New Breeze Entry 'Exchanges' Hopeful for Japan Deal

The small, youthful romance "Taipei Exchanges" by sophomore Taiwanese director Hsiao Ya-chuan tells the story of Josie (Lin Zaizai), who spices things up by exchanging gifts with customers at her sister Doris' cafe in the island's capital city.

Ignoring protests from materialistic Doris, played by actress Gwei Lun-mei ("Secret"), the more romantically inclined Josie's trading of gifts with customers becomes the cafe's biggest attraction. One day, a male customer (Chang Han) starts bringing in soap from around the world, causing the sisters' imagination to bubble with tales of foreign lands.

"Audiences like this film because of the director's message, that says everything -- from objects to friendship -- is a gift," says Liu Weijan of sales agency Atom Cinema of Taipei. "We'd all do well to strive for that idealized world."

Nominated for the Best Asian-Middle Eastern Film Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival this week, the film from executive producer Hou Hsiao Hsien ("The Flight of the Red Balloon") and B.I.T. Production, is a part of the festival's Taiwanese Cinema Renaissance: New Breeze of the Rising Generation section.

Liu said "Exchanges" has grossed NT 10 million ($324,000) from 20 prints since its release in Taiwan in May, and has sold to Festive Films in Singapore and Edko in Hong Kong for theatrical release. It was also sold to Mei-Ah of Hong Kong for pan-Asian television.

Liu is hopeful that Atom colleague Marie Chou, in Tokyo this week, will close an "Exchanges" sale for Japan this week at festival market TIFFCOM, which opens Tuesday, Oct. 26. Though "Secret," starring Guei and Taiwan pop star Jay Chou, did well in Japan in 2007, Wei Te-sheng 2008 mega-hit "Cape No. 7" languished in Japan and Liu's realistic about "Exchanges'" chances. "Japan's economy is hurting and it's tough to get theaters to buy modest foreign films."

"Taipei Exchanges'" arrival in Tokyo was sponsored by the Taipei Film Commission, the Government Information Office and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in Japan.

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