An Identity Crisis?

The Golden Harvest Awards is currently perceived to be facing an identity crisis as since the late 1990s, there has been an explosion of regular film festivals in Taiwan. Festival organizer Wu Fan once said ironically that Taiwan had no film industry, but a film festival industry, and she estimated that there were more than 30 established film festivals taking place on the island in 2007.50 The explanation for this seemingly contradictory scenario is beyond the scope of this research paper. However, Wu has offered a selected list of Taiwanese film festivals launched between 1962 and 2007.51 I adopt Wu’s list with a few updates in Table 4.1, which will be useful for my discussion in this section.

Among the film festivals listed in Table 4.1, the Golden Horse Awards remain the most prominent, and continue to be dominated by high-end productions and movie stars, promoting cinema as a glamorous industry. However, two relatively new film festivals also deserve our attention: The Taipei Film Festival, established in 1998, has been credited for its artistic vision. It often awards projects that are not necessarily commercially popular but which have cultural and aesthetic merit.52 Also, the International Student Film Golden Lion Awards, established in 1999 and accepting works only from students, have become an important film event for the younger generation.53

Moreover, since the launch of the Ministry of Culture in Taiwan in 2013, there have been a series of vibrant cultural and academic activities promoting Taiwan overseas under the Spotlight Taiwan Project initiative, which will run between 2013 and 2016.54 The Project highlights international exchanges and funding individual academic and research institutions overseas that successfully apply for the grant. Many of the Spotlight Taiwan programs host a variety of events throughout the academic year, and, as it happens, an overwhelming number of the Spotlight Taiwan programs also feature film screening sessions to foreground Taiwan cinema. As discussed elsewhere in this volume by Luke Robinson, cultural brokers act as a link to mediate the movement of people and goods across borders, while at the same time acting as the “translator” for them, whether literally or figuratively, and often in multiple directions. Therefore, cultural brokers facilitate movement across borders both

Table 4.1 Selected regular film festivals in Taiwan, 1962-2007

Festival

Starting year

Primary location

Organizers

Golden Horse Awards (competition)

1962

Taipei

Golden Horse Awards Organizing Committee

Golden Horse Awards (international film exhibition)

1980

Taipei

Golden Horse Awards Organizing Committee

Golden Harvest Awards

1978

Taipei

Chinese Taipei Film Archive

Women Make Waves Taiwan

1993

Taipei

Taiwan Women Film & Video Association

A kind of Gaze Film Festival

1997

Jinmen

Jinmen County Documentary Cultural Association and Firefly Film Company

Taipei Film Festival

1998

Taipei

Taipei City Government

Taiwan International Documentary Festival

1998

Taipei

and Taichung (1998-2004); Taichung only (2006 onwards)

Cultural Affairs Commission

International Student Film Golden Lion Awards

1999

Taipei

National Taiwan University of Arts and Taipei City Government

Taiwan International Ethnographic Film Festival

2001

Taipei

Taiwan Association of Visual Ethnography

Pure 16 mm Independent Film Festival

2001-2004

Taipei

Taiwan Original Filmmaker Union and Yitai Film Company

South Taiwan Film Festival

2001

Tainan

National Tainan University of Arts

Kaohsiung Film Festival

2001

Kaohsiung

Kaohsiung City Government

Urban Nomad Film Festival

2002

Taipei

Urban Nomad Film Festival

Taiwan International Animation Film Festival

2003-2008

Taipei

Chinese Taipei Film Archive

Yilan International Children’s Film Festival

2003

Yilan

Yilan County Government

Taiwan International Children’s Film Festival

2004

Taipei

Public Television System

(continued)

Table 4.1 (continued)

Festival

Starting year

Primary location

Organizers

Yilan Green International Film Festival

2004

Yilan

Yilan County Government

Purple Ribbon Film Festival

2005

Taipei

Taipei County Government and Family and Sexual Violence Prevention Centre

Iron horse film festival

2005

Taipei

Laoku website

CNEX Taipei Documentary Film Festival

2007

Taipei

CNEX Foundation

literally (through networks of contacts that bridge physical and legal borders) and through their discursive ability to bridge linguistic and cultural borders. In this sense, the Spotlight Taiwan Project can be explicitly positioned as a “transcultural mediator” because its programming is defined by a particular Taiwanese cultural perspective (although, of course, this perspective is itself multicultural). Given the difficulties facing Taiwan’s international status, perhaps it is more accurate to describe the Spotlight Taiwan Project as Taiwan’s attempt to claim a cultural presence in international cultural space, rather than an aggressive strategy to contest the status quo.55 As part of Taiwan’s cultural diplomacy and soft power mechanism, the Spotlight Taiwan Project acquires an “international” edge over the Golden Harvest Awards, which is a more established and traditional local film festival.

Under these circumstances, it is understandable that some observers question whether the values of the Golden Harvest Awards have been replaced by the Taipei Film Festival and the International Student Film Golden Lion Awards or not.56 The organizers of the Golden Harvest Awards have also voiced their concerns that the Awards have not received the level of international recognition they deserve.57 The organizers are debating new methods of differentiating the Golden Harvest Awards from other domestic film festivals and Taiwan-related film festivals abroad, so that they are seen as making a relevant and valuable contribution to society.

If we consider the Golden Harvest Awards a “corrective” film festival in relation to the Golden Horse Awards in its attempt to encourage alternative cinema and different methods of filmmaking, it may be argued that the various new film festivals in Taiwan are doubly so in their intention to further promote more varied stylistic and narrative feature film events that did not previously exist on the island. For example, the Women Make Waves Taiwan (established in 1993) is gender-specific, the Taiwan International Documentary Festival (established in 1998) focuses on documentary and the Yilan International Children’s Film Festival (established in 2003) encourages children’s films.

The current dilemma experienced by the Golden Harvest Awards reveals the constant renegotiation and uneasy dynamics between different cultural brokers and film festival stakeholders as the overall film landscape evolves and develops. I do not believe that the Golden Harvest Awards have an identity crisis, because its aims and structural components are distinctive and have largely remained the same over nearly four decades. Although thematically its focus may not be as sharp as other examples of film festivals, such as animation film festivals, ethnographic film festivals and green film festivals, the film format it encourages—projects shorter than 60 minutes—is often associated with the world of documentary in Taiwan. As Robert Chi has stated: “Many such independent filmmakers, for example, teach filmmaking and hence have some influence over the academic training of emerging documentarians as well as the flows of cross-fertilization among different arts and media.” 58 This is particularly meaningful when the ultimate purpose of the Golden Harvest Awards is to cultivate creativity and to nurture young talent in Taiwan’s film industry.

The predicament of the Golden Harvest Awards resides in the inherent conflict between its dual role as both a cultural and a government agent. Financially supported by the government, the organizers of the Awards are under pressure to demonstrate its impact in order to justify its work and budget in an increasingly competitive (domestic and international) cultural environment. Such pressure almost inevitably compels the government to look for more measurable short-term results—for example, the size of the audience, the number of reports in the media or direct conversions from an award-winning project to an output of some kind in the commercial film and media markets. However, from the cultural broker perspective, the Golden Harvest Awards must also realize that any substantial and sustainable cultural influence is almost always long-term and extremely difficult to quantify. The so-called identity crisis of the Golden Harvest Awards reflects the difficulty the stakeholders face in reconciling long-term cultural goals and short-term expectations to demonstrate its impact inside and even outside Taiwan.

 
Source
< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >