Academic journal article CineAction

A Brief History of Taiwan's Film Industry

Academic journal article CineAction

A Brief History of Taiwan's Film Industry

Article excerpt

Pinyin names in this article are all quoted with the last name first, to respect the proper way of addressing a Chinese person.

This year, 2011, marks the 100th anniversary of the Republic of China (ROC), when the Chinese people overthrew the Qing Dynasty in 1911 and established a republic under the leadership of founding father, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, with the Chinese Nationalist party in power.

As a result of the victory over China by the Japanese in the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), the island of Taiwan had been ceded to Japan as a colony. It wasn't until 1946, after Japan's defeat in WWII, that Taiwan finally reverted to Chinese ownership, when the Nationalist Party became the rulers of a united China. However, a few years later, in 1948, mainland China was embroiled in a heated civil war between the governing Nationalist Party under Chiang Kai-shek, and the Communist party under Mao Tse-tung. Political struggle and unrest intensified, and by October 1949, Chinese unity was shattered when the Communist Party overthrew the Nationalist government and established the People's Republic of China (PRC), thus becoming the sole ruler of the mainland. The Nationalists retreated to Taiwan, where they set up a separate independent government, reinforcing its legitimacy by retaining the title of Republic of China (ROC). After 1949, then, China essentially had two governments, the PRC and the ROC, with the latter, synonymous with Taiwan, carrying the Nationalist hope of defeating the Communists and retaking the mainland to reunify China. Needless to say, the PRC's Communist party was also waiting for a chance to conquer Taiwan from the Nationalists, but was afraid of the military aid the Taiwanese were receiving from the U.S. These two governments are still at odds with each other today and occasionally threaten each other politically.

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After 1948, local film production in Taiwan began slowly, and was predominantly controlled by three government agencies: the Nationalist party, the provincial government (i.e. Taiwanese government, as Taiwan is a part of China and is considered by both the Taiwanese and the mainland to be a province, not a nation) and the military. The Nationalist party's film agency, named the "Farming and Education Film Company", produced mostly narrative films. The provincial government's film agency, the "Taiwan Film Culture Company", made documentaries and social narratives, while the military made mostly military newsreels, educational documentaries and patriotic narratives. All these films were intended as propaganda tor's to weed out Communist dissidents and promote unity island of Taiwan as it gradually entered the "White Terror" era, which lasted from 1949-1987, which saw the prevalent use of repressive tactics and measures similar to those of the McCarthy era in the U.S.

A limited number of film production companies outside of the three government agencies were financed by venture capitalists, but these companies were short-lived as their owners did not treat film as an art, nor did they have a long term business vision-Film investment was merely a tool to turn a quick profit.

The "Farming and Education Film Company" and the "Taiwan Film Company," which had control of theatrical screens, combined in 1954 to form the "Central Motion Picture Corporation (CMPC)", which continues to exist today. The CPMC followed the traditional film production policies, turning out melodramas with anti-communist sentiments in the late 50s and early 60s, but these films did not do well when compared to the commercial films produced by Hong Kong's Shaw Brothers Studios and the Motion Picture & General Investment Studio (MPGI).

However, 1963 was a very important year for Mandarin language film production in Taiwan. After making the Hong Kong blockbuster The Love Eterne (1963), director Li Han Hsiang broke his contract with Shaw Brothers due to a money dispute. …

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