Locust_Dir KEFF

Source: Cannes


Taiwanese cinema is coming to Cannes with a slew of productions showcasing local talent and stories, from Mongrel in Directors’ Fortnight and Locust in Critics’ Week to The Shameless in Un Certain Regard and Meeting With Pol Pot in Cannes Premiere.

Locust producer Anita Gou, known as the producer of Lulu Wang’s award-winning The Farewell, is enthusiastic about this new generation of emerging Taiwanese talent that is eager to engage with the global industry.

“There’s more international attention paid to Taiwan these days, and we’re seeing more Taiwanese projects at international festivals and pitch forums,” says Gou, who splits her time between Los Angeles and Taiwan. “There is more awareness in Taiwan’s filmmaking community, especially the younger generation, that they should seek out resources that are available abroad along with what can be found at home.”

Locust is the first Taiwanese feature from Gou’s US-based company Kindred Spirit. The feature directing debut of multidisciplinary artist KEFF is set up as a Taiwan-US-France-Qatar co-production. Gou first worked with KEFF when collaborating on 2019 short film Secret Lives Of Asians At Night while he was still in the NYU graduate film programme.

France’s mk2 Films is a co-­producer and handles international sales. It was the first company to which Gou and her team sent the script and was their top choice. Restricted by the size of the local market, she explains: “There needs to be more infrastructure to allow filmmakers to build their projects with a global distribution strategy from the beginning. With that strategy in mind, stories that have more global relevance should emerge.”

Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture is one of the first organisations to offer subsidies to the local film industry. The inducements are not restricted to production and can be used to cover travel expenses to film festivals, marketing, distribution and special effects. More funding resources have been made available in recent years through Taiwan’s International Co-funding Programme (TICP), a flagship incentive scheme launched by Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA) in January 2021 to facilitate international productions and create collaboration opportunities for Taiwanese creatives.

TICP has since co-funded about 40 projects, including Berlinale 2024 Competition titles Black Tea by Abderrahmane Sissako and Shambhala by Min Bahadur Bham, as well as Tiger Stripes by Amanda Nell Eu, winner of the Critics’ Week grand prix in Cannes last year.

Credible funding

Mongrel Production Still 1

Source: Cannes


Like Locust, Mongrel is a three-­country co-production backed by the Ministry of Culture and TAICCA, and was shot in Taiwan. This Taiwan-Singapore-France co-­production also secured the support of Taipei Film Fund, Kaohsiung Film Fund and funds from the Taichung city government.

“Such subsidies are a big help for films like ours that are without backing from large corporate enterprises,” says rising Taiwanese producer Lynn Chen of Mongrel. “Government funding is also more credible and stable compared to funding from the private sector as the winning projects would have been assessed by a professional jury and the funding, once granted, is unlikely to be withdrawn unless there are major violations. These give us the upper hand during international negotiations.”

Mongrel marks the feature directing debut of Singapore-born Chiang Wei Liang, who has been based in Taiwan for a decade, and Taiwan’s You Qiao Yin. It is also the first feature Chen produced through her Taiwan-based Le Petit Jardin. Chen got to know Chiang when they attended the same post-graduate school at Taipei National University of the Arts and ended up producing his short film Anchorage Prohibited, which picked up a prize at the Berlinale in 2016.

Chen believes that funding remains the biggest hurdle for Taiwanese cinema. “The funding size has a direct impact on the dreams that we want to make,” she says. “We know that any investment entails risk, but it will dampen investors’ interest when it’s more like a gamble. There are times when investors back out because they don’t see the return on investment.”

Given the relatively small local market, Chen says it is not even easy to keep losses small, let alone turn a profit. “Most companies rely on subsidies for development,” she says.

“It’s not uncommon for filmmakers to mortgage their house to finance production, but there seem to be fewer such cases these days, probably because more subsidies are available or because filmmakers can’t afford a house anymore,” Chen adds with a laugh.

International appeal

Directed by Bulgarian-US filmmaker Konstantin Bojanov, The Shameless sets its story in India with a local cast. While it may not have obvious on-screen Taiwanese presence, this Switzerland-Bulgaria-­France-Taiwan-India co-production has hired below-the-line crew from Taiwan, including editor Tom Lin and post-production crew for VFX, colour grading and sound post.

Taiwanese-French producer Vincent Wang joined the project when the main producer Maéva Savinien pitched it to him at Cannes 2022. He was subsequently able to secure an investment from TAICCA’s TICP.

Wang’s production banner House on Fire is based in both Paris and Taipei. He also co-produced Black Tea, which was backed by TICP and the Kaohsiung Film Fund. About 75% of the film was shot in Taiwan with a Taiwanese cast including Chang Han, Wu Kexi and Michael Chang.

Wang believes international co-productions can build bridges between Taiwan and the wider filmmaking community, “opening up the international market to Taiwanese filmmakers and creating collaborations on artistic and technical levels”.

“TICP has played an important role. It would be disastrous for the future of Taiwanese cinema if it was dropped or downsized,” says Wang, referring to reports about the uncertain future of the scheme.

This year’s Cannes XR section also features a trio of Taiwanese productions and co-productions — Colored, Traversing The Mist and Missing Pictures: Naomi Kawase — in its inaugural immersive competition, while Cannes Docs has selected Taiwanese documentary The Songs From Within by Elvis A-Liang Lu.

  • Cannes 2024: Taiwan hot projects