In 1989, the Taiwanese government decided to adopt open measures for foreign films, in response to the impact that joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) might cause. Korea and Hong Kong also faced the same issue.
In the campaign for special municipality mayor in 1994, New Party-nominated candidate Chao Shaw-kong strategically rose the level of the election to “guarding the Republic of China.” Unscrupulously enlarging the ideological conflict between the Kuomintang (KMT, Blue) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP, Green), he set in Taipei City a battlefield of opposition and aggressive language.
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One could say that it is something of a tradition in Taiwan to engage with sensitive political matters through film. This began with the Taiwanese New Wave and has continued to the present.
In 2008 while I was writing my Master’s thesis in London, people around me were constantly talking about Cape No. 7. The film, directed by Wei Te-Sheng, became a box office sensation in Taiwan; with a humble budget of NT$50 million, Cape No. 7 grossed NT$530 million.
The Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott, a Nobel laureate in Literature who has visited Taiwan, writes in his poem “The Schooner Flight”: “…but we live like our names and you would have to be colonial to know the difference, to know the pain of history words contain…”
Directed by Sung Hsin Yin, On Happiness Road, released in January, is an original animation, rarely seen in recent years, that investigates Taiwanese society.
The 2018 Taiwanese municipal elections for both mayoral and magisterial candidates were held on November 24th 2018. On the same day, a referendum on using the name Taiwan, rather than Chinese Taipei, at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was held, in addition to 10 other referendums focusing on environmental and LGBT rights issues. Despite the results, they created a sphere for deeper discussions on national identity.
Over a year, Taiwanese filmmaker Tsai Ming Liang has shown the flexibility and potential of his film world through two works.
As a child growing up in Taiwan in the 90s, I was fortunate enough to witness the openness of culture brought by economic development. To some extent, queer cinema belongs in this category. For many people at that time, film festivals provided valuable opportunities to understand LGBTQ people on screens from all over the world. The art of cinema and sexual minorities started to intertwine like the atmosphere of a carnival.
Taiwanese queer film of the last few years have received less international attention compared to earlier films from the Taiwanese New Wave. Again, reasons for this include that more recent Taiwanese film in general remain overshadowed by the Taiwanese New Wave internationally, as well as that there is no visual language for contemporary Taiwanese film which has led them to be recognizably grouped together in a manner similar to the New Wave.