New perspectives on Taiwan cinema after the New Wave

For the last three decades or so, Taiwan New Wave Cinema – variously termed Taiwan New Cinema, New Taiwan Cinema et cetera – has been oft-cited as one of the most emblematic expressions of Taiwan’s soft power. Notwithstanding its considerable international success, the movement itself – spearheaded by big names such as Hou Hsiao-hsien, Edward Yang, Chen Kunhou and Wan Ren – has occupied an ambivalent, if not controversial, position in the film history of Taiwan. This is perhaps due to the largely art-house, auteurist nature of the Taiwan New Wave Cinema and its immediate successors, the Second Wave auteurs like Tsai Ming-liang – whose elitist and somewhat austere tone had reportedly kept the local audience (despite the movement’s roots in Taiwan’s social reality and native life) at bay.

By the time Taiwan embarked on a full-fledged democratisation (and marketisation) in the 1990s, New Taiwan Cinema had somehow wound up in a conundrum where the movement had lost its momentum and immediacy to a bygone era of political repression. While this rather reductive account of the movement might not do justice to its diverse intricacies, a passing understanding of this epoch is important to think about what comes after – and this is exactly what this project has set out to do – to bring attention to a new generation of filmmakers who have been working in the shadow of the New Wave auteurs.

In fact, critics had long been divided when it came to the role of the New Wave Cinema, with some going as far as blaming the movement for the impasse in Taiwan cinema that followed, but one definite repercussion is the bifurcation of art and commercial cinemas in Taiwan – a discursive bifurcation that went on to be solidified by millennial blockbusters such as Cape No. 7 (2008) and You Are the Apple of My Eye (2011), whose box office successes had kickstarted a new phase of Taiwan’s commercial cinema.

What, then, lies ahead for Taiwan cinema? And what constitutes the post-new wave cinematic landscape? These are some of the questions that we attempt to answer, and through this Post-New Wave project, we hope to provide a new space for intellectual conversations on post new-wave films as well as the future of Taiwan cinema.