The upheaval caused by coronavirus has upset many a best laid plan in Edinburgh this year, including the conspicuous absence of the world’s biggest arts festival. Another event that has had a spanner tossed into its works by COVID is the Taiwan Edinburgh Film Festival, which was scheduled to grace Scottish shores for the very first time this September.

While the current situation means that will no longer be happening, the Festival’s organisers have cleverly pivoted to position the event as a free-to-access, online-only affair, with 20 titles on offer for aficionados of far-flung cinema from the 18th to the 27th of September. If all goes well, the Festival may still take place in a live environment later this year, but its digital incarnation should keep appetites whetted until its safe enough for such a scenario to occur.

Half of the titles involved in this year’s selection are UK premieres, while there are plenty of regional classics and directorial heavyweights in there, to boot. Divided over seven unique strands, the festival will incorporate the following ideas:

  • Taiwanese Hokkien-Language Films & The Genres. Referring specifically to Hoklo-speaking films created in Taiwan between 1955 and 1981, this strand differentiates the festival’s offerings from those produced in Amoy-dialect or Mandarin and Hokkien-language films from other nations.
  • A Borrowed Hong Kong, the Imagined China in Taiwan & Transregional Cinema. After losing the Communist War in 1949, the KMT government retreated to Taiwan without its own film studios. Hong Kong, itself something of a mecca for budding film talents in China, became a proxy centre for Taiwanese film – and this strand highlights the fruits of those labours.
  • Melodrama Divas. This strand focuses on cinematic adaptations of the works of romance novelist Chiung Yao, who placed the emotional struggles faced by young women at the forefront of her literature.
  • Taiwan New Cinema and its Legacy. Officially beginning in 1982, Taiwan New Cinema was directly inspired by the New Wave movement in France and the neorealist trend in Italy of the time. Its films focus on subjects deemed as taboo by the authorities and are recognisable for their socially conscious themes, slow pacing and ultra-realistic depictions of everyday life.
  • Midi Z Selection. Burmese director Midi Z is just one of countless emigres who sought refuge in Taiwan after the Cold War. With low production budgets and a guerrilla approach to cinematography, Midi Z offers a unique insight into Taiwanese culture.
  • Docs/Exploring Diversity in Pursuing the Taiwanese Diversity. While China tries to impose its own sense of Chinese identity on ethnic minorities within the country and Sinophonic communities located outside of it, Taiwan has long asserted its own unique culture – this strand focuses on that heritage through the medium of documentaries.
  • Shorts/The Unusual Usual. Funded by taxpayers’ money and regularly showcased on public TV channels, short film is the steppingstone via which many directors in Taiwan enter the industry. This strand highlights the work of some of the most important talents in the country from recent years.

All films will be free to access and will be available from the 18th to the 27th September from the Taiwan Film Festival website. With a severely limited Fringe schedule on hand to make work for our idle thumbs, The Wee Review team plan to gorge ourselves (and report back) on the programme in as much depth as we can – and we strongly advise you to do the same! The inaugural Taiwan Edinburgh Film Festival is on the virtual horizon.