Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Taiwan protests film’s festival withdrawal

Even with closer trade and economic relations across the Taiwan Strait, there remain substantial differences between Taiwan and China. Recently, this divide was again illustrated when a Taiwan government sponsored film Miao Miao was withdrawn from the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) in supposed protest of Uighur activist Rebiyan Kadeer’s attendance on August 8th. Its withdrawal has the potential to tarnish the image of Taiwan, which had called on the Chinese government to exercise tolerance and self-restraint in dealing with the unrest in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, and to give fair judicial process to those prosecuted.

At the heart of the controversy is the question of who has the right to submit and withdraw a film for consideration. Minister Su Jun-pin of Taiwan’s Government Information Office (GIO) expressed his extreme displeasure at the film’s withdrawal, according to the Liberty Times. Miao Miao, described as a coming-of-age romance, was financed with money from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. However, the funding from Taiwan came with the condition that the film would represent Taiwan in any international film festival. Directed by Taiwanese director Cheng Hsiao-tse, the film received NT$4 million (US$122,324) in 2005 from the GIO. The Taiwan subsidiary of the Hong Kong-based Jet Tone Films co-produced the film. Miao Miao was submitted to the MIFF under the country name of “Hong Kong - Taiwan.”

The Netherlands-based film distributor Fortissimo apparently withdrew Miao Miao from the festival on instruction from the film’s producers Wong Kar-wai and Stanley Kwan, without informing Taiwan Jet Tone. The action was seemingly taken in the wake of the recent ethnic bloodletting in Xinjiang.

Not informed by Fortissimo of the film’s withdrawal, the GIO has lodged a formal protest and will investigate if Taiwan's Jet Tone Films violated its contractual obligations. If a breach of contract is uncovered the GIO plans to ask for its money back. Even if no contractual breach comes to light, the company now has little chance of securing future film subsidies. In either case, the GIO will examine the subsidy granting process and clarify how films are classified so this issue does not arise again. Ironically, however, the controversy surrounding the film is only likely to fuel public curiosity to see the film elsewhere.

Kadeer, who is branded by Beijing as a terrorist, attended the Melbourne screening of 10 Conditions of Love, a documentary based on her life. The screening went ahead despite attempts by the Chinese consulate in Melbourne to have the film axed from the festival.

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About Me

The Press Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in San Francisco represents the Government Information Office (GIO), Executive Yuan, Republic of China (Taiwan). GIO maintains nine Press Divisions in the United States, including the San Francisco office. The Press Divisions are in charge of promoting Taiwan's public relations and cultural exchanges. This blog is updated by the Press Division, TECO in San Francisco.