Reviewed by: Owen Van Spall

10+10 springs out of the Taiwanese Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival, which initiated the project to bring together 20 veteran and new Taiwanese directors, each of whom were asked to create one five-minute short film inspired by the same topic: the uniqueness of their country.

The resulting fictional stories and short documentaries did not have to adhere to any kind of dictats formally or in terms of content. The results are diverse: there are fictional stories using key historical events such as the conflict with Communist China as a backdrop - Chang Tso-Chi's Sparkles is a short film boasting an impressive CGI augmented recreation of street battles between opposing armies, through which the young female lead must navigate. There are stories suffused with magical realism and a sense of a bygone era, such as Chen Kuo-Fu's richly designed The Debut set backstage in a 1960s theatre, where a showgirl is visited by the apparition of a former star who passes on some advice.

The diverse cinematic approaches used is interesting in that it offers a window for the viewer to observe some of the contemporary and historical social and political Taiwanese concerns - the relations with mainland China perhaps being dominant. But this cultural specificity also might make it harder to relate to for non-Asian viewers without some basic grounding in the history of the region. Also, a diverse collection of short films inevitably means there will be a mixed bag in terms of enjoyment for any one viewer: some of the films are very obscure or outright bizarre, whereas some are so short and slight they leave little impact. Less films and a longer running time would help.

The biggest name in the bunch is Hou Hsiao-Hsien, a leading figure in Taiwanese new wave cinema, whose La Belle Epoque opens and closes the film with a minimalistic but quietly intriguing family tale about a young Taiwanese woman reawakening memories that lie behind her recently inherited heirlooms.

Reviewed on: 16 Feb 2012
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Short film collection themed around the "unique attributes of Taiwan".

Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien and 19 additional directors

Year: 2011

Runtime: 114 minutes

Country: Taiwan


BIFF 2012

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