With the COVID-19 pandemic still killing thousands around the globe, Taipei has become the first city on earth to successfully host a bona-fide, in person, human-attended film festival since the outbreak began. 

The Taipei Film Festival kicked off last night in Taiwan’s capital to much fanfare, featuring the opening film The Silent Forest by Ko Chen-Nien in addition to  DAYS by Tsai Ming-Liang – the festival’s closer.

The Silence Forest is based on a true story about a long-term ‘collective sexual assault’ at a school for the hearing impaired in the south of Taiwan many years ago.

Seen as a Taiwanese version of the famous Korean film, Silenced, the director even invited Kim Hyun-Bin, a young Korean actor who starred in the Korean drama Signal, to join the cast.

Kim did so, and rewarded the director and audiences with a fantastic performance.

“I would like to draw attention to minorities, to have audiences rethink our relationship to them, and to remind society of the details of this case,” said Ko, adding “this film will exert its influence if just a few of the audience Google the case after watching it.” 

“The last time I felt the same way was when I watched the film Dancers in the Dark,” said actress, Jessie Chang.

“We have to think about what we can do for these children, about something we can really do for them,” said Yang Kuei-Mei, who who was cast as the principal of the school in the film.

DAYS, the festival’s closing film, by Tsai Ming-Liang meanwhile, was the 2020, Teddy Jury Award winner at the Berlin International Film Festival.

The film took Tsai four years to shoot, and as always, had no set dialogue.

Tsai recalled on the night, that 20 years ago when he was asking producers for financial support and applying for film budgets, he was always asked, “Where’s your story? Your plan? Your script?” but always replied there was nothing but the ideas in his head, so those people walked away. 

Twenty years on, and Tsai has finished another masterpiece “with no storyline, very little money, and a very small team”.

“I’m proud of it. It is my ideal state of creation. My film gets to enjoy even more freedom,” said Tsai about DAYS.

The opening and closing films of this year’s Taipei Film Festival feature the heavy hitters of Taiwan’s film industry, and with the collective memory, and the cultural context of Taiwanese society, we can see these are both representative of the nation. 

The Taipei Film Festival will screen a range of thought provoking films from now until July 11th.

The winners of the Taipei Film Awards are to be announced on the final day, but with COVID-19 keeping much of the world in lockdown, the Taipei Film Festival has brought a glimmer of hope to the city of Taipei.

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