these classics.
Lin explained by phone that the organizers were curious to examine the origins of Taiwanese cinema. And they soon realized that there were about 100 films per year produced in the Taiwanese language in the 1950s and 1960s that were largely forgotten.
That’s because the ruling Kuomintang dictatorship of that era discouraged use of the Taiwanese language, preferring to push the population to embrace Mandarin. And that made it difficult for directors to screen their movies.
“Suddenly, the policy forced them to not play those films in the theatre,” Lin said. “So they didn’t have any value anymore.”
KMT discouraged Taiwanese under martial law
According to Lin, only about 200 of these films survived. One of those being screened by the TWFF is The Fantasy of Deer Warrior, made in 1961 and directed by Chang Ying. It depicts animals, including deer and lambs, living harmoniously in the forest when a pack of wolves appears.
The characters are played by human beings in animal costumes, which has made this a cult classic among younger Taiwanese movie lovers.
And because it was filmed while Taiwan was under martial law, it’s easy for viewers to conclude that the animals under siege represent the Taiwanese people who are being persecuted by either the ruling Kuomintang or Communist China, as represented by the wolves.
The second restored film being screened is Foolish Bride, Naive Bridegroom, a 1967 romantic comedy directed by Hsin Chi.
In addition, the festival will screen a short film about a same-sex romance, “Like Father, Like Daughter”, which was inspired by Foolish Bride, Naive Bridegroom.
And the opening ducumentary, Archiving Time, shows how 16mm films from that era were restored.
Tainan National University of the Arts professor Ray Jiing will join a panel discussion on video during the festival to talk about his 30-year career restoring historic films.
The festival is also shining a spotlight on production staff in the closing film, A Foley Artist, focusing on master foley artist Hu Ding-Yi.
He will join Goro Koyama, a foley artist and Japanese Canadian, in another panel discussion.