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Sunday, 16 June 2024
Muted on world stage, Taiwan speaks up at Cannes

Muted on world stage, Taiwan speaks up at Cannes

Entertainment Desk

A slew of Taiwanese movies at the Cannes Film Festival offer the island an increasingly rare chance to tell its stories on the global stage.

These days few countries even have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, a self-ruled island that is claimed by Beijing.

Introducing his neo-noir thriller "Locust" at the world-famous festival, artist and director KEFF said he was "not interested in debating whether or not Taiwan should be a country."

"But we've gotten to a point where to even reflect the reality of Taiwan is to be provocative. And I don't agree with that," he told AFP.

"Locust" centres on Zhong-Han, a restaurant worker who runs with a violent gang by night, and is mute -- a striking metaphor for his home island.

"Zhong-Han represents a generation that is unable to speak for itself, but also a place, Taiwan, that is unable to speak for itself," the director said.

Actor Liu Wei-chen was forbidden to speak for weeks before shooting began, to prepare for the role.

Meanwhile "Mongrel," which premiered Monday, explores the lives of undocumented workers, including a caregiver living in the mountains of Taiwan.

Its producer, Lynn Chen, told The Hollywood Reporter that Cannes provides an opportunity to share a "unique and compelling cinematic experience."

- 'Not just a headline' -
KEFF, who has lived much of his life in the United States, set out to create his portrait of Taiwanese youth soon after moving back to the island in 2019.

He observed a surprising lack of interest from younger generations in Beijing's crackdown on nearby Hong Kong -- an encroachment that many fear could preface a full-scale invasion of Taiwan.

Beijing has said it would never renounce the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

The film also explores the lack of interest in international affairs among young Taiwanese.

KEFF said he wanted to tell human stories from an island too often viewed by the rest of the world merely as a potential flashpoint for World War Three, or source of top-end semi-conductors for smartphones.

"We're not just a headline in the news," said KEFF.

- 'Brave' -
The island's government has tried in recent years to make up for its lack of diplomatic clout by building up soft power through film.

Taiwanese funding -- including government-backed initiatives -- is behind two other films: "The Shameless," set in India; and "Rendez-vous avec Pol Pot," based in Cambodia.

And "Traversing the Mist" offers audiences an immersive and explicit look inside a Taiwanese gay sauna.

"We're not provocateurs. But we have a history of being brave. And so I feel that history should continue," said KEFF.

"Taiwanese people must continue to advocate for themselves. I'm not saying as a political entity, but as human beings."

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