The San Francisco Film Society in association with Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in San Francisco, Taiwan's Government Information Office and Taiwan's Tourism Board presents Taiwan Film Days, Friday, November 6–Sunday, November 8 at Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Street. This most recent addition to the Film Society’s expanding fall season highlights the best of contemporary Taiwanese cinema and provides Bay Area audiences with unique opportunities to view bold new Taiwanese films and engage with visionary filmmakers.
The San Francisco Film Society has long been a proponent of Taiwanese cinema and has played a pioneering role in introducing it to the American public through the San Francisco International Film Festival, which has shown over 40 Taiwanese films over the years. The works of the leading figures—Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tsai Ming-liang and Edward Yang—have been featured, and prominent actor Lee Kang-sheng was a Festival guest in 1998. In January 1999 the Film Society partnered with the Asian Art Museum to present the unique retrospective An Unfolding Horizon: the Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien.
From the all-time Taiwanese box office hit Cape No. 7 to the engrossing documentary Beyond the Arctic to the experimental black-and-white, David-versus-Goliath drama No Puedo Vivir sin Ti, Taiwan Film Days showcases the breadth of both style and subject of the vibrant filmmaking industry in the Republic of China. Documentaries, comedies, debut features and an Oscar entry are all in the mix, providing a snapshot of modern Taiwanese society and culture.
Friday, November 6
6:30 pm Cape No. 7 Opening Night San Francisco Premiere
Wei Te-sheng (Hai chiao chi hao, 2008)
Writer/director Wei Te-sheng’s spirited small-town epic is Taiwan’s biggest-ever box office sensation and official entry for the 2009 Academy Awards. The story of the unlikely rise of an exceptional rock band comes bounded by an older tale of unrequited love with the resurfacing of a cache of seven letters written by a Japanese schoolteacher to his secret love, named Tomoko, as he was forced to leave Taiwan after World War II. More than 60 years later, amid dramatic changes in Taiwan society, seven unexceptional individuals with nothing in common are brought together by another Tomoko to form the warm-up band for a beach concert in a short time. The prospects seem bleak given the friction between Tomoko and lead singer Aga, a substitute postman with undelivered mail piling up in his room. When Tomoko realizes Aga has those fated seven letters, she insists they must be delivered, even if the address, Cape No. 7, no longer exists. Written by Wei Te-sheng. Photographed by Chin Ting-chang. With Van, Chie Tanaka, Ying Wei-min, Min Hsiung, Ma Nien-hsien. 129 min. In Mandarin and Japanese with English subtitles. Distributed by Good Films Workshop.
9:00 pm Opening Night Party with complimentary wine and appetizers at Bambuddha Lounge, 601 Eddy Street.
9:30 pm Cape No. 7
Saturday, November 7
2:00 pm Beyond the Arctic International Premiere
Director Yang Li-chou and producer Michelle Chu in person
Yang Li-chou (Zheng fu pei zhi, 2008)
Veteran documentary filmmaker Yang Li-chou (codirector of Someone Else’s Shinjuku East, SFIFF 2004) offers this engrossing profile of the three-man Taiwanese team on 2008’s Polar Challenge, an annual multinational race to the magnetic North Pole. Star runner Kevin Lin, games industry CEO Albert Liu and 22-year-old college student Jason Chen come together for training in Canada, where they bond over bruising preparations and some humor-laden sangfroid before the grueling 21-day trek across out-of-this-world terrain and conditions, where temperatures plunge to minus 41 degrees Celsius and the risk of a polar bear attack is quite real. In the varied and vital subgenre of sports documentaries, this one is up there with Jorgen Leth’s A Sunday in Hell (1977) in its fast-paced and alert exploration of near fanatical dedication and supremely punishing—and exhilarating—human feats of endurance. 75 min. In Mandarin, Taiwanese and English with English subtitles.
4:15 pm Somewhere I Have Never Traveled North American Premiere
Director Fu Tien-yu in person
Fu Tien-yu (Dai wo qu yuan fang, 2009)
Writer/director Fu Tien-yu’s confident debut film features a strong cast of characters and an unusual sensitivity in its story of a scrappy, color-blind 15-year-old girl named Ah-guei and her beloved, equally restless and lonely male cousin Ah-xian, with whom she engages in imaginative travels far beyond the bounds of their small seaside town. Burdened by her feelings of being different, Ah-guei dreams of leaving for a Pacific island, where she believes everyone would see the world as she does. The film’s lovely pastel palette and natural humor are balanced by a softly melancholic undertone as Ah-guei’s cousin, who harbors a secret gay identity, unexpectedly leaves Ah-guei behind. Coming of age will mean coming to terms with life’s rainbow, colors she cannot always see or define but which ultimately offer a sense of place and self-identity. Written by Fu Tien-yu. Photographed by Chou Yi-wen. With Mei Fang, Lin Po-hung, Yu Shin, Lee Yun-yun, Chou Yung-hsuan. 96 min. In Mandarin with English subtitles. Distributed by Wu’s Production Co.
7:00 pm God Man Dog
Singing Chen (Liu lang shen gao ren, 2007)
The tenuous place of human beings between heaven and earth is a theme linking three disparate stories that come together only at the end of this stimulating ensemble drama. Ching (played by pop star Tarcy Su) is plunged into a spiritual crisis after the death of her child, leading her to change religions and stop talking, thereby confounding her businessman husband. Biung (Ulau Ugan) is an alcoholic, with a resentful daughter and an estranged son, who turns to his Christian church for help. Meanwhile, gentle, one-legged Yellow Bull (Jack Kao) travels the country by truck renting out icons for religious ceremonies and trying to earn enough to replace his worn prosthetic limb. Meticulously shot and interwoven, filmmaker Singing Chen’s ambitious and thoughtful second feature is a potent look at the contradictions in modern Taiwanese society. Written by Singing Chen, Lou Yi-an. Photographed by Shen Ko-shang. With Tarcy Su, Jack Kao, Chang Han, Ulau Ugan, Jonathan Chang, Tu Xiao-han. 119 min. In Mandarin with English subtitles. Distributed by Ocean Deep Films.
9:30 pm Yang Yang San Francisco Premiere
Cheng Yu-chieh (2009)
An emphasis on natural light and sound and use of hand-held cameras heighten the candid intimacy of this beautifully acted drama about young, half-French competitive runner Chang Ching-yang, known familiarly as Yang Yang (wonderfully played by Chinese/French actress Sandrine Pinna, the Taiwanese star whose breakout role was in writer/director Cheng Yu-chieh’s first feature Do Over (2006). Having been raised by her divorcée mother, Yang Yang knows neither her French father nor his language. Her best friend is Xiao-ru (the equally strong Her Sy-huoy), who is also her coach’s daughter. When Yang Yang’s mother marries her coach, Yang Yang suddenly has the family she has always wanted. But a betrayal shatters the new arrangement, and Yang Yang begins an acting career reluctantly based on her marketable half-French identity as family, career and love become a tangle of contradictions. Written by Cheng Yu-chieh. Photographed by Chu Ching-wei. With Sandrine Pinna, Chang Ruei-jia, Huang Chien-wei, Her Sy-huoy, Chu Lu-hao, Yu Tai-yan. 111 min. In Mandarin and English with English subtitles. Distributed by Khan Entertainment.
Sunday, November 8
2:00 pm What on Earth Have I Done Wrong?
Doze Niu Chen-zer (Qing fei de yi zhi sheng cun zhi dao, 2007)
Actor/filmmaker Doze Niu Chen-zer (playing himself) is a television star trying to get funding for his breakout film, a mockumentary skewering local politics. The process, however, not only complicates his financial problems but also goes to his head in hilarious extreme in this cutting satire of the Taiwanese film industry. With searing self-mockery worthy of Steve Coogan, Niu takes the start-up money his producer has scraped together from government sources—or at least the portion he doesn’t divert to drugs and prostitutes—and tries to expand it via the stock market. At the same time, and while courting the mob as a source of executive producers, his relationship with his girlfriend Ning Ning (Chang Chun-ning) deteriorates, forcing the couple into therapy with only worsening effects. Filmed vérité-style and laced with genuinely dramatic moments, this savagely funny and unsparing portrait of showbiz corruption is buoyed by wonderfully realistic performances from its supporting cast. Written by Doze Niu Chen-zer, Tseng Li-ting, Tsai Tsung-han. Photographed by Chou Yi-wen. With Doze Niu Chen-zer, Chang Chun-ning, Ke Huan-ru, Chen Hei-sheng, Wu Kuei-chun, Tsai Hsin-hung. 96 min. In Mandarin with English subtitles. Distributed by Fame Universal Entertainment.
4:30 pm Beyond the Arctic see 11/7
6:15 pm No Puedo Vivir sin Ti San Francisco Premiere
Leon Dai (Bu neng mei you ni, 2009)
Li Wu-hsiung is a poor single father working high-risk jobs aboard boats in the harbor zone, where he lives in an illegal shack with his young daughter who was abandoned at birth by her mother, then married to another man. Father and daughter live happily together until she reaches school age, at which time he tries to enroll her in a public school, only to have her removed from his care by the government. His desperation to get her back leads to a showdown that becomes a worldwide media event. Based on a true story, Leon Dai’s sharp, emotional second feature—a multiple prize-winner at international festivals, including top honors at the 2009 Taipei Film Festival—is rendered in strikingly composed black-and-white while at the same time reaching into the grayer shades of its rich story of contemporary Taiwanese society. No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti is Taiwan's official entry for the 2010 Academy Awards. Written by Leon Dai, Chen Wen-pin. Photographed by Chang Hsiang-yu. With Chen Wen-pin, Chao Yo-hsuan, Lin Chih-ju. 92 min. In Mandarin, Hakka and Taiwanese with English subtitles. Distributed by Luminoso Film.
8:30 pm Yang Yang see 11/7
Box office information: $12.50 general/$10.00 SFFS members/$11.00 seniors, students and persons with disabilities; Opening Night film and party – $30.00 general/$20.00 members; Opening film only – $12.50 general/$10.00 members/$11.00 seniors, students and persons with disabilities; and Fall Season CineVoucher 10-Pack – $115.00 general/$90.00 members. Box office opens September 29 for members and October 6 for the general public: online at www.sffs.org, by calling 925-866-9559 or by faxing 925-866-9597.
Added by cinesoul on October 14, 2009