A Brief History of Taiwan Cinema
Taiwanese film productions date back to the Japanese colonial period and have been closely linked to the societal developments of each era. Today, with its diverse heritage, freedom and rich creativity, contemporary Taiwanese society continues to wield significant influence in the domain of Chinese-language films.
From the Japanese colonial period to the lifting of martial law, Taiwan’sfilm industry was dominated by government-owned studios (Taiwan Film Culture Co., Central Motion Picture Corporation, China Motion Picture Studio, etc.) and produced mainly news and propaganda films. To promote the development of the film industry, the Government Information Office founded the Golden Horse Awards in 1962, using awards to encourage exceptional Mandarin-language filmsand outstanding filmmakers. Since the 1970s, the Golden Horse Awards has remained one of the most high-profile film events in the world of Sinophone cinema.
Today’s Taiwanese movie industry is sustained by the quiet efforts of a hardworking group of film workers. Since the emergence of Taiwanese New Wave Cinema in 1982, directors such as HOU Hsiao-hsien, Edward YANG, Ang LEE and TSAI Ming-liang have continued to make their marks in international film circles, earning them reputations as world-renowned masters representative of the movement. Other directors to have risen up during the Second New Wave in the mid-to-late 1990s include CHEN Kuo-fu, WANG Shaudi, YEE Chin-yen, CHEN Yu-hsun, LIN Cheng-sheng and CHANG Tso-chi, plus independent filmmakers HUANG Ming-chuan and Stan LAI, all of whom have produced notable works.
Given the arrival and popularity of Hollywood films, as well as the impact of many complex political, economic and cultural factors, the Taiwanese film industry began gradually shrinking in the 1990s with a sweeping downturn in market sentiments. The performance of domestic films reached its nadir in2001, plummeting to just 0.2% of annual box office receipts. It was not until 2008 that the long-term struggles of the Taiwanese film industry took adramatic turn, as new directors began to tell local stories in a colloquialstyle, not only moving audiences to tears and laughter but also elevating viewer confidence in Taiwanese cinema and reigniting new hope in domestic films. That year set a new box office record for Taiwanese films, with many newdirectors breaking out and movies such as Cape No, 7, Orz Boyz!, and Winds of September achieving both critical and commercial success. In particular, the box office of Cape No. 7 reached NT$530 million (US$17.9 million), setting a new milestone and marking therevival of domestic cinema.
Apart from feature-length narrative films, Taiwanese documentaries have also benefited from the 1987 lifting of martial law, the popularization of small electronic camcorders, and the funding support, promotion and education from government departments and public service television, as well as the rewards offered by various major film festivals and the incentives and assistance provided by unions and related organizations. Today, the development of documentary films is thriving, diverse and prosperous. Filmmakers are taking their lenses deep into all levels of society, from social, political, environmental and other public issues to the exploration of private personallives, all with delicate depictions, sharp criticisms, and reflecting profound concern for humanity.
For more information on the history and development of Taiwanese cinema, please refer to:
◎ Taiwan Film Digital Archives Database ● Chronicle of Taiwan Cinema
◎ Encyclopedia of Taiwan ● History of Taiwan Cinema (by Professor LEE Daw-ming)