UCLA Center for Chinese Studies Hosts Series on Taiwanese Cinema and Culture

Countries and artistic mediums are brought into conversation through “Taiwan in Dialogue”.

Organized by the UCLA Center for Chinese Studies, the lecture series features dialogues with Taiwanese American directors Arvin Chen and Feng-I Fiona Roan. In his April 14 speech, Chen discussed his film career and the Taiwanese film industry, while Roan’s discussion on Thursday will focus on his feature debut, “American Girl.” Michael Berry, director of the Center for Chinese Studies, said this program has historically featured lectures and sometimes dialogues with influential voices on Taiwanese culture.

“It will be great to have these two very creative and innovative voices representing not only Taiwanese cinema, but the collaborative relationship between the United States and Taiwan in the arts,” Berry said.

These discussions focus on the collaborative artistic relationship between Taiwan and the United States in addition to the directors’ artistic process or previews of their films, Berry said. For Thursday’s talk, he said the conversation would revolve around Roan’s upbringing in Taiwan and his schooling at the American Film Institute. The main talking point will be her feature debut, “American Girl,” about a mother living in the United States who returns to Taiwan during the SARS outbreak.

More generally, Berry said the “Taiwan in Dialogue” series is meant to allow students to learn face-to-face with personalities who might be physically distant and imagine their own possible career paths a decade from now. The conversation functions as an oral history of the filmmaker and can doubly function as an archive for future scholars who wish to study these filmmakers, he said. Asking Roan questions such as how she got “American Girl” distributed on Netflix, Berry said students can learn from a filmmaker who was able to get into the film industry.

“(There are) all kinds of creative decisions and business decisions that go into the very complex process of making films and hopefully (we can take) viewers and participants through that process,” said Berry. “We can almost give students a roadmap (and) provide a real-life example of how someone navigated this very complex industry and also found their own artistic voice.”

[Related: UCLA Film & Television Archive hosts talk highlighting impacts of ‘China Girl’]

Speaking from a student’s perspective, East Asian film and media studies doctoral candidate Yiyang Hou said that this series is beneficial for students and faculty members because it provides insight into Taiwanese culture and how Taiwan presents itself on the world stage. Logistically, Hou said the online format has opened the doors for more people in the global community to learn from the series speakers. While in person these events drew a small crowd of UCLA affiliates interested in the speaker or topic, Hou said social media promotions and the online format helped reach a larger audience. large.

“In other words, it’s really become a global event that I know a lot of my friends from Taiwan, Hong Kong (and) mainland China are all taking part in,” Hou said. “People will get a different insight into contemporary Taiwanese culture, which is transnational and cross-cultural, but it’s definitely (a way for) artists and filmmakers to share their views and understandings on a wide range of issues. “

Esther Jou, deputy director of the Center for Chinese Studies, said there were a lot of logistics involved for each speaker to share their particular processes and personal background. The “Taiwan in Dialogue” series is funded by a grant from the Department of Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture, she said, indicating that the government is committed to sharing Taiwanese culture – including subjects such as literature, cinema and art.

Jou said the center would like to expand the series to invite speakers from fields that have not yet been covered such as Taiwanese music, art history and archaeology.

[Related: ‘Sing (to me)’ harmonizes theme of understanding others with humorous style]

As for where the series will go, Berry said he would like to portray different areas of interest to demonstrate the diversity of contemporary Taiwanese culture. He said in many ways that Taiwan is more culturally progressive than some of its neighbors when it comes to topics like LGBTQ+ rights and same-sex marriage, which lend themselves to a distinct cultural landscape in Asia. More than anything, this series is a way to foster open cultural dialogue as a way to build community, he said.

“The type of films that come out, the type of novels that are written (and) the type of expression that it (Taiwan’s progressiveness) fosters is very dynamic – sometimes very controversial but also very creative (and) very wild” , Berry said. . “It’s just an amazing panorama that’s so different from what you’re going to get in any other place and so, we hope to shine a light on some of the most creative, innovative and dynamic voices coming out of Taiwan in the arts. “.

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