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George Town Festival strengthens Isle to Isle friendship

By Yali Chen
“Isle to Isle” programs that formed part of the George Town Festival 2019 from July 18th to the 21st focused on the complementary traits of Taipei City and George Town in Penang, Malaysia. For nine years, the Festival has been a symbol of the strong friendship between Taipei and George Town.

Tsai Tsung-hsiung, Commissioner of Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs (DOCA), the 88-year-old glove puppet master Chen Hsi-huang (陳錫煌), and Taiwanese documentary filmmaker Yang Li-chou (楊力州) attended the opening ceremony on July 19. One day earlier, Yang gave a lecture on the development and prospects of Taiwan’s documentary films for two decades.
Photo from DOCA
Photo from DOCA
Left to right: Tsai Tsung-hsiung, Commissioner of Taipei City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, Taiwanese glove puppet maestro Chen Hsi-huang, Penang State Legislative Assembly Speaker Law Choo Kiang, Taiwanese documentary filmmaker Yang Li-chou, and Chen Yu-hsiu, Director of the Songshan Cultural and Creative Park at the opening ceremony of George Town Festival 2019.
In his speech, Tsai thanked Yang for his lecture saying that it enabled the audience to gain a better understanding of the documentary film sector in Taiwan. The DOCA commissioner also said that the festival was truly a bridge to help strengthen the bond between the two cities.
The Penang State Legislative Assembly Speaker Law Choo Kiang expressed his appreciation for Taipei’s participation in the Festival and said that George Town could learn from Taipei to make itself a better city.

Wawasan Open University
Photo from DOCA
Taiwanese documentary filmmaker Yang Li-chou gives a lecture on Taiwan’s documentary films’ development and prospects for the next twenty years at the Wawasan Open University.

In 2008, Unesco listed Penang’s capital George Town as a World Heritage Site. In 2011, Taipei entered into a sister-city relationship with George Town. Supported by the Penang State Government, the festival has become a big art gala every summer with a variety of cultural events and community activities. It is considered one of the most influential art events in Southeast Asia.
In 2018, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Malaysia for the first time recommended that the DOCA work with the Penang State Government to organize a Taiwan-themed George Town Festival.
DOCA chose glove puppetry as the theme of the “Isle to Isle” programs for this year’s festival. Yang’s film “The Red Box” (紅盒子) premiered at the festival. The award-winning documentary explores the life of Taiwanese puppet maestro Chen Hsi-huang, the son of legendary puppeteer-actor Li Tian-lu (李天祿). The theme conveyed the importance of preserving and passing down that traditional art form.
The Taipei Puppet Theatre also gave two classic puppet shows “Journey to the West: Mayhem in the Crystal Palace” and “The Magic Lotus Lantern.”