If you go to a movie theater in Taiwan, most likely you will be able to watch a lot of movies that you can watch in the US. However, if you go to a movie theater in the US, most likely you will not be able to watch movies that are made in Taiwan. Not that this is surprising, because there really isn’t that many movies that are made in Taiwan, and managed to attract enough people in Taiwan to watch them. However, this is changing. It can be observed that more and more people in Taiwan associate themselves with Taiwan and calling themselves Taiwanese (many people still identified themselves as Chinese about two decades ago). Films that are made based on culture in Taiwan, and just in general are made in Taiwan by Taiwanese directors have been storming the box office on the island. Here are a few of those films. (For more Taiwanese films, visit 台灣電影網Taiwan Cinema.)
Secret 不能說的·秘密 (2007)
Directed and staring Jay Chou 周杰倫, a famous Taiwanese pop star and actor who recently starred in the movie Green Hornet, Secret tells a story of a extremely talented music student who just transferred to an acclaimed high school famous for music education. One day, he found another student, who is also talented and passionate about music, and slowly falls in love. However, she always seems mysterious, and always plays a tune that is beautiful and he has never heard of. Whenever he asks her, she always says it’s a secret. One day after a mistake that led her to believe that he loves another girl, she never comes to school again, and when he visited her home, her mother tells him that she died of asthma 20 years ago. Determined to find out the truth, he remembers that secret tune she always plays, and how she finally told him that the power of that tune, is the ability to take people across 20 years of time…
Aga, a band singer unable to show his talent in the big cities, returns to his hometown Hengchun with frustration. Tomoko, a Japanese model who speaks Mandarin, is assigned to organize a local warm-up band for the Japanese super star beach concert. Together with other five ordinary Hengchun residents who were not expected to be great or anything, they formed an impossible band. A film full of conflicts, romance, music, and local themes, Cape No. 7 tops the Taiwanese box office in Mandarin films, and second in all films (after the Titanic) in history. Among many awards, the film was nominated for 9 and won 6 Golden Horses (“The Academy Awards for Films in Chinese”).
Cape No. 7 was the first film made by Taiwanese to reach such success in recent history, and encouraged Taiwanese audience to watch other films produced in Taiwan by Taiwanese.
ORZBoys often act nasty toward girls at school and lie to other classmates, earning the names “Liar #1” and “Liar #2” from the teachers. As they were punished to read in the library, they discuss ways to travel to an unknown dimension. Liar #1 has a crush on a girl in school, but as the girl’s mother passed away and the girl leaves, the boys learn the meaning of being strong. Liar #2 is jealous of a new sister, and plotted a fake-kidnap case. The two boys eventually tried out more ways to travel to the unknown dimension……
Each September, winds blow especially hard in the Hsinchu area. Winds of September is a story of 9 high school-age guys, their support for the professional baseball in Taiwan, love, friendship, and the drama as graduation approaches. Sudden death of a friend force all others to grow, while conflicts slowly draw gaps between people. On graduation day, their favorite baseball team is deeply in trouble due to rumor of gambling and fake-playing.
Monga is set in mid-1980s in the Wanhua District of Taipei for which it is named (Wanhua is Báng-kah, rendered as “Monga”, in Taiwanese).The movie was filmed on location and landmarks such as Longshan Temple, Huaxi Street (Snake Alley), and Bopiliao appear in the film. A combination of gangster story and male bonding story, which begins by revealing the early delinquent life of a group of boys who eventually make the leap to a full-blown criminal lifestyle. Much of this evolution takes place while the bonds that develop among the youths deepen. The film mostly focuses on three principles in the group. As their exploits become increasingly violent, they eventually join a criminal organization headed by Boss Geta, the leader of a local syndicate, and from there allegiances become more complicated. Even though the Minister of Education of Taiwan worries such subject will have negative effects on students and their behaviors, it is expected that this film will surpass the box office of Cape No. 7.
Kai always sits in the bookstore, reading French textbooks and thinking about his girlfriend that left for Paris. To him, Taipei without his girlfriend is like a planet without the sun, and he is going to do anything to go to Paris. Susie, a bookstore clerk, for some unknown reason is attracted to Kai, the boy that’s learning French on his own and a little lonely. Before the bookshelves, Susie and Kai have occasional conversations. Dancing to the rhythm of love, Kai still says “Je t’aime” to Paris girl… on the eve he is to jump on the flight to Paris, Kai meets Susie in the night market. The unknown package in his hands all the sudden becomes the target of two crowds. Kai grabs Susie’s hand, and as they run through the streets of Taipei, the MRT, the forest park, the motel… with a sequence of mistakes, missing each other, and coincidence, Kai and Susie’s hearts start to break free. Dawn is coming, will Kai discover that Susie may be “the one”? (Excerpt from official website.) Directed by Arvin Chen, Au Revoir Taipei has been nominated and won the NETPAC Award (award specifically Asian films) at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival.
Doris and Josie are sisters with completely different personalities. Doris was offended by her younger sister’s unnoticed act of starting an event of trading goods in their coffee shop. After a series of trading and the stories along them, the event eventually changed the sisters’ values and intuitions. And they started to look for their own stories (Excerpt from official website). The movie was released on 5/14/10 in Taiwan. The coffee shop built for the film has been turned into an actual coffee shop and is currently in business in Taipei City.
茱麗葉 JULIETS (2010)
Even though promises were never realized, the memories of love are still there. Three different times, three Juliets distressed by love.
“Take me with you,” said Hsiu-chu to Ro-way that night. It was Taiwan in the 70s, crippled Hsiu-chu works at a printing factory and has no hope for the future, or love. Ro-way, a young college student, wants to print a newspaper filled with his thoughts and criticism on social reform. Rejected by the factory owner as Taiwan was under the martial law, Ro-way’s smile filled Hsiu-chu’s heart as she told him that she will print the paper for him……
“For you, I will do anything.” Julie forever remembers Lo’s words. 30 years ago, as the daughter of the owner of a show ensemble, Julie fell in love with the son of the owner of a competing hand-puppet show. Their fathers saw each other as foes, while their love took place backstage. Their only dating spot, was a lonely psychiatric hospital on top of a hill. Eventually the forbidden love was discovered, forcing Lo’s family to leave. On bidding farewell, Lo asked Julie if she would fake a mental illness and wait for him in the hospital……
“My love, has been confiscated by god.” On the day before her 40th birthday, “Juliet” decides to end her life, after 28 failures in love. She bikes into deep mountains, and just before she’s about to slip on the rope loop around her neck, someone tells her to stop. A group filming a commercial not only not let her die, but asks her to be part of the commercial……
Night Market Hero describes the stories of those who sell delicious Taiwanese food in the night market. Yet, food is not the only thing they sell, but also the memories that tie to all Taiwanese people’s taste buds. Ahua, as the president of the night market association and an handsome young fellow, manages things efficiently and bring more and more customers into the night market. One day, without warning, the land on which the night market stands is announced to be bought by a construction business as part of a behind-the-screen deal between the government and the business. Without land and the source of economy, Ahua leads the night market folks to protect their night market.
On a side note, there are many films in Hollywood that were directed by Taiwanese directors. Among them, most notably, is Ang Lee, the Academy Award-winning director for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Brokeback Mountain, Sense and Sensitivity, Taking Woodstock, and more.