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Taiwan film director Hou honored with Fukuoka Prize.

TAIPEI, July 5 Kyodo

Renowned Taiwan film director Hou Hsiao-hsien, who was picked Monday for the grand prize of the Asian Cultural Prizes of Fukuoka City, will stick to making his trademark films -- Taiwan-oriented and out of the mainstream -- despite his fellow islanders' apparent preference for Hollywood's flashy offerings. "In Taiwan, making movies has become very difficult, in particular when it comes to movies that are promoting other than the mainstream values. For such movies the road has really become narrow," Hou told Kyodo News in a recent interview at his 3H Productions company in a quiet Taipei neighborhood. Hou is an exponent of Taiwan's new cinema movement of the early 1980s which took up long neglected social and political issues. But now, he complains, the island's film industry is in a rapid decline due to the lack of box office success at home. "Many of these nonmainstream films like mine win critical acclaim but are commercially not successful. It's because audiences, not only in Taiwan but all over the world, have virtually been brainwashed by the ubiquity of Hollywood movies," he said. Many of his compatriots, he complains, have grown accustomed to easy-to-digest Hollywood fare and are no longer willing to make an effort to watch movies requiring some introspection. Hou's "City of Sadness," about a violent crackdown on native Taiwanese by the newly arrived Chinese Nationalists in 1947, won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival in 1989. His latest film, "Flowers of Shanghai," depicting the world of high-class brothels during prewar Shanghai, came out last year. It followed the 1996 "Goodbye South, Goodbye" which portrayed the unsavory alliance between the island's underworld and the political establishment. The 52-year-old film director, who has also written film scripts and produced and acted in films by fellow directors, says he is not working on anything concrete at the moment. Still, he says his next movie will definitely deal with the ills of contemporary Taiwanese society. Hou would not elaborate on the possible content of a next movie. But he said that raising money for a new production would be less of a problem than finding the right actors. He says he expresses himself through film-making. Thus, it would be out of the question for him to make a movie with the aim of satisfying the tastes of a mass audience and to achieve commercial success. "You need to look squarely at yourself before looking at the world around you. And you need to be convinced about your perspective. It's not about what the audience likes and to make profits," he said. Hou voiced misgivings about the possible emergence of a universal popular culture spawned by growing globalization. Hou is the first-ever Taiwanese recipient of an Asian Culture Prize. Fukuoka established the award in 1990 to honor the work of individuals or organizations which preserve or add to the diverse cultures of Asia. Located on the southernmost main island of Kyushu, Fukuoka has served as a conduit of cultural interaction across the Sea of Japan and Asia. "I feel that cultures should not be the same, there must be differences. Without mutual stimulation and provocation it is unlikely that new things will come up," Hou said. "Creativity springs from different cultural backgrounds," he added. Hou said he was "very happy" about being awarded the grand prize which comes with 5 million yen (about 41,500 U.S. dollars) in prize money, in particular since his movies have been well received in Japan. "Me winning the grand prize will at least also be an encouragement for other filmmakers who like me try to resist being sucked into the mainstream of commercialized cinema," he said. Asked what he plans to do with the prize money, Hou evaded a clear-cut answer. "In fact, there is not much you can do with 5 million yen, at least not a new movie."
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Jul 12, 1999
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