Ger­man pro­fes­sor gives his ad­vice to as­pir­ing Tai­wanese film mak­ers


For an artist, rejection is a painful yet crit­i­cal part of the cre­ative process. It may sting at first, but it hones the strong­est el­e­ments of an idea and drives the im­pulse within the artist to bring it for­ward.

This point was not lost on Till Di­etsche who serves as cu­ra­tor for the an­nual Tainan 39-hour Short Film Con­tes­ti­val ( 39

) and teaches film as an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at Dayeh Univer­sity (

) while bring­ing as­pir­ing film­mak­ers to­gether with sea­soned ex­perts in the field. His ini­tial pro­posal 15 years ago while still liv­ing in his na­tive Ger­many was a film fes­ti­val con­sist­ing of short films, an idea that was ini­tially re­jected. Di­etsche, un­ham­pered, sub­se­quently worked with his friends and or­ga­nized the fes­ti­vals them­selves in a night­club in Kiel, which gen­er­ated sur­pris­ing suc­cess which lead him to be­lieve that the no­tion of short film fes­ti­vals had trac­tion and ap­peal.

Fast-for­ward a decade and shift con­ti­nents from Europe to Asia, where his spirit of cul­ti­vat­ing the un­con­ven­tional through short films has moved to Tai­wan, an is­land with its a history of its own fa­mous di­rec­tors, in­clud­ing Hou Hsiaohsien, Ang Lee and Tsai Mingliang.

Each year the fes­ti­val brings as­pir­ing and ex­pe­ri­enced film mak­ers to­gether, giv­ing them an op­por­tu­nity to work through tremen­dous time con­straints to de­velop a short film in less than two days’ time. The pro­gram also in­cludes a com­pre­hen­sive set of events in­clud­ing screen­ings of Ger­man short films, panel dis­cus­sions and a work­shop. This year’s win­ners of the Golden Tai­wan Award for the film “Have A Nice Day” ( ) re­ceived an award of NT$30,000, two plane tick­ets to Ber­lin and a guar­an­teed screen­ing at the 31st Ber­lin In­ter­na­tional Short Film Fes­ti­val in Novem­ber.

Tra­di­tion Meets In­no­va­tion

This year, Di­etsche and the fes­ti­val have teamed up with the Goethe In­sti­tute, which has had a pres­ence in Tai­wan since 1963, a key­stone in­sti­tu­tion cul­ti­vat­ing knowl­edge about Ger­many by pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion on Ger­man cul­ture, so­ci­ety and pol­i­tics in over 150 in­sti­tutes world­wide.

At first glance, this part­ner­ship be­tween the well-es­tab­lished and glob­ally net­worked Goethe In­sti­tute (which orig­i­nated as the Ger­man Academy in 1925) and the rel­a­tively young film fes­ti­val based in Tainan (which re­cently screened its fourth fes­ti­val), seems a bit in­con­gru­ous. Delv­ing deeper how­ever, their com­pact is built upon a mean­ing­ful en­ter­prise which cen­ters on pro­mot­ing the idea of cul­tural ex­change by not only pro­mot­ing the screen­ing of short films from Ger­many into Tai­wan, but by gen­er­at­ing a bi-di­rec­tional di­a­logue among in­ter­na­tional cul­tures, new and ex­pe­ri­enced film mak­ers and au­di­ences and gaz­ing into new vi­sions of up-and-com­ing gen­er­a­tions of young Tai­wanese di­rec­tors.

Dr. Cle­mens Treter, who serves as di­rec­tor of the Goethe In­sti­tute in Taipei, which has in the past col­lab­o­rated in and sup­ported larger film fes­ti­vals such as the Golden Horse, sees new op­por­tu­ni­ties in the cur­rent form of co­op­er­a­tion. While po­ten­tial ex­po­sure may be a lead­ing con­sid­er­a­tion for large-scale col­lab­o­ra­tions, Treter be­lieves that di­a­logue and im­pact can be greater when en­gag­ing in smaller projects, es­pe­cially short films, be­cause it in­volves work­ing with emerg­ing di­rec­tors, ac­tors and the peo­ple who might make it big some­day.

Di­etsche, who has over­seen the process of mak­ing the an­nual film fes­ti­val in Tainan a “cul­tural ex­change fes­ti­val,” char­ac­ter­izes the Goethe In­sti­tute as “the per­fect friend in fa­cil­i­tat­ing cul­tural ex­change and bring­ing Ger­man art to Tai­wan.”

It is this no­tion of ac­ces­si­bil­ity that finds a com­pat­i­ble part­ner with the in­cu­ba­tion of new di­rec­tors who are en­cour­aged to experiment with tech­nique, style and story-telling meth­ods at the Tainan-based film fes­ti­val. This is a key draw for win­ners of the film fest who are awarded a cov­eted trip to Ber­lin in which their work is screened and the real op­por­tu­nity for ex­change is pre­sented with meet­ings with ex­perts and ex­pe­ri­enced film mak­ers. Di­etsche noted how many up­starts to the film world who made the trip to Ber­lin were amazed at the de­gree of ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

Com­pli­men­tary Goals

For Treter, the op­por­tu­nity has also af­forded a more de­tailed look at the role of short films in cul­tural ex­change. He notes the ad­van­tages of the medium in which a se­ries of works can al­low for the ex­per­i­men­ta­tion of us­ages of dif­fer­ent styles in the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a par­tic­u­lar theme. In the process of be­com- ing more knowl­edge­able about Tai­wanese short film, Treter is able to see how in­ter­na­tional ex­po­sure, by means of bring­ing ac­ces­si­bil­ity and fa­cil­i­tat­ing di­a­logue, can fuse with lo­cal film char­ac­ter­is­tics which have al­ready “de­vel­oped their own film lan­guage.”

For both Treter and Di­etsche, the as­pect of cul­tural ex­change is less about broad­cast­ing and pre­sent­ing, but is in­stead more about sus­tain­ing di­a­logue. Short films, ac­cord­ing to Di­etsche, are par­tic­u­larly well-suited for the task since its very goal of en­cour­ag­ing dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion on themes (for ex­am­ple, friend­ship) can al­low cul­tural ex­change to su­per­sede more rigid ten­den­cies that may be cen­tered on cul­tural stereo­types. These “less in­tru­sive, more play­ful” as­pects of pro­mot­ing cul­tural di­a­logue can chal­lenge both film­maker and au­di­ences alike with­out blud­geon­ing each other with es­sen­tial­ized no­tions of what Ger­man or Tai­wanese cul­ture should or shouldn’t be.

New Vi­sions

In his dual role as film fes­ti­val cu­ra­tor and pro­fes­sor, Di­etsche sees first hand the crit­i­cal role cul­tural ex­change can play in the as­pir­ing film­maker. This is es­pe­cially true for an is­land na­tion such as Tai­wan in which the sea has a strong ten­dency to in­su­late, “mak­ing it eas­ier to fo­cus in­side rather than out­side.”

It is in­deed a cru­cial time for new di­rec­tors in Tai­wan who must de­cide whether to con­tinue along the styles of es­tab­lished mas­ters or stake out a vi­sion of their own. As Di­etsche pointed out, the process of mak­ing a film has been pop­u­lar­ized with the ad­vent of cheaper cam­eras and the avail­abil­ity of smart­phones. It there­fore rep­re­sents a greater op­por­tu­nity that fo­cuses more on con­tent and orig­i­nal­ity of ideas and tech­nique rather than how ex­pen­sive or tech­ni­cally sound one’s equip­ment is.

When asked about what as­pir­ing and those new to the field of film­mak­ing can do, aside from en­thu­si­as­ti­cally urg­ing them to par­tic­i­pate in short film fes­ti­vals, Di­etsche ad­vised as­pi­rants to watch more films while in­ter­act­ing as much as pos­si­ble with those in­volved in the cre­ative process. For more in­for­ma­tion: Tainan 39-hour Short Film Con­tes­ti­val: http://www.tainan39. com Goethe In­sti­tute in Taipei: tai.html

Cour­tesy of Rich Mathe­son Pho­tog­ra­phy

1. Par­tic­i­pants in this year’s Tainan 39 Hour Short Film Con­tes­ti­val work with light­ing dur­ing a screen­ing event. 2. “Lights, cam­era, ac­tion!” A di­rec­tor in this year’s Tainan 39 Hour Short Film Con­tes­ti­val sig­nals the start of film­ing dur­ing a scene. 3. Dr. Cle­mens Treter, left, Di­rec­tor of the Goethe In­sti­tute in Taipei and Asst. Pro­fes­sor Till Di­etsche of Dayeh Univer­sity, right, dis­cuss the idea of cul­tural ex­change dur­ing a meet­ing in Taipei.

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