Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Taiwan Cinema in the 1960s and 1970s

There are fewer more fascinating methods for investigating the ways in which Taiwan’s Chinese Nationalist Party (Guomindang, KMT) Government defined itself as the representative government of all of China in the 1960s and 1970s than to consider its state-sanctioned film industry. The films produced by the state represent ideas of national unity and a glorious “homeland” during decades that witnessed the most intense of transformations in many areas: in film with the rise and eventual decline of the popularity of Taiwan cinema in Southeast Asia, in literature with the xiangtu (nativist) literature debates, in the economy with the emergence of factories and small business replacing an agricultural infrastructure, and in politics with the end of the Nationalist’s international status after losing its seat in the United Nations in 1971. 

At each stage the state propagated its ideal of “free China” for all to see on the silver screen -- an ideal made all the more complicated by competing regional and cultural influences: from the east by the People’s Republic of China, from the north by the heritage of Japanese colonialism, from the west’s concurrent military and economic aid, and from the south where a vast capitalist market was governed by lines drawn during the Cold War. Thus, situating these multiple discourses involves both a historical analysis, that is to bring the material and historical moment to light, and a cultural analysis, that is to consider how it is that the state believed images produced in a pop-medium might bolster a government’s political status as its films competed on the open market.

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