China-Taiwan Name Game Sows Discord

Controversy Over Taiwan Title Causes Green Carpet Walk-Off

An argument over which name would be used for Taiwan when introducing guests from the island resulted in a group of Taiwanese attendees refusing to walk down the green carpet or to attend the opening night ceremony at the Toyko International Film Festival on Saturday night.       

The situation came to light at the opening ceremony for the "Taiwanese Cinema Renaissance 2010: New Breeze of the Rising Generation" sidebar on Sunday.

The Chinese apparently wanted Taiwan to be referred to as Chinese Taipei, as it is known on the mainland, where the government regards it as a rogue province. A heated argument reportedly ensued.

Although organizers of the Q&A after the screening of “Monga” attempted to deflect questions away from the incident, in the end, members of the cast and crew spoke emotionally at their frustration of what had happened the previous evening.

“It’s not the first time this has happened and it’s not that important in the grand scheme of things,” said Doze Niu Chen-Zer, director of “Monga,” in response to a question from a European journalist.

In the second part of the event, Khan Lee, producer of “Juliets,” spoke of his disappointment that politics had interfered with what should have been a celebration of film.

“I felt really sorry for Vivian Hsu as she was dressed up so beautifully and looking forward to walking down the carpet. It was like she wasn’t able to sit down at her wedding feast,” said Lee, trying at first to make light of what had happened, before his tone turned more serious.

“We are already one country: we speak the same language, the language of film,” Lee said. “We are citizens of the country called film.”     

Hsu, who appears in “Juliets,” turned away from the crowd, apparently in tears.    

After regaining her composure, Hsu, who has worked extensively in Japan, addressed the crowd in fluent Japanese.

“We had a bad experience last night and so we all drank until morning, but that didn’t solve the issue,” said Hsu with a laugh. She went on to joke about how director Chen-Zer had adjusted his bow tie hundreds of times getting ready for the ceremony.

Relations between Taipei and Beijing, either warming or too hot to touch, depending on the point of view, have centred lately on widely publicized trade ties that went into effect in September — ties whose effect on the film world are not yet clear.

Last week, Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou said he’s open to a political dialogue with China, from which the self-governing island of 23 million people split in 1949, once outstanding economic issues are resolved.

Ma, who took office in 2008, opened the door to an easing of one of East Asia's longest-running feuds, but Taiwan opponents, staunchly proud of their elective democracy, fear it will make them too dependent on one-party China.

Taiwan producer Huang Liming, whose latest film “Phantom, Where Are You?” deals with young romance and the supernatural, says she’s sure it will never go to China, where censors keep tight reins on all big screen content. “We Taiwanese outgrew government control 20 years ago. We resent having to ask permission to be creative.”

-- Jonathan Landreth contributed to this report.