• Interviews

Taipei Film Festival 2023

Founded 25 years ago, in 1998, the Taipei Film Festival has strong ties with its society, as it was born in a historic moment known as “the liberalization and democratization of Taiwan”, and then became the first film festival in the country to be funded by a city government.

It will celebrate its new edition from June 22nd to July 8th, but it also organizes year-round educational programs, especially for young filmmakers.

It self defines “As one of the most important film festivals in Asia (…) Taipei Film Festival builds closer relationships with Asian independent filmmakers and film industries through film screenings, activities, workshops and other forms of cooperation. It is a platform for connecting filmmakers, the film industry and audiences that maintains flexibility for innovation and change, preserving its potential to be a fresh and cutting-edge film festival.”

On the eve of the 2023 edition of the festival, we interviewed by email Yee Chih-yen and Jianluen Hung, Chairman and Programmer of the festival, respectively.


In the international competition, the festival received 545 submissions from 97 countries this year. In Taipei Film Awards, there were 292 submissions, including 40 fiction features, 61 documentaries, 160 short films, and 31 animations, according to Hung.

After lively debates, the second-round jury selected 29 films as the finalists to the Taipei Film Awards: 13 features, 5 documentaries, 6 shorts and 5 animations.

What does a movie have to have to be included in the Taipei Film Festival?

Hung: We program our non-competitive sections by selecting films from the entries we received, as well as films that we watched and loved in other major film festivals such as Busan (South Korea), Rotterdam (Netherlands), and Berlinale (Germany). We also go through other film festivals’ lineups and work with international sales companies to expand the pool of our choices. The selection process normally starts in late September last year till late April. We mainly include the fresh titles from the international film festivals and bring a fruitful line-up to Taiwanese audience.

As the local film industry grows stronger and local filmmakers and studios focus more on making commercial and genre films in recent years, we hope our program could serve as a mirror as well as a window. On one hand, we are looking for films that present an audacious aesthetic approach to explore the possibility of cinema. We hope this kind of film could serve as a window and an artistic input for the filmmakers and audiences in Taiwan. On the other hand, regarding the fact that our audience is young and that there are new audiences joining the festival every year, we need to look for films with great stories and powerful points of view to communicate with the festival’s newcomers.

What makes the Taipei Film Festival different from other festivals?

Chih-yen: The main difference is that the Taipei Film Festival has always emphasized young films and young filmmakers. One of the most important events at the Taipei Film Festival is the International New Talent Competition, where participants have only released one or two features. This platform gives them a stage to let their works be seen and let their voices be heard by more people.

In addition to the festival period, which usually spans from late June to early July, the Taipei Film Festival also organizes year-round educational programs for young filmmakers. The programs focus on different parts of film production every year. For example, last year, they focused on Method Acting for new actors, while this year the emphasis is on Directing Actors for young directors. These workshops are taught by different instructors each year, aiming at providing diverse perspectives. And the workshops usually span three to four months, far beyond the two weeks of the festival period. In short, the Taipei Film Festival dedicates to the future of the film industry and the cultivation of young filmmakers. Over the years, the Taipei Film Festival maintains youthful and vibrant.

How is the jury chosen?

Hung: Regarding the International New Talent Competition’s jury, we aim to invite three seasoned international film professionals and two Taiwanese filmmakers every year to include local and international points of view.

The international jury members this year include Berlinale’s head of programming Mark Peranson; Hong Kong film director Samson Chiu (Golden Chicken); and South Korean veteran producer Oh Jung-wan. The Taiwanese jurors are Chen Shiang-chyi, the winner of the Best Actress at the Taipei Film Awards last year; and writer-director Lou Yi-an, whose 2022 feature Goddamned Asura was selected as the Taiwan entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards. Together they will decide the winner of the Best Film and the Special Jury Award.

The Jury of the Taipei Film Awards is composed of 14 film professionals from the Taiwan film industry as well as experts from neighboring Chinese-speaking regions, such as Hong Kong. Most of the time, the invited directors, producers, and actors should have won major domestic film or television awards in their careers. Also, since there are award categories dedicated to the technical departments, there will be technical experts from the cinematography, editing, art, sound, and visual effects departments among the jury members.


How different is the Taiwanese audience compared to others? What is the main target of the Taipei Film Festival?

Chih-yen: In Taiwan, the general mainstream movie audience is quite similar to moviegoers all around the world. They are young, curious, and receive new things well. However, their movie preferences are heavily influenced by the dominant Hollywood culture, favoring American films and their storytelling ways. Therefore, Hollywood movies often dominate the top spots of annual box office rankings in Taiwan. Indeed, the audience base of the Taipei Film Festival is this mainstream audience. However, the Taipei Film Festival also attracts viewers who are looking for something different from the dominant Hollywood culture and the possibilities of more multiple types of films.

For example, “Filmmaker in Focus” of the Taipei Film Festival this year chooses to screen films by Bas Devos, a Belgian/Dutch filmmaker whose work is different from mainstream Hollywood commercial films. The audience for the festival generally ranges from 18 to 35, with a higher educational level in the majority.

You are a veteran movie and TV director. How did you get involved with the organization of the Taipei Film Festival?

Chih-yen: It has been almost thirty years since my first involvement in the predecessor of the Taipei Film Festival, the China Times Film Awards. At that time, I was a budding filmmaker, gearing up for my debut work and receiving an invitation to participate in the consultations. I distinctly remember that the main topic of those meetings was the restructuring of the China Times Film Awards into what would eventually become the Taipei Film Festival.

During those discussions, I wholeheartedly supported the addition of the “International Youth Director Competition,” which was a new category not included in the China Times Film Awards. Our intention is: we want the Taipei Film Festival to embody a youthful rebellious spirit that is against mainstream conventions, and at the same time let the Taipei Film Festival reach out to international emerging directors and their films that share a similar outlook.

Over the years, I have taken various roles at the film festival. I served as a member of the competition jury, instructor of the workshop, and so on. And two years ago, I was given the tremendous honor of being appointed as the chairman. By the way, it’s worth mentioning that the start of the Taipei Film Festival is when Taiwan just ended martial law and the entire society was seeking to getting rid of the old and embracing the new. The Taipei Film Festival was established in this kind of social environment.

How often do you watch movies in theaters and streaming? What is your favorite genre?

Chih-yen: I’m an avid movie watcher. If I have free time, I try to watch one film or TV series episode every night. However, lately, I go to the cinema less frequently and rely more on streaming platforms or even DVDs, and the reason is that I cannot enjoy the movie if there are others’ heads or backs in front of me while watching a movie. Therefore, I usually watch the movie at the time when there are fewer people, such as at midnight. But as I am getting older, it becomes harder for me to watch movies late at night, so I go to the movie theater to watch a movie less frequently.

The last movie I watched in a cinema lately is a Hong Kong/Malaysian film called The Sunny Side of the Street, a few weeks ago. Usually, I watch the first run at theaters, while streaming platforms provide more flexible choices.

When it comes to American films, I particularly enjoy Westerns, but it’s not limited to just one genre. For instance, I also appreciate musicals and screwball comedies, although I tend to watch fewer horror films.

Any classic you never get tired of watching?

Chih-yen: I repeatedly watch films made by directors such as John Ford, Ernst Lubitsch, Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder, Jean Renoir, Michelangelo Antonioni, the Taviani Brothers, Ozu Yasujiro, and many others. I mostly watch films made by classic directors rather than ones made by newer directors. Some of my favorite films include My Darling Clementine, Rules of the Game, and Kaos. Recently, I rewatched The Family Game by Morita Yoshimitsu, a Japanese film that was released in the 1980s, and I still adore it immensely.

The official program of the 2023 Taipei Film Festival is available here: https://www.taipeiff.taipei/Program.aspx