Asian Pop-Up Cinema has launched a curated online program titled “Mini-Focus: Taiwan Cinema Online,” focusing on contemporary Taiwanese cinema. Three short films and five narrative features from Taiwan will be presented for free during June 5 to June 12. “As an Asian film festival, it’s good to remind the public of alternative online content other than the mainstream choices” in this age of self-isolation, stated Sophia Wong Boccio, founder and executive director of APUC.
Taipei Cultural Center in New York is very pleased to collaborate with APUC, Chicago’s only pan-Asian film festival, and pointed out that in recent years, Taiwan film industry has continued producing movies with diverse subject matters and genres while a new generation of young filmmakers came to prominence, together with internationally renowned masters, enriching the domestic film repertoire.
The lineup of the online program covers the highest-grossing domestic Taiwanese films which also earned reputations at film festivals in the past five years, including DETENTION, Taiwan’s box office hit in 2019; WE ARE CHAMPION, garnering 14 nominations at this year’s Taipei Film Awards; MURMUR OF THE HEARTS, a quiet and moving story about the search for closure and regarded as one of director Sylvia Chang’s best directorial efforts to date; WHO KILLED COCK ROBIN, a Taiwanese neo-noir crime thriller film, written and directed by the burgeoning director Cheng Wei Hao; and THE GANGSTER’S DAUGHTER, a coming-of-age drama set in Taipei’s criminal underworld. Coupled with the “Shorts Presentation” section, it is expected this wide array of different styles of story-telling will provide a “glimpse” into contemporary Taiwanese filmmakers’ recent endeavors.
DETENTION will kick off the “Mini Focus: Taiwan Cinema Online” program on June 5. The film is a high-school horror thriller and adapted from an eponymous video game in Taiwan. Set in Taiwan in the 1960s, the story takes place during the White Terror, an era of political repression. Free speech and open criticism were severely restricted, if not forbidden. However, the attraction of the movie doesn’t only rely on its historical setting; rather, it lies in the movie’s visual effects, such as temples, charms, deities, funeral rituals, and other symbols of Taiwan-folk beliefs. The movie aroused very heated discussions among Taiwan’s younger generation on social media. Director John Hsu took away the Best New Director prize at 2019 Golden Horse Awards.
The closing film is WE ARE CHAMPOINS, which portrays two teenage brothers with nothing but each other, hoping to change their fate through their love of basketball. However, they cross paths on their way to ultimate basketball glory—the HBL championship. In the pursuit of striking resemblances to real games, director Chang Jung-chi recruited amateur actors who are proficient in basketball. It took him seven years to make the film. And the two main actors, Fandy Fan and Berant Zhu, certainly lived up to expectations. Fan scooped the Best New Actor at the 2019 Golden Horse Awards; at this year’s Taipei Film Awards, both of them are shortlisted for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively. APUC will also honor both actors by presenting them with the Bright Star Award. Fan and Zhu already reported back their excitement and honor to receive the award. A “Thank you” video will be streaming along with the feature on June 12.
“Shorts Presentation” section includes 3 shorts examining some of the important issues and objects facing Taiwanese society. TOWARDS THE SUN is a warm-hearted short that surrounds two outcasts whose drifting paths cross by chance, skillfully weaving Taiwan’s issues of deportation and scenic landscapes into a road movie. The short was nominated for Cinéfondation Student Short Film Competition at 2017 Cannes Film Festival.
WILD TIDES revolves around a teenage boy’s struggle to find a sense of belonging, directly based upon director LU Po-shun’s own experience. Shot entirely in the director’s hometown, Yunlin, the film’s realism is given a post-apocalyptic twist as tombstones and electric poles appear half-submerged in water as the reality of the area's worsening seawater intrusion subtly invades the story. LU won the Best Director prize at 2017 Taipei Film Awards.
TEA LAND uncovers a migrant story less told in Taiwan, portraying the predicament of undocumented migrant workers who have been prevented from being seen, from going home, from even getting medical attention; therefore, they have no choice but to take things in stride, and even take matters into their own hands. TEA LAND was nominated for Best Short Film at 2018 Taipei Film Awards.
In order to watch the movies, title by title registration is required. For more information, please visit APUC’s official website at https://www.asianpopupcinema.org/.
Screening Schedule and Film Description
FRIDAY, JUNE 5, 2pm to 10pm CDT/3pm to 11pm EDT
Director: John Hsu | Supernatural Psychological Thriller | 105 minutes
In 1962, a sense of desolation and tension permeate society. Fang, a twelfth grader at Tsuihua Senior High School, falls in love with Zhang, a counseling teacher. Troubled by the problems at school and home, Fang feels that Zhang is the only person who understands her. Longing for freedom, Zhang forms a study group with his colleagues and students, including Yin and Wei. Reading the banned books allows them to be liberated for a brief moment but at the same time, they put their lives in great danger. One day, Zhang vanishes into thin air, and only Fang and Wei, an eleventh grader, remember him. Together, Fang and Wei start looking for their disappeared teacher but find the school gradually slipping out of the world they are familiar with. Then in a realm dominated by ghosts and spirits, the pair are forced to face the terrifying truth...
MONDAY, JUNE 8, 2pm to 10pm CDT/3pm to 11pm EDT
TEA LAND (高山上的茶園)
Director: Tseng Ying Ting | 30 minutes
On a high-mountain tea farm, five migrants from Thailand and Vietnam longed to go home after years of illegal working in Taiwan.
Having saved enough money, Hsin planned to get arrested just so that he would be repatriated. However, he was found dead after a farewell party. The workers panicked. The farm owner suggested that they keep Hsin’s death as a secret if they wanted to stay to earn money. Chai was full of regret, thinking he had not taken good care of his close friend. Chai decided to bury Hsin on this foreign land but discovered that Hsin’s savings were gone. Distrust started to rise among the workers. It turned out it was Hsin’s lover An who hid the money, in an attempt to keep Hsin in Taiwan. Now Hsin was dead, An tried to run away with the money, but was caught by Chai half way. In a rage, Chai hit An with a shovel. He dug Hsin’s body up, tied it to himself, and rode down the mountain on a luminous night. They were going home.
WILD TIDES (野潮)
Director: Lu Po Shun | 25 minutes
Teenager Bo-Yan goes around his local village asking people if they need help for the harvest season. But with his parents on the run from debt, no one wants to be associated with him. Only his best friend Howai lets him help out at his family’s fishery. Howai’s father entrusts Bo-Yan with a key to an oyster fishing boat, which they will need the next day. But when he accidentally loses the key, Bo-Yan must make a desperate search to find it and prove he’s worthy of trust.
TOWARDS THE SUN (迎向邊疆公路)
Director: Wang Yi Ling | 20 minutes
In eastern Taiwan, fruit farmer Jia-Ming is forced to live in his truck after his home is foreclosed. On the road, he meets a young Vietnamese woman, A-Anh. Just divorced and with a resident permit about to expire, A-Anh is going back to Vietnam. Out of kindness, Jia-Ming offers her a ride to the airport, but things take an unexpected turn.
TUESDAY, JUNE 9, 2pm to 10pm CDT/3pm to 11pm EDT
MURMUR OF THE HEARTS (念念)
Director: Sylvia Chang |Romantic/Drama | 119 minutes
The film is a tale about the hearts. The narrative weaves together the three main characters’ - the siblings who were separated when they were young, and the bumpy relationship between the painter and her boxer boyfriend. Their actions and thoughts unveil dreamlike memories that awake many yearnings and unsolvable problems in their life. The murmurs flowing deep inside the hearts make the journey of consolation even more gentle and moving under the peaceful direction of Sylvia Chang. Playing the boxer is Joseph Chang also starring in two Taiwanese dramas: The Victims’ Game & Nowhere Man currently available on Netflix.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10, 2pm to 10pm CDT/3pm to 11pm EDT
THE GANGSTER’S DAUGHTER (林北小舞)
Director: Chen Meijun with veteran actor Jack Kao & his young co-star Ally Chiu
Music by Lim Giong (The Assassin) | Drama/Crime | 105 minutes
After getting into trouble with a local bully, teenage Shaowu is sent to Taipei to live with her estranged gangster father, Keigo. He quickly takes to being a father and sets out go straight, but soon he is dragged back into the criminal world by corruption and a quest for vengeance that will decide both of their fates.
THURSDAY, JUNE 11, 2pm to 10pm CDT/3pm to 11pm EDT
WHO KILLED COCK ROBIN (目擊者)
Director: Cheng Wei Hao | Thriller | 117 minutes
The film follows a journalist who unravels a series of mysteries as he investigates a long-forgotten hit-and-run accident that occurred nine years ago. It also marked Cheng's second collaboration with Hsu Wei Ning, after The Tag-Along. The film also stars Kaiser Chuang, Ko Chia Yen, Christopher Lee and Mason Lee.
FRIDAY, JUNE 12, 2pm to 10pm CDT/3pm to 11pm EDT
WE ARE CHAMPIONS (下半場) presented in association with Smart Cinema USA.
Director: Chang Jung Chi | Drama | 117 minutes
Born into the bottom rungs of society, two teenage brothers with nothing but each other hope to change their fate through their love of basketball. Little brother Tung Hao joins an elite school and transforms into a dazzling superstar; big brother Hsiu Yu ends up on a ragtag squad about to be disbanded, finding an unexpected new brotherhood in his never-say-die teammates. Eventually, the brothers’ cross paths on their way to ultimate basketball glory — the HBL championship — where they will discover that some things are more important than winning.