Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival combines classic cinema with virtual reality and traditional glove poetry

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      The 12th annual Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival will deliver its usual selection of compelling and inspiring movies showcasing the culture and scenery of the East Asian island nation.

      Like in the past, several of these films will also be followed with question-and-answer sessions with actors and directors.

      But this year, there's a twist: virtual reality and 3D cinema.

      The opening-night film, Father, by renowned Taiwanese director Li-chou Yang, is a Golden Horse Award-winning documentary capturing the magic of traditional glove puppetry.

      Yang will bring VR technology into the Vancity Theatre on June 22 so viewers can immerse themselves in this ancient artform to learn and feel what it's like to be a puppet master.

      Another highlight will be a screening of widely admired and prize-winning Formosa 3D at the Landmark Cinema in New Westminster on June 23.

      Director Charlie Chu's film showcases the natural wonders, cultural heritage, and folk arts and crafts of Taiwan. Formosa 3D won the 3D Creative Arts Awards International Jury Prize at a ceremony where another celebrated Taiwanese director, Ang Lee, was also honoured.

      "The reason director Chu made this film is he was once diagnosed with a brain tumour," Vancouver Taiwanese Film Society president Alodia Yen said through a translator at a news conference announcing the festival's 10 feature films. "After losing hearing in one ear and his vision declining, he insisted on creating this film to show the beauty of Taiwan."

      The visually dazzling Formosa 3D captures the many sights, colours, and cultures of Taiwan.

      Chu will be in attendance at the screening in New Westminster to answer questions from the audience.

      All the other films at the festival will be shown at the Vancity Theatre.

      They include the multiple-award-winning The Great Buddha, a black comedy depicting the different lives of rich and poor Taiwanese.

      Another film dealing with poverty is The Last Verse, which is a look at young love over a 16-year period.

      "On the surface, this film seems like it's about a tragic love story," said Amy Chen of the Vancouver Taiwanese Film Society. "But when you dig deeper, it's sociopolitical and it disguises the thoughts and emotions of the teenagers and [highlights] the role they play in shaping our economy and our society. It's really a story that's told from the younger generation to the older generation."

      The Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival's Peggy Hua and Alodia Yen joined Tapei Economic and Cultural Office Vancouver director general Tom Lee to announce this year's lineup.

      Taiwan has a thriving Aboriginal culture, which is explored in Pakeriran.

      Indigenous director Lekal Sumi's semi-autobiographical film shows what happens when a youth raised in the city reconnects with his First Nation.

      "Just when he is planning his escape from his tribe, he meets a very lovely girl who admires him," Chen explained, without giving away the ending.

      It wouldn't be the Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival if there wasn't at least one suspenseful thriller. This year's offering is Who Killed Cock Robin, starring Kaiser Chuang as a journalist investigating a hit-and-run accident.

      It also features famous Taiwanese actor and model Tiffany Ann Hsu (a.k.a. Hsu Wei-ning), who's known throughout the Mandarin-speaking world.

      Who Killed Cock Robin? follows a journalist on a mission to solve a mystery about how a car he once owned became involved in a fatal hit-and-run.

      Another intriguing film at the fest is A Journey of 35, a documentary that follows the lives of five Taiwanese young people with very different backgrounds from the age of 15 to 35.

      Taiwan has long been a leader in Asia in embracing its LGBT community, and Aifu, the Prince/ss is one of the boldest films ever produced in the country on cross-dressing characters.

      Rounding out the festival's features are Take Me to the Moon, a nostalgic look at 1997 Taipei that pays tribute to pop star Chang Yu-sheng, and Turn Around, which is about a famous educator, Wang Cheng, who revived students' spirits in an area struck by a devastating earthquake. 

      This year's Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival will also show six short films, including two by Taiwanese-Canadian filmmakers living in the Lower Mainland.

      Lawrence Lam's "Blue Jet" and Vincent Lin's "Story Unbridled" each feature Vancouver actor and former city councillor B.C. Lee.

      Lee narrates the former and acts in the latter. And yes, he'll be in attendance and take the audience's questions at the screening of the short films, along with Taiwanese director Michelle Chu.

      The Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival will be held from June 22 to June 24 at the Vancity Theatre (1181 Seymour Street). Formosa 3D will be screened on June 23 at Landmark Cinema (390-800 Carnarvon Street, New Westminster, at New Westminster Station). on the .