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'Pierce' film director praises Taiwan's openness

07/06/2024 02:23 PM
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Nelicia Low (second from the left), the director of "Pierce," answers questions from the audience after the second screening of the film at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on Thursday. CNA photo July 6, 2024
Nelicia Low (second from the left), the director of "Pierce," answers questions from the audience after the second screening of the film at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on Thursday. CNA photo July 6, 2024

Karlovy Vary, July 6 (CNA) Taiwan's openness is a "strength" that enables outstanding filmmaking, according to a Singaporean director whose film "Pierce" received a standing ovation at the 58th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) in the Czech Republic on July 3.

Set in Taiwan and produced by Taiwanese, Singaporean and Polish production companies, "Pierce" is the first feature-length movie made by Singaporean director Nelicia Low (劉慧伶).

Starring Taiwanese actors Tsao Yu-ning (曹佑寧), Liu Hsiu-fu (劉修甫), and Ding Ning (丁寧), the film tells the story of an ex-convict who tries to reconnect with his younger brother through the sport of fencing while exploring themes of truth, doubt and familial ties.

Low's movie was selected as the only Chinese-language film in the top-ranking Crystal Globe Competition at this year's KVIFF, with the winner expected to be announced on Saturday.

The director spoke to CNA and discussed how Taiwan's uniqueness contributed to the success of "Pierce," while highlighting some of the experiences during the production.

Openness as strength

Low believes that Taiwan was an especially suitable location for making the film.

Referring to the depiction of romantic affection between two teenage male fencers, Low said that these scenes would have been very different and "very repressive" if the story had been set elsewhere.

"I think one of Taiwan's strengths is its openness," the 33-year-old director said. "Since this story is set in Taiwan, it simply becomes a story of first love -- we wouldn't necessarily label it as 'gay love.'"

Singaporean director Nelicia Low (center), along with Taiwanese actors Tsao Yu-ning (right) and Liu Hsiu-fu (left), are interviewed by CNA in Karlovy Vary, the Czech Republic, on Thursday. CNA photo July 4, 2024
Singaporean director Nelicia Low (center), along with Taiwanese actors Tsao Yu-ning (right) and Liu Hsiu-fu (left), are interviewed by CNA in Karlovy Vary, the Czech Republic, on Thursday. CNA photo July 4, 2024

While setting one of the main characters as a gay high-school fencer was purely out of "creative feeling," Low said that Taiwanese society's acceptance toward the LGBTQ community "made the decision to shoot in Taiwan stronger."

Same-sex marriage was legalized in Taiwan in 2019, making it the first country in Asia to achieve this milestone in gender equality. A survey by the Taiwan Equality Campaign released in May showed that 56.5 percent of Taiwanese support same-sex marriage.

When shooting the first kiss scene of the gay couple, Low recalled that everyone on set thought it was very sweet and romantic, and no one was "bothered by the gay thing."

Asked how openness in Taiwan contributed to good filmmaking, Low told CNA that in a place with less censorship and people more open to social issues, including LGBTQ issues, it "obviously helps the arts."

"As an artist, you don't feel this sense of being restricted (when in Taiwan), so it allows you to create your stories more freely," she added.

Source: Magnify Films

Open to possibility

With less censorship compared to other parts of the world, individuals in Taiwan, both inside and outside the film industry, are more open to different genres of films without setting limitations, Low said.

Providing her with like-minded talents to work with, Low said that Taiwan reminded her of New York, where she earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Film Directing at Columbia University.

"From a creator's perspective, I find working in Taiwan to be very smooth because it is easy to find people who understand both the arts and the market," she said, adding that in some places, there are only individuals who know only about either art films or commercial films.

The audience gives a warm round of applause to the director and actors of "Pierce" following the second screening of the film at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on Thursday. CNA photo July 6, 2024
The audience gives a warm round of applause to the director and actors of "Pierce" following the second screening of the film at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on Thursday. CNA photo July 6, 2024

Describing her debut feature film as a blend of both art and commercial elements, Low said she appreciated the assistance from her Taiwanese crew members, including Golden Horse Award-winning sound designer Tu Duu-chih (杜篤之) and art director Hsu Kuei-ting (許貴婷), noting that she has collaborated with Hsu for more than 10 years.

She said that this production team knows how to strike a balance between arts and the market by bringing in "extremely artistic eyes" while understanding the attractiveness of the story.

The Taiwanese people have a long history of appreciating arts, and as a result, ordinary people are often willing to assist filmmakers, Low said, citing examples from the Taiwanese fencing community, including her past opponents when she was a national fencer for Singapore, who came on set to be extras in the films.

"I don't think there are many places in the world that you will receive this kind of passion toward supporting something that is in the arts, that is in the movies," Low said with a tone of gratitude.

Nelicia Low (center), the director of “Pierce,” and actors Tsao Yu-ning (right) and Liu Hsiu-fu (left) burst into laughter during an interview with CNA in Karlovy Vary on Thursday. CNA photo July 4, 2024
Nelicia Low (center), the director of “Pierce,” and actors Tsao Yu-ning (right) and Liu Hsiu-fu (left) burst into laughter during an interview with CNA in Karlovy Vary on Thursday. CNA photo July 4, 2024

All the efforts from individuals, both within and outside the film industry, seemed to pay off as the film "Pierce" received a three-minute standing ovation at its world premiere on July 3 at this year's KVIFF.

KVIFF is one of 14 "A-list" competitive feature film festivals listed by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF), along with the Cannes Film Festival and the Venice International Film Festival, according to the FIAPF.

(By Tina Liu and Sunny Lai)

Enditem/JT/cs

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CNA photo July 3, 2024
CNA photo July 3, 2024
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