Taiwan Returns to Cannes Film Market

The Taiwan Pavilion returns to the Marché du Film this year with a beefed-up version after two years of interruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting 91 titles including the latest box office hits at home, elaborate international co-productions, as well as technology-driven XR projects.

Genre films with a solid plot and production, rather than a stellar cast, can easily win the hearts of audiences at home, according to filmmakers behind some of the featured projects.

International co-productions will continue to play a vital role in boosting local opportunities as well as taking Taiwan talents abroad, but the ongoing pandemic restrictions on the self-governed island will certainly have an impact on making international connections.

At Cannes, the Taiwan Creative Content Agency (TAICCA) will feature 91 titles from 39 companies. The highlights are representative of the trends of Taiwan cinema.

“Incantation,” for example, is a horror-drama feature directed by Kevin Ko (Activator Co. is handling sales), and inspired by real life events. “Incantation” has earned rave reviews in Taiwan, raking in more than 160 million NTD ($5.4 million) at the box office, the highest-grossing film in Taiwan this year to date and the second-highest grossing horror film since “Detention” in 2019.

“Taiwanese audiences usually go for ‘the movie itself’ instead of the cast. This puts Taiwanese filmmakers in a very good position, as the market is not controlled by ‘stars’ nor ‘big studios,’” Ko says.

People’s enthusiasm in local culture has grown, Ko notes, and a quality local production now stands a chance to beat a Hollywood blockbuster in the box office. “’Incantation’ is this kind of film. It proves that Taiwan audiences desire good, commercial genre films,” he says.

Another highlight is “Pierce,” a Taiwan, Singapore and Poland co-production that backed by Taiwan’s Intl. Co-funding Program (TICP), a TAICCA initiative. Directed by Nelicia Low, the suspense follows a young fencer struggling with keeping his secret crush on a fellow fencer from his homophobic mother. The work is in its post-production stage, with sales being handled by Flash Forward Entertainment. The film is one prime example of the island’s growing international co-production strength.

“With more talents, resources and financial support from around the world, it will not only help the production to level up but also will attract more international attention to the film,” says Patrick Mao Huang, the executive producer of “Pierce.”

TAICCA has been pushing this kind of international co-production, particularly with countries that don’t usually partner with Asian territories, through its TICP initiative, which should see two or three more new features to be completed within this year, says CEO Izero Lee .

Taiwan has been keeping the pandemic under control through stringent restrictions, but the prolonged isolation from the rest of the world has taken a toll on the local industry, Huang notes. But it’s hoped that recent easing of restrictions, despite a spike due to the COVID Omicrom variant, will help to bring foreign crews back.

Taiwan, a tech hub of Asia, has been pumping out VR and XR works in recent years. Three XR titles — “The Starry Sand Beach,” “Madame Pirate: Becoming a Legend” and “Red Tail Ep.1” — will be competing for the Cannes XR x VeeR Future award. Serendipity Films handles the sales of “Madame Pirate: Becoming a Legend,” while Kaohsiung Film Archive handles the sales of “Red Tail Ep.1.”