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May 30, 2017

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Taiwan's small-scale film industry needs government help: Ang Lee

TAIPEI--Award-winning Taiwanese director Ang Lee said Saturday that Taiwan's film industry still needs the support of the government as the domestic market is limited in size.

It is "not enough" for Taiwan's film industry to depend on the domestic market and the efforts of its filmmakers, the director of the new Hollywood film "Life of Pi" said in a press meeting with Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai in Taipei.

"Our market and film industry are relatively weak," Lee said, adding that without the government's support, it will be hard to maintain a sustainable film industry in Taiwan.

Knowledge and experience in Taiwan's filmmaking industry are often not built up and passed down, the director said, urging the Ministry of Culture to give more support to the industry.

Lee said he was sad when many of his Taiwanese film crew told him they were surprised and envious of the fact that Hollywood filmmakers "have a life." Filmmakers in Taiwan should not have to survive only on their enthusiasm for their work, he said.

In response, Lung agreed that there is much room for improvement in the film industry chain in Taiwan, but said she hopes "Life of Pi" will inspire more young writers, directors and producers to strive for excellence.

She said Lee is a "native son" of Taiwan who is eager to put the country on the world map.

In addition to helping younger filmmakers see how a big production works, Lee said, he also hopes the movie will make people in the world aware of the existence of Taiwan and the fact that it is the best place to make ocean movies.

Over 70 percent of the film was shot in the central Taiwan city of Taichung and in Kaohsiung and Pingtung in the south. Many of the 3,000 members of the film crew were Taiwanese.

Asked what advice he would give to prominent Chinese directors who have yet to win a Best Director award, Lee said he thinks "China should create its own Oscars." It is probably one of the few countries that can compete with Hollywood, he added.

Meanwhile, Lee said he has noticed a breath of fresh air in the Taiwanese film scene in the past few years.

The directors who have emerged in the past four or five years tend to think more creatively and are more in tune with audiences, injecting a fresh and powerful voice into the local cinema scene, he said.

This is a change from the past, when Taiwanese films were more focused on artistic achievements and personal style, he said.

"Life of Pi," which took four years to make, is a 3D epic fantasy adapted from Canadian writer Yann Martel's bestseller of the same name. It tells the story of how a young man survives a shipwreck, develops a rivalry friendship at sea with the other survivor, a Bengal tiger, and is ultimately reborn from the experience.

Lee and Suraj Sharma, the lead actor in "Life of Pi," are in Taiwan to promote the film, which is scheduled to hit theaters on Nov. 21 in Taiwan, India and the United States.

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