Taiwanese New Wave Cinema is a movement in Chinese-language cinema that is largely considered to run from around the mid-1980s into the 2000s.

Directors from Taiwan created independent and serious films that were both artistic, and had social commentary.

Although the directors of Taiwanese New Wave cinema come from different backgrounds, they share an interest in social issues and an insistence on artistic freedom and independence from the studio system.

It’s tempting to look at Taiwanese New Wave Cinema and think, “Well, this is just like any other New Wave in film history.”

But the Taiwanese New Wave is not like any other New Wave, because it isn’t a wave at all.

It’s more of a movement, and its name is misleading, because the movement has had a lasting impact on the way most people think about film in Taiwan.

Taiwanese New Wave Cinema

What Is Taiwanese New Wave Cinema?

The Taiwanese New Wave refers to an era of filmmaking that began in the mid-1980s and continues today.

It was characterized by young directors who rejected traditional storytelling techniques in favor of more experimental ones, including nonlinear narratives and wildly impressionistic cinematography.

They often turned to smaller budgets and settings to tell intimate stories about their own lives and experiences.

One example of a movie made during the Taiwanese New Wave era is Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s A City Of Sadness.

The term “Taiwanese New Wave” started to appear in the early 1980s and quickly caught on with critics looking for a way to describe the latest wave of films coming out of Taiwan.

What Is Taiwanese New Wave Cinema?

Taiwanese New Wave Cinema was a movement in the 1980s and 1990s that saw young directors, inspired by theFrench New Wave, break with the state-sponsored film industry of the time to make movies that were more personal, daring and unconventional.

The French New Wave of the late 1950s and early 1960s was a dream come true for a generation of young cineastes — they could actually make their own films, and they made them with a style and energy that brought new life to an often stodgy art form.

In Taiwan, a similar situation unfolded in the 1980s. The government-run film industry had become stale, but there was little opportunity for independent filmmakers to really breakthrough. 

Taiwanese New Wave Cinema came about because of two main factors: changes in Taiwanese society at large and changes in how films were funded. 

The New Wave movement in Taiwan cinema began in the 1990s, as young directors and producers turned their back on the traditional studio system, creating low-budget films that reflected a new generation’s attitudes and concerns. 

Troubled by what they perceived as an old-fashioned style of filmmaking, the Taiwanese New Wave filmmakers produced movies that were often provocative and shocking, but always highly entertaining. 

At the heart of the movement was a desire to breathe new life into Taiwanese cinema. The filmmakers looked to make more modern movies with more realistic plots, characters and dialogue. 

The most important thing about the New Wave movement is its emphasis on style over substance. The stories told may not be particularly original or even believable, but they are told in an inventive way that can be highly entertaining. 

Taiwanese New Wave is characterized by: 

  • long, elaborate single-take scenes,
  • bright city lights that threaten to swallow up the characters, and
  • questions about modernity and cultural identity.

History Of Taiwanese New Wave Cinema

Looking back at the history of Taiwanese New Wave Cinema, it comes as no surprise why the movement first came to light in the late 1970s.

Taiwan was under martial law at the time and had been for almost a decade, so this generation of filmmakers grew up with a passion for filmmaking as an act of resistance against the Kuomintang regime.

They were also influenced by foreign cinematic movements such as French New Wave and Italian Neorealism.

In fact, Shu Kei, the founder of the movement, had adapted several short stories from writers like Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus for his film The Sand Pebbles (1966).

At the time, Taiwan was still under martial law, making it difficult for filmmakers to deal with anything too controversial onscreen.

In addition, the Taiwanese film industry was closely tied to the Hong Kong cinema across the strait, which had just seen its own successful new wave of filmmaking, spearheaded by directors like John Woo and Tsui Hark.

The New Wave Movement consists of five critical characteristics that are prevalent in Taiwanese movies: Shaky camera style.

This technique helps convey a sense of urgency or tension in a scene. It is quite different from the smooth, flowing shots that are often seen in Hollywood movies .

Long takes:  This refers to scenes where there is no editing. The camera simply pans from one action to another and cuts out only when there is a major change in location or action.

The idea behind long takes is to capture real life through its unedited realism. Visual storytelling:  This technique is used to tell a story without.

New Taiwanese Cinema, 1982–1990

By the mid-1980s, Taiwan’s film industry was in trouble. The Taiwanese market for films was dominated by Hong Kong films, and the domestic industry had no way of competing. 

After almost two decades of martial law under the Kuomintang (KMT) government, a new generation of filmmakers wanted to explore their country’s recent history, but fell afoul of the censors when they tried to do so.Finally, after decades of producing low-budget musicals, melodramas and comedies, Taiwan’s film industry was ready for a revolution. 

From 1982 onward, one could begin to see the emergence of a more daring movement in Taiwanese cinema. Films made as late as 1984 are still products of earlier eras: they are cautious and self-consciously traditional. 

But by 1988, young filmmakers were moving into more radical territory with films like Edward Yang’s That Day on the Beach (1983) and Hou Hsiao-hsien’s A Time to Live and a Time to Die (1985), which embarked on personal stories that revealed the trauma underlying modern Taiwan.The New Taiwanese Cinema was an era of great turbulence. 

It witnessed a series of important social conflicts — between political factions, between generations and between genders — all reflected in a feverishly. 

Taiwanese New Wave Cinema Second New Wave, 1990–2010 

The Taiwanese New Wave or Taiwanese Second Wave, is a term used to describe the emergence of a group of critically acclaimed and commercially successful independent filmmakers in Taiwan from the 1990s to the 2000s.The movement’s slogan is “100 years of film art in Taiwan; 100 years of cinema history around the world.” 

Tongues-in-cheek, the term “New Wave” was first applied to this group by critics because most of these directors studied at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and they were seen as part of an emerging trend in Asian cinema. These directors were also described as being influenced by various Western counterparts. 

This new generation of filmmakers set out to break traditional cinematic techniques, experimenting with expressionistic and psychological techniques, often filming on location and returning to the same actors each time they make a new film.Many of them studied film at university in the United States such as Lee Ang, Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tsai Ming-liang and others who had been educated at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). 

The 1990s saw an influx of capital into Taiwan’s domestic film industry when investors became interested in Taiwanese cinema.New filmmakers were able to produce small-budget films. 

The Taiwan Cinema Manifesto 

“Taiwan Cinema” is a film manifesto, an exploration of the Taiwanese New Wave. It introduces the movement’s elements, themes, and its impact on Taiwan society. 

As a collection of essays, The Taiwan Cinema Manifesto focuses on the theory and analysis surrounding the movement, but also covers economic and institutional aspects in detail. Description:The Taiwan Cinema Manifesto is divided into three parts:Part I: The Movement – This section introduces the concept of “Taiwan Cinema” as an art form. 

Through a survey of works by major directors from the New Wave era (such as Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang, Tsai Ming-liang), it explores how these directors set out to create a national cinema for Taiwan during the 1990s.Part II: Impact – This section discusses how the emergence of Taiwan Cinema has influenced society in Taiwan during the 1990s and 2000s. 

In addition to examining how Taiwanese audiences have received “Taiwan Cinema” over time, it discusses other dimensions of Taiwanese society that have been impacted by the movement, such as popular culture and politics.Part III: Aftermath – This section examines what happened after Taiwanese cinema grew out of its New Wave phase. 

By analyzing recent developments (including international recognition and commercialization.

The Two Waves Of New Taiwanese Cinema 

In the ten years since Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003) won the Golden Lion at Venice, there have been two waves of new Taiwanese cinema. Both were born out of political frustration. 

The first wave began in 2009, when a group of young filmmakers came together to protest against the impending cross-strait trade pact with China. The second wave started in 2014, when the Sunflower Movement occupied Taiwan’s legislature and brought an end to eight years of Kuomintang rule. 

The first wave of young directors had been active since 2000 and are known as “the Class of 2000”. They had formed their own “New Wave” movement with a manifesto that stated: “We want to make films on our own terms.” 

This was an angry reaction against the older generation of filmmakers associated with the pro-unification camp who had grown up under martial law and were products of the old studio system. Among this older generation were Hou Hsiao-hsien, Tsai Ming-liang and Edward Yang – each now considered among the greatest directors alive – as well as Sylvia Chang, Chen Kunhou and Johnny To. 

The new generation rejected their predecessors’ nostalgia for Taiwan’s past and concern for its future as they turned their attention. 

Essential Filmmakers Of Taiwanese New Wave Cinema 

In the 1990s, Taiwan’s film industry was booming. After decades of martial law, Taiwan started to embrace democracy and freedom of speech while maintaining its own unique culture and language. 

Tastes in film were changing too. Taiwanese audiences were becoming more discerning in their taste for film. 

Some filmmakers started to break away from formulaic mainstream fare and began to experiment with new styles and techniques.This new generation of creative Taiwanese directors made an impact on the world of cinema with their insightful portrayal of life in modern day Taiwan. 

The works of these filmmakers often dealt with controversial social issues, such as family relationships, youth culture, sexuality, and politics. This was a radical departure from previous cinema in Taiwan which had largely been concerned with entertainment value. 

These five young filmmakers are considered to be the most influential figures in Taiwan’s New Wave Cinema movement:Tsai Ming-liang – A young independent filmmaker who started his career in the early 80s by making short films about life in Taipei and its suburbs. He became the most internationally known Taiwanese director due to his avant-garde style which combined elements of horror and fantasy into realistic portrayals of everyday life. 

Hou Hsaio-hsien – Widely considered one of the greatest living directors. 

Essential Films Of Taiwanese New Wave Cinema 

It is been a little over a decade since the emergence of the so-called “Taiwanese New Wave” — an unprecedented cinematic movement that swept through Taiwan and gained international recognition for its stunning take on the human condition.Led by directors like Tsai Ming-liang, Lee Kang-sheng, Sylvia Chang and Edward Yang, the movement came to fruition in the late 1990s with a series of critically acclaimed films that depicted life in contemporary Taipei with a fresh new perspective. 

As you may have guessed, my favorite aspect of Taiwanese New Wave cinema is its emphasis on character development and its treatment of everyday life as something worth exploring through film.The following list is comprised of ten essential films from this movement that every cinephile should check out. 

I have chosen not to include any directors (with the exception of Tsai Ming-liang) or stars because I wanted to focus more on the commonalities among these films rather than their differences.Whether  you are a collector of Asian film, a die-hard independent cinema fan or just looking for something watch during your next Netflix binge, I think  you will find at least one or two titles here worthy of your attention. 

Importance Of Taiwanese New Wave Cinema 

Taiwanese New Wave Cinema refers to a brief period of artistic exploration in Taiwan during the late 1970s and early 1980s when an independent generation of filmmakers, inspired by the New Wave movement in Europe, began producing works outside the studio system, often focusing on critical examinations of Taiwan’s political and cultural status quo.__The ‘New Wave’ label was applied retroactively by outside critics. 

These critics used the term to characterize the movement as a whole. The earliest films of this era were produced around 1979, but it  was not until the early 1980s that Taiwanese New Wave began to gain international attention. 

The filmmakers were students and graduates of the National Taiwan University (NTU) and National Chengchi University (NCCU). The most important movement figures were Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Tsai Ming-liang and Yee Chih-yen. 

Other artists such as Sylvia Chang and Mabel Cheung also made significant contributions with their screenwriting.__In its defense against political pressure from China, Taiwan was trying to maintain its cultural independence while also developing stronger ties with Western nations. 

Taiwanese New Wave directors were well positioned to offer criticism from a unique vantage point: they could critique both their country’s relationship with mainland China. 

Taiwanese New Wave Cinema Theory 

Taiwanese New Wave Cinema (or Taiwan New Cinema) is a film movement that began in the late 1970s and continued into the 80s. The main characteristics of the movement are its anti-government views, its depiction of the underclass in society and its commercialization of Taiwanese identity. 

The emergence of this movement was influenced by many factors such as the cultural context, political atmosphere and economic situation at that time; all these factors contributed to a defiance towards authority, glorification of youth culture, and criticism of mainstream media.Many of the films created during this period were shown at mainstream cinemas, but they were not widely distributed through mainstream channels due to their controversial subject matter. 

This movement was characterized by many directors including Hou Hsiao Hsien, Edward Yang and King Hu who made their debuts during this era.Their films reflected very different views on society; however they have common themes such as family relationships, mental illness and changes in social status. 

For example, Hou’s A City of Sadness explores the effects of Japanese imperialism on the family unit, whereas King Hu’s A Touch of Zen features a protagonist who is mentally ill and struggles to cope with his surroundings. These directors had different interpretations on what Taiwanese identity is; however they. 

The End Of Taiwanese New Wave Cinema 

The Taiwanese New Wave is officially over, no longer the hottest thing in Asian cinema. Some might say it came to an end with the death of Hou Hsiao-hsien, the movement’s most important figure, back in 2017. 

Others would argue that it ended when Edward Yang died in 2007. And some would say that it was over once Tsai Ming-liang moved to France and started making a new kind of art cinema, one that was more contemplative than political. 

Whatever your definition of the movement (and there are plenty),  there is no denying that  it is been in decline for a while now. When I first started watching Taiwanese movies, they were everywhere — they won awards at Cannes and Berlin and Venice, they were available on Blu-Ray from Netflix and Amazon, they even made their way into museums as video installations. 

But now, things have changed. The Golden Horse Awards — the equivalent of the Oscars for Chinese language cinema — used to be dominated by Taiwan filmmakers; now  it is dominated by Chinese filmmakers. 

Most of these are not new wave directors.There are still Taiwanese films being made and shown at festivals around the world — just this year Huang Hsin-yao’s In Transit won the top prize at Berlinale. 

Taiwanese New Wave Cinema – Wrapping Up 

The Taiwanese New Wave is my favorite film movement.  I am not very familiar with the French New Wave, but I think the Taiwanese New Wave is much better. 

The movement started in the early 2000s and  has not stopped yet. Many of the filmmakers are still working today, which means that there are a lot of films for me to watch! 

It might seem odd for a film movement to originate from an Asian country, but Taiwan has a rich history in cinema. 

In fact, many people will tell you that the Golden Age of Chinese Cinema was in Taiwan rather than mainland China. Because of this history, there were filmmakers who had been trying to promote a modern Taiwanese cinema since the 1990s. 

However, they  could not get funding or recognition until 2000. The turning point came when one director made a film that was entirely in Mandarin Chinese and did not feature any Taiwan aboriginal characters or themes (which was common in Taiwan cinema). 

This film was The Hole, directed by Tsai Ming-liang.The filmmakers who would become part of the Taiwanese New Wave made films that were more accessible to mainstream audiences and featured stories that were relevant to Taiwan society.