The 53rd San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF) included two directors from Taiwan who shared their experiences with festival attendees. In the documentary film category, Liu Soung (Yellow Sheep River) and feature filmmaker Christina Yao (Empire of Silver) were present to answer the audience’s questions after their films.
Documenting the far western Chinese province of Gansu, Liu said he did not want to make a film that a director from China would make. Rather than presenting a documentary with political, economic or social viewpoints, Liu wanted to focus on the natural interaction of people and land. Charmed by the landscape of Yellow Sheep River and the repetitive rhythm of daily life there, Liu allowed the traditional patterns found in the farm village to tell its own story, free of dialogs and subtitles. Through it, he captured the beauty of simple details in the farmers’ daily lives.
With more than twenty years spent in making TV dramas and documentaries, and twice selected as the Best Director at the Golden Bell TV Awards, his filmmaking experience is extensive. Yellow Sheep River has already won the Best Documentary award at the Taipei Film Festival before premiering internationally at the SFIFF.
Taiwan was also represented by Christina Yao in her ambitious debut, Empire of Silver. Rachel Rosen, the Director of Programming at the San Francisco Film Society was amazed by the scope of the film. Yao successfully wove a tale of a Chinese banking family at the end of the Qing dynasty, filled with romance and history and made a lavish film worthy of a veteran director.
In Empire of Silver, the epic story of a Shanxi bank-owner’s family during the period of the most dramatic upheaval in modern China, Yao wanted to impress upon the audience the “business ethics” of traditional Chinese businessmen, especially compared to the American financial crisis. Yao emphasized how cultural values influence societal stability. She also answered the questions from the audience about the large-scale landscape shots featured in the film. She said her film crew spent six years traveling in four northern Chinese provinces and thirteen cities to shoot the breathtaking scenes.
Born in Taiwan, Yao currently lives in the Bay Area. She has directed over thirty plays and is well-known in the theater community in the United States and Taiwan. She received funding to make the film from Taiwanese IT tycoon Terry Gou.
- 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.
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