UW-Madison Welcomes Gift of Celebrated Taiwanese Feature Films

MADISON – “The medium of film allows us to ‘visit’ lands and even times far away, where we often discover … our shared humanity makes us much more alike than we might have thought,” says Perry Pei-hwang Shen, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago.

A unique collection of 30 celebrated feature films by various studios in Taiwan donated to the University of Wisconsin-Madison will enable scholars, film aficionados, and general audiences to explore the richly layered history and daily lives of people in Taiwan.

“What I can say about the films in this series is that they make me proud. They’re award-winning films, and they offer a glimpse into the lives of people in current-day Taiwan, my home,” says Shen, speaking at a recent ceremony in Madison marking the arrival of the first batch of films.

Made possible by the Government Information Office of Taiwan and professor Wenchi Lin of the National Central University of Taiwan, the donation consists of 35mm prints of new and classic feature films. The gift will come to Madison in several installments over the course of three years. No other university outside of Taiwan will house such a cultural treasure.

For UW-Madison, the symbolic signing of the film agreement at the ceremony also marks an important step in building the Taiwan Studies Program as an integral part of the university’s East Asian Studies community.

“It demonstrates our effort to build programs despite financial constraints and our successes in bringing outside resources to substantiate existing strength,” says Nicole Huang, director of the Center for East Asian Studies and professor of East Asian Languages and Literature.

Huang notes that the film donation follows the grant received last year from the Ministry of Education of Taiwan to establish the Taiwan Studies Program here.

“Taiwan Studies will foster lasting ties between elite universities in Taiwan and UW-Madison and further enhance research and instruction on our campus in the arts, culture and society of Taiwan,” says Gilles Bousquet, Vice Provost for Globalization and Dean of the Division of International Studies.

In arranging the gift, Huang collaborated with Lin, director of the Visual Culture Research Center and the Film Studies Center at National Central University and a prolific scholar on Taiwan cinema and Chinese-language cinema.

Lin curated the collection, with the aim of promoting Taiwan cinema internationally and encouraging the research and teaching of this unique film-making tradition.

He explains at the recent ceremony why UW-Madison was selected to receive the collection:  “Film belongs to where film lovers are.”

Bousquet concurs on UW-Madison as an appropriate venue for these films.

“As a university with an internationally respected film studies center, we are the right place for this film gift, a fact confirmed by the sold-out crowds for the screenings during the Wisconsin Film Festival,” he says.

The film agreement also marks the start of a long-term collaboration among the university’s Center for East Asian Studies and the Wisconsin Film Festival, the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research, the Cinematheque program, and the Department of Communication Arts.

“It takes an ambitious venture like this to bring such a vast campus together,” Huang says.

“Celebrating these films and the inauguration of our Taiwan Studies initiative together illustrates UW-Madison’s emphasis on dynamic, interdisciplinary collaborations and the building of bridges to our global partners and, indeed, friends,” says Bousquet.

The gift originally was announced last fall in Taipei during Chancellor Biddy Martin’s trip to Taiwan.

The prints will tour five major U.S. institutions, including UCLA, Duke University and New York University, before being housed in Madison. The films will be managed by the Wisconsin Center for Film and Theater Research. They will join an existing collection of international films, including 120 Taiwanese feature and documentary films in 16mm, which the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago donated in 2003.

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Kerry G. Hill, kghill@international.wisc.edu, 608-262-5590