Voices of Youth. Unseen Taiwanese films of the 1960s

The End of the Track ©Taiwan Film and Audiovisual Institute

From 15th until 21st of April 2021, Electric Shadows organized its first public event online. Voices of Youth. Unseen Taiwanese films of the 1960s focused on recently rediscovered Taiwanese films. It consisted of two film programs, each with an introduction by Dr Victor Fan from King’s College London, and a lecture by Wafa Ghermani of La Cinémathèque française, followed by a Q&A with both speakers.

The two features I Didn’t Dare to Tell You (1969) and The End of the Track (1970) are early works by Mou Tun-fei. In 1949, this Chinese-born filmmaker fled with his family to Taiwan, where the martial law was installed that remained in place until 1987. Mou is mostly known for controversial shockers such as Men Behind the Sun (1988), depicting Japanese war crimes during the Second World War. Yet, before he joined the famous Shaw Brothers in Hong Kong and made a name for himself as an exploitation filmmaker – a qualification he himself discarded – Mou started as an assistant director with his mentor Pai Ching-jui. Of him, Electric Shadows has chosen to show the short film A Morning in Taipei (1964), which Pai made shortly after his return from Italy. During his film studies there, he familiarized himself with Italian Neorealism, and later passed on his knowledge to Mou. This particularly manifests itself in I Didn’t Dare to Tell You and The End of the Track.

However, the Chinese National Government, in control of Taiwan at the time, banned both films. Mou’s realism, driven by formal experimentation and social themes, clashed with the official ‘healthy realism’, as it was promoted in upbeat melodramas. His debut film was most likely amputated by censorship and, according to Mou, the censor claimed the depressing tone of his second film would be harmful to the youth. The attention to queer themes may also have played a role in the banning.

The End of the Track is accompanied by the short film Run (1966) by the painter Han Hsiang-ning, who, along with contemporaries, helped to uncover underground films from the sixties that often are only now screened publicly for the first time since their completion. This research was part of ‘Imagining the Avant-garde: Film Experiments of the 1960s’, a program curated by Taiwan International Documentary Festival.

Press: Filmkrant, ‘Focus: Taiwanees juweel uit de jaren zestig‘, 15-4-2021