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Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival goes homeward bound with Coo-Coo 043, Gaga, and a landmark Edward Yang feature

Yi Yi: A One and a Two
Edward Yang won the best director honour at Cannes for Yi Yi: A One and a Two.

This year’s Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival will screen a movie by one of the island nation’s greatest directors. The Shanghai-born and Taipei-raised Edward Yang studied film at the University of Southern California. From there, he attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design before finding employment in microcomputers in Seattle.

However, after seeing Werner Herzog’s epic Aguirre, the Wrath of God, Yang decided to returned to Taiwan and work in the film industry. There, he pioneered a new wave of Taiwanese cinema in the 1980s.

But it was in 2000 when Yang’s Yi Yi: A One and a Two…  became an international sensation. He captured the best director honour at the Cannes Film Festival for his drama about members of middle-class Taipei family. The film about trying to reconcile past and present relationships also earned a Palme d’Or nomination and won a dozen other awards.

Yi Yi: A One and a Two is one of 14 films at the Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival. The 17th annual edition runs from Friday (September 8) to Sunday (September 10) at the VIFF Centre (1122 Seymour Street). The Edward Yang film screens at 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Another festival highlight is Coo-Coo 043, which was named best feature film at the 2022 Golden Horse Awards. Directed by Ching Lin Chan, it’s another tale of family intrigue. According to IMDb, it revolves around resentments related to illegal bird racing. It screens at 1:45 p.m. on Sunday.

Watch the trailer for Coo-Coo 043.

Yang feature is one of several family films

Yet another family drama, Gaga, screens at 6 p.m. on Saturday. Laha Mebow won the 2022 Golden Horse Award for best director for this film about the descendants of a revered Indigenous elder. He dies in his sleep, leaving his survivors to cope with a land dispute, financial problems, and an unexpected pregnancy.

That will be followed at 9 p.m. by Small Talk, which won the Teddy Award for Best Documentary Film at the 2017 Berlin Film Festival. Moreover, it snared Best Documentary at the 2017 Taipei Film Awards.

Small Talk director Hui-Chen Huang conducts a series of interviews with her mother, a lesbian who revealed very little about her life until filming began.

Meanwhile, the festival opens at 8 p.m. on Friday with Kulumaha! Behind the Singing. It’s a behind-the-scenes documentary about an a cappella children’s choir, Vox Nativa.

“The film reflects on the concerns and issues of rural education, the Indigenous bonus points system, and the challenges of adapting from tribes to cities,” the festival states on its website. “After having attended Vox Nativa and left their tribal villages, will these children return with the skills they have acquired?”

Watch the trailer for Kulumaha! Behind the Singing.

Homeward Bound

The Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival created a 2023 theme of “Homeward Bound”. And it will present most films in Mandarin and Taiwanese with English and Traditional Chinese subtitles. However, audiences will see Kulumaha! Behind the Singing in Mandarin and Bunun with English and Traditional Chinese subtitles.

The festival closes on Sunday at 4 p.m. with the Short Film Program. It’s comprised of four films by Athena Han, a Taipei-born SFU film production grad. She was a mentee at the 2019 Vancouver International Film Festival and her work has been screened at several film festivals. According to the Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival website, she’s working on her first feature film, Precious Yellow Metals.

In addition to the films, the Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival will also keep plenty of reading material in Traditional Chinese and English at the VIFF Centre.

With the help of Annie Zhang (張潔平), founder of Matters.town and principal of the independent bookstore Nowhere (飛地), Intriguing Connections (讀獨) will display selected books that may inspire people in search of their roots. Whether it’s fiction, nonfiction, documentaries, or comics, readers may find words and images that touch their hearts and resonate with their struggles and experiences. Festivalgoers can browse through the collection or pick up individual titles and read them on-site.

The Vancouver Taiwanese Film Festival runs from Friday (September 8) to Sunday (September 10) at the VIFF Centre. For more information about director panels, please visit the website. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia and on Instagram @PancouverMedia.

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Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.