Visitors to Taiwan know that sampling that island’s street-food snacks is one of its greatest pleasures. Now we have a precise cinematic equivalent. On the 100th anniversary of Taiwan’s Nationalist calendar, the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival commissioned 20 directors—10 veteran masters and 10 up-and-coming young talents—to each create a five-minute short highlighting Taiwan’s uniqueness. The result is a joy: a collection of very short, unusually fine takes on Taiwan that span the gamut of cinematic snacks.
Highlights from the young directors group include Cheng Yu-chieh’s witty satire on the duelling government propagandas of Taiwan vs. mainland China; Hou Chi-jan’s dense meditation on music, identity and political/social repression; Chung Mong-hong’s guignol mini-blood bath; and Ho Wi-ding’s sublime micro-documentary of a 100-year-old man in the mountains. Veteran directors’ contributions include Wang Tung’s delicate meta-cinematic comedy; Wu Nien-chen’s wry look at Taiwanese neighbourhood life; Chen Yu-hsun’s absurdist futuristic farce on the subject of brainwashing; Sylvia Chang’s powerful meditation on prison and religion; and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s light-infused, subtly inflected nostalgia-memory piece of a young woman (Shu Qi) and her grandmother sharing tokens of a golden past. In all, a 20-course feast, a kaleidoscopic tour of Taiwan’s movie culture and a richly varied set of impressions on what it means to be Taiwanese and Chinese, modern and traditional, in today’s Taiwan.
— Shelly Kraicer