Above The Dust

Source: Berlinale

‘Above The Dust’

Taipei Film Festival has dropped Berlinale-winning Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai as jury head of its International New Talent competition, following a heated debate on local social media over Wang’s reported role in the death of An Elephant Sitting Still director Hu Bo back in 2017.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the International New Talent competition, which will see 10 debut and second feature films vying for the grand prize and the special jury prize. Wang was to be the jury president, with fellow jury members including Taiwanese actor-turned director Kai Ko, Cheng-Sim Lim, San Sebastian Film Festival’s delegate for US and East Asia, Taiwanese director Laha Mebow, and Drive My Car producer Yuji Sadai.

After the announcement of Wang’s appointment, a local film blog once again linked the death of Hu at the age of 29 to his producer Wang and questioned whether it was appropriate for Taipei Film Festival to appoint Wang.

The Facebook post spread quickly online, also sparking a heated debate over whether a Taiwanese film festival backed by local government agencies should appoint a mainland Chinese filmmaker for this prestigious jury role.

Following the social media debate, Taipei Film Festival made an announcement on Facebook on June 9 cancelling the invitation of Wang. The screening of his latest film Above The Dust, which premiered at this year’s Berlinale Kplus section, was also withdrawn from the festival. 

Chinese director Hu reportedly killed himself after a disagreement with producers including Wang over the lengthy running time - almost four hours - of his feature debut An Elephant Sitting Still, which was produced through Wang’s company Dongchung Films. The film had its world premiere posthumously at Berlinale’s Forum in 2018 and went on to win best film at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards in the same year.

Wang last attended Taipei Film Festival in 2019 when he presented So Long My Son as the closing film. The 185-minute family epic won two Berlinale Silver Bear awards for best actor and best actress. There was no apparent objection against him in Taiwan at that time. He is understood to be living in the UK for the last couple of years.

The 26th Taipei Film Festival will run from June 21 - July 6. No replacement for the jury head of the International New Talent competition has been announced yet.