Asian Filmmaker of the Year

Tsai Ming-liang lauded by PIFF for his taciturn films

BUSAN, South Korea -- Tsai Ming-liang, a director with a singular take on the boundaries of moviemaking, will receive the Asian Filmmaker of the Year Award at the 15th Pusan International Film Festival on Sunday.
Given annually, the prize awards "the most outstanding activities in improving and developing the Asian film industry and culture," the festival's catalog says.
Tsai, who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter on the phone Friday from Taiwan, said he was truly grateful to the festival organizers for what he called "an encouragement award."
"Pusan has a good relationship with me. This year I didn't have any films, but they gave me an award anyway. You can see they care about things outside the marketplace. Pusan is not focused only on commerce. They value directors like me and I really appreciate this," said the 53-year-old Tsai, a Malaysian-born Chinese who has lived and worked in Taipei for most of his career.
Tsai is known for his film's sparse screenplays. From the features "Goodbye Dragon Inn" (2003), to his Cannes FIPRESCI prize winning "Hole" (1998), to his two Berlin Silver Bear winners, "The River" (1997) and "The Wayward Cloud" (2005), Tsai always has sought new ways to communicate with the audience. Lacking traditional storylines, many of his films present viewers with what to some seem experiments in near endless shots, stillness, and silence.
His movies don't make for excitement on the silver screen but have a tendency to pinpoint unmistakably human details and elicit equally real emotions, such as the sequence in "Vive L'Amour" of a woman crying so hard, for so long, alone in a public park, that empathy in the audience turned frequently to nervous laughter and then, for some, to uncontrollable giggles.
Tsai's eye has never caught the attention of average Chinese-speaking moviegoers, flocking these days to martial arts war epics and Hollywood blockbusters. Instead, Tsai's aesthetic has won him countless accolades at Berlin, Cannes and Venice, where "Vive L'Amour," won the Golden Lion in 1994.
When not making features, Tsai has shot films for TV and increased his output in other arts media in collaborations with museums and on video art installations. The permanent collection of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum recently added Tsai's mediation on his memories of going to the movies as a kid -- an installation comprised of old theater seats that this month is traveling to the Shanghai Art Museum.
Huang Liming, a writer and producer in Taipei, dined with Tsai during the Lunar New Year and he told her he felt that even his films had become "collectibles" for museums.
"'He's finally grasping the nature of his audience,' I thought," Huang told THR over the phone. "He's successful as an artist but he's struggling to communicate with the broader world,"
Organizers of PIFF, the largest cinema event in Asia, are helping with that connection, giving Tsai an award on Sunday previously bestowed on Taiwan director Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Hong Kong actor Andy Lau and Bollywood producer Yash Chopra.
"Tsai's 30 years of devotion to filmmaking has greatly influenced Asian Cinema and made considerable contributions to enhance the global status of Asian Cinema."
At Pusan this year, Tsai plans to raise funds for "The Diary of a Young Boy," a film, he said, was "set in reality," but is likely as not to contain little dialogue.
"I don't want to talk about it much," Tsai said. "It won't start shooting until next year."