Now in it’s 19th year, the Taipei International Film Festival kicked off its opening night with The Great Buddha +, directed by Huang Hsin-yao. The sold-out film is Huang’s first feature, based on his Golden Horse award nominated short film of the same name. Huang’s dark comedy went on to win the festival’s audience choice award announced on July 4. The audience choice award is part of the festival’s much-anticipated International New Talent Competition, aimed at new directors, and is Taiwan's sole competition open to international filmmakers with their first or second features.The Grand Prize this year went to The Wound , directed by South Africa’s John Trengove and the Special Jury Prize went to Mimosas, by Spanish director Oliver Laxe.
The competition received more than 500 submissions from around the world this year, and twelve titles from Taiwan, China, Brazil, Belgium, Israel, Spain, South Africa, United States, Singapore and Romania made the final selection.
Newly appointed director Shen Ko-shang said the Taipei film Festival has successfully positioned itself as the voice of new international independent filmmakers. “The festival works hard to find quality films that may not be available to audiences despite this digital age where films are everywhere. These films from new filmmakers become a natural selection for Taipei Film Festival seeks to showcase quality films that reflect the world views of the new generation.”
Born and raised in Taiwan, the homegrown filmmaker said that he has a personal relationship and history with the Taipei Film Festival. “I received my first nomination at the festival, and over the years my various projects were recognized by my peers here, which helped set the course for my career as a filmmaker. This is my way to give back though I don’t know the first thing of running a film festival.”
Shen said he has to set aside his own creative work to focus on reshaping the festival as well as the way people watch films. “We designed a four-day In Person interactive experience so that audiences can meet the creator in person, observe the work, and understand the anatomy of filmmaking. Music is the first subject we explore.”
In one of the In Person sessions, Taiwanese musician Lim Giong, who worked with the famed Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-hsien in several projects, demonstrated how film scores are unregrated in a picture. The audience watched the musicmaking process and was encouraged to ask questions. Shen plans to introduce other behind-the-scenes professionals in the festival's next editions.
The film festival also launched the workshop Produire au Sud Taipei, designed to help young filmmakers navigate their projects. Six selected scripts and their creators will receive one-on-one mentoring on subjects ranging from pitching to funding to producing.
Shen says he hopes to create a different festival experience by reshaping the way films are watched and appreciated. Aside from the immersive Film Pulse: In Person experience, the festival will showcase the body of work from one selected filmmaker each year. First up will be Hong Kong’s critically acclaimed female director Ann Hui On-Wah/ Her fist filmThe Secret (1979) has been digitally restored and will be shown after her most recent work Our Time Will Come.
The 16-day Taipei Film Festival runs through July 15, and the award-winning Taiwanese documentary Manfei, A Portrait of a Dancer, is selected as the festival’s closing film.