By Daniel J. Bauer
First of all, let me frankly admit that I lack all credibility as a TV or movie critic. Although I immensely enjoy reading drama (paying special attention to its value as literature), I am unfamiliar with efforts of actors here in Taiwan. I am interested in performance. I see a lot of student drama, department productions, graduation plays, and the like. I almost never watch TV, or a movie, however. Shame on me for this glaring character defect.
Heaven help me. In a land where Western style humor may be easily misunderstood, must I point out that the reference above to defect is a gentle attempt at self-directed satire?
Ah so. Books and the written word are usually my kind of entertainment. Some, perhaps many, in the community of local artistic critics have expressed more than feelings of disappointment and frustration over the results of last week’s 53rd Golden Horse Awards competition in Taipei. Some of these friends of Taiwan, as we may term them, have been clearly angry at those results. The People’s Republic of China had a big night. So much gold came China’s way, so much recognition. For friends in cinema there, it was chocolate and champagne all around. The Republic of China on Taiwan, in contrast, was left to nibble on saltine crackers. The salt, as early American poet Anne Bradstreet might suggest, kept company with our tears. The Chinese cinematic world won the award for best feature film (“The Summer is Gone”), and the award for best new performer (10 year-old star Kong Weiyi). Chinese director Feng Xiaogang won the best director award for “I am not Madame Bovary.” The award for best actress was given to a pair of Chinese actresses in “Soul Mate.” The best actor award went to Chinese Fan Wei for his work in the ironically entitled “Mr. No Problem,” for which the Chinese title deserves special mention. The Chinese for “Mr. No Problem” is “Bu cheng wen ti de wen ti,” arguably “The problem that isn’t a problem.” But, you see, the problem in the eyes of some is that the venue was Taiwan, after all, and a modicum of home field advantage might have seemed in order. China walking away with so many trophies, and Taiwan being left with but one, for best art direction (“Godspeed”), simply did not click with local TV and film fans. They figured they got the wet end of the cigar, as my Dad used to say. One comment on Facebook, responding to remarks of a former deputy manager of programming at China Television System, raised the notion of “outsiders.”
“We spent our money to encourage the efforts of outsiders,” went the post. “The result was an insult to the hard work of every person in Taiwan’s cinematic industry … and an insult to Taiwanese confidence in our own movie and TV culture” (TT 11- 28-16, p. 2).