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2023 Taipei Film Festival: Wave After Wave of Strong Contenders

2023 Taipei Film Festival: Wave After Wave of Strong Contenders_img_01Main visuals for the 2023 Taipei Film Festival


Taipei Film Festival, the highly anticipated annual event beloved of cinephiles, is set to take place from June 22 to July 8 at Zhongshan Hall, Vie Show Cinemas Xinyi Taipei, and SPOT Huashan Cinema in Taipei City. 

This year’s festival will kick off with the latest work by director Giddens Ko (aka Nine Knives, 九把刀), titled Miss Shampoo《請問,還有哪裡需要加強》, and will be book-ended by the second feature film by Golden Bell Best Actor Blue Lan (藍正龍), titled After School《成功補習班》, both world premieres. The International New Talent Competition will also showcase 12 outstanding films by emerging directors from around the world, taking the audience on a cinematic global journey.


2023 Taipei Film Festival: Wave After Wave of Strong Contenders_img_02In Miss Shampoo, a mafia boss (hip hop artist Daniel Hong “Spring Breeze”) meets Fen, a hairdresser (Vivian Sung), leading to a surprising but fateful romance.

The opening film of the 2023 Taipei Film Festival is director Giddens Ko’s fourth feature film Miss Shampoo, starring Daniel Hong “Spring Breeze (春風)” (of the popular Taiwanese hip-hop trio Nine One One, 玖壹壹) in his acting debut playing the lead role of a domineering mob boss. While on the run from an enemy, he inadvertently enters a barber shop and encounters Fen, a hairdresser, played by Vivian Sung (宋芸樺). In a signature “Nine Knives” plot, they eventually fall for each other in an unconventional romance. With a strong cast, including such notable names as Kai Ko (柯震東), Emerson Tsai (蔡昌憲), and Lang-Feng Ying (應朗丰), the film is set to move audiences to laughter and tears. 

Closing the festival this year is director Blue Lan’s second feature film, titled After School, which pays tribute to his mentor, the late director Mikey Chen (陳俊志). Bringing together talented actors such as Phil Hou (侯彥西), Chien-Ho Wu (巫建和), Huai-Yun Zhan (詹懷雲), and Yi-Tai Chiu (邱以太), Lan leads us on a journey of self-discovery through the realm of youthful naivety.

The International New Talent Competition is one of the two major categories at the festival and is the only international feature film competition in Taiwan dedicated to emerging directors from around the world. This year, 12 outstanding films have been selected, including two Taiwanese works; director Sam Quah’s (柯汶利) A Place Called Silence《默殺》and actor Kai Ko's directorial debut, Bad Education《黑的教育》. 

In A Place Called Silence, starring Chien-Wei Huang (黃健瑋), Ivy Yin (尹馨), and Heme Liao (宸頤), the film starts with a series of unsolved cases involving missing high school girls. A mother knocks on the metal door of a dilapidated apartment complex to reveal the truth behind the door, showing the fear and indifference of modern society. It also explores the plight of the disadvantaged in school through the perspective of special education students, who are bullied and have difficulty making their voices heard. The film’s fast pace, well-structured plot, and use of detailed yet bold filmmaking technique have received high acclaim. 

By contrast, Kai Ko’s directorial debut work exudes a strong creative style: Bad Education portrays the life of high school students, played by Kent Tsai (蔡凡熙), Berant Zhu (朱軒洋) and Edison Song (宋柏緯), who on the night of their graduation agree to exchange their darkest secrets, causing a butterfly effect that soon spirals out of control. The film reveals the darkness of human nature and explores what it means to be a “good” or “bad” person.


2023 Taipei Film Festival: Wave After Wave of Strong Contenders_img_03In After School, Phil Hou plays a teacher who leads students on a journey of self-discovery.

Plenty of highlights can be found in the featured international works by emerging directors. Japanese film Amiko《呼叫愛美子》 is an adaptation of the novel This is Amiko, Do You Copy? by Natsuko Imamura, the grand slam winner of Japan’s three major literary awards. The film has a peaceful, warm feel, intertwining beautiful and whimsical fantasies. It captures perfectly the subtle and intimate experiences of a girl transitioning from childhood to adolescence, while exploring her intricate thoughts and emotions. 

The Damned Don't Cry《我要人生金包銀》 is inspired by the life experiences of British-Moroccan director Fyzal Boulifa’s mother and delicately portrays the challenges faced by marginalized communities in society. Filmed in 16mm film, The Maiden《思念是一種塗鴉》, which won the Giornate degli Autori (GdA) Cinema of the Future award at the 2022 Venice Film Festival, captures the struggles and naivety of adolescence through the lens of three young amateur actors. The film presents the emotional ups and downs, self-discovery, and confusion experienced by young people growing up. The performances of these amateur actors give the viewer a deep sense of the essence of youth. 

The German film Piaffe《禁羈綺想》 masterfully combines fantasy and experimental techniques to depict the protagonist’s chaotic sense of self and awakening of desire. Pamfir《以父子之名》 focuses on the harsh realities of smuggling in the border areas of Ukraine and Romania, employing extensive long takes that showcase the director’s outstanding skills. 

Other notable works include various genre films such as Under the Fig Tree《無花果樹下》, which utilizes a documentary-like style; Victim《我是被害者》, which explores social issues through an attack involving a young boy in a Czech border town; The Burdened《腹荷》, which delves into the women’s struggles; and Sister & Sister《姊妹夏日絮語》 and Tiger Stripes《虎紋少女》, which explore the experiences of young girls growing up. Cinephiles are encouraged to come and witness the beginnings of these talented new directors as they set out on their journey to becoming master directors of the future.

 2023 Taipei Film Festival: Wave After Wave of Strong Contenders_img_04Under the Fig Tree, a documentary-like film, depicts the aspirations of fruit pickers and their surrender to the harsh realities of fig picking in the orchards of northwestern Tunisia. 

 2023 Taipei Film Festival: Wave After Wave of Strong Contenders_img_05Victim is about a Ukrainian boy from a single-parent family who, after apparently being attacked and seriously hurt, is sent to a hospital in a small Czech border town, triggering an outcry from rival communities.

The winner of this year’s Outstanding Contribution Award is veteran cinematographer Chen-Hsiang Liu (劉振祥), who worked on Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s (侯孝賢) Dust in the Wind《戀戀風塵》and Edward Yang’s (楊德昌) Terrorizers  《恐怖份子》, leaving an indelible mark as a key contributor to Taiwanese New Wave. 

In recent years, Liu has contributed to many of director Mong-Hong Chung’s (鍾孟宏) feature films, using flat images to capture a distinctive mood. This year, the exhibition will also feature a retrospective of Chen-Hsiang Liu’s (劉振祥) work, enabling the public to learn more about his creative journey over the past few decades.

2023 Taipei Film Festival: Wave After Wave of Strong Contenders_img_06Winner of the 2023 Outstanding Contribution Award, veteran cinematographer Chen-Hsiang Liu, standing in front of a classic scene of Taiwanese cinema, the hero and heroine walking along the railway tracks in Dust in the Wind. (Photo by Chun-Fan Shen, courtesy of Taipei Film Festival)