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Taiwan filmmakers sees hope from Ang Lee's success

As "Brokeback Mountain," Ang Lee's tale of gay cowboys, tops the Oscar nominations and fills the theatres, film makers back home in Taiwan hope to emulate his success to rescue their ailing movie industry.

Last year, Taiwan films accounted for just 10 percent of the 400-plus movies shown on the island and just 1.59 percent of ticket sales.

But the success of Lee's edgy cowboy romance, nominated for best movie and seven other Academy Awards, has grossed US$1 million in ticket sales in Taiwan and inspired young filmmakers anew.

"I am very glad Ang Lee is so successful that I can use him as an excuse whenever my mom tells me to find a real job," said Robin Lee, a 33-year-old with a biology masters degree who prefers to make movies.

Taiwan directors win awards on the international movie festival circuit but struggle to make money as their home audiences see their work as irrelevant or just plain boring.

Although they flocked to Ang Lee's Oscar-winning "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" in 2000, Taiwan movie goers have generally preferred Hong Kong kung fu action or the Hollywood dream machine to local movies that typically take a studied and quiet look at love and life on the island.

But local film-makers now hope to emulate Lee's ability to skilfully combine Eastern philosophy with popular Western storytelling, without compromising his art.

"Ang Lee's success shows it is not impossible to strike a balance between art and box office," said Lin Chien-ping, who took a trophy for his short film, "Small Station," at the Venice International Film Festival in 2005.

"It doesn't make sense for any director to make self-serving movies with no commercial appeal. There are plenty of good movies that touch the hearts of audiences and also make money," the 38-year-old director said.

Taiwan's "New Cinema" began to win recognition in the 1980s when directors like Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang won prizes from Berlin, Cannes and Venice, but they lost box office appeal when their focus shifted from entertainment to pure art.

"You have to travel abroad to find out how well-regarded Taiwan (art house) movies and directors are. But at home, nobody pays any attention," said Leste Chen, a 24-year-old director, who made his debut with a ghost movie last year.

"But the good thing is Taiwan's movie industry can't be any worse than it is now. On the other hand, if the industry was booming, we would not have had a chance," said Chen.

The hunger for success means the young Taiwan directors of today are more focused on the box office.

"I want to make movies that are different, interesting and I want people to watch my movies," said Robin Lee, whose first film, "The Shoe Fairy," was due to be shown later this month.

 Source :   Editor: WuLin
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