Taiwan pulls subsidy for 'Miao Miao'

Revocation is reaction to withdrawal of film from Melbourne

HONG KONG -- The Taiwan Government Information Office has revoked its funding for the Jet Tone Taiwan film “Miao Miao” and disqualified the company for applying for funding for the next three years.

The withdrawal of “Miao Miao” from the Melbourne International Film Festival last month escalated into a political row in Taiwan between the GIO and the film’s producer, Jet Tone, when the GIO decided to revoke the NT$4 million (US$121,212) funding to the film and a NT$5 million subsidy it has granted to Jet Tone Taiwan’s next production “The End of the Tunnel.” The company is also ineligible to receive funding from the GIO in the next three years.

Jet Tone now intends to pursue “all available legal recourse” to defend its rights to keep the grants.

In a strongly worded statement in Chinese, headlined “Jet Tone Films unwilling to be a political casualty,” the Taiwan company’s general manager Rachel Chen refuted GIO’s accusation that “Miao Miao” withdrew from the MIFF as part of a Chinese protest against the showing of the documentary on Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer.

Chen pointed out that the company had, in a previous statement to the GIO, “denied the withdrawal having anything to do with the political dispute between China and Xinjiang, we acted from the perspective of art and culture, and made ourselves clear that we didn’t want to be dragged into a political tussle.” 

Chen also cited Ken Loach’s withdrawal over the MIFF for receiving funding from Israel as the politicization of the festival. “But the GIO’s insistence on connecting the two incidents together as an excuse to revoke the subsidy is without doubt political persecution in another form, to make a victim of political pressure out of a simple film,” Chen argued. 

The GIO began its investigation of the film’s application to MIFF after Taiwan legislators questioned its place of origin and involvement in the Chinese protest. “Miao Miao” was one of the seven films from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to withdraw from the festival in late July following MIFF’s refusal to cancel the screening of the documentary “10 Conditions of Love” and the reception of its subject, Kadeer.

“The production of ‘Miao Miao’ cost nearly NT$30 million, even without the NT$4 million government subsidy, the film has brought an investment of more than NT$20 million and jobs opportunities to Taiwan.  For such deep dedication to the Taiwan film industry, we were treated with undisguised political oppression in return, we can hardly bear such extraordinary behavior!” Chen proclaimed passionately. 

Chen said the GIO has advocated foreign investment into the Taiwan film industry in recent years. “We don’t understand why, in the face of political pressure, the GIO acted in such a contradictory manner.  How would it help the young filmmakers in Taiwan?” she asked.

The GIO made the decision to take back the funding after it found the address of Jet Tone Hong Kong on the film’s MIFF application, which was explained as a “clerical error” in both the Taiwan Jet Tone statement as well as an open letter jointly issued by Jet Tone and Fortissimo Films, the international sales agent of “Miao Miao.”

The two companies said they found the GIO’s accusations “groundless and insulting.”

“‘Miao Miao’ is the first production of Jet Tone Films Taiwan and the facts clearly demonstrate that ‘Miao Miao’ is unarguably a Taiwanese production -- from a Taiwanese production company, shot entirely in Taiwan that brought together a Taiwanese director, actors and crew. As a Taiwanese film entry, it made strong showings at various international film festivals including both the Berlin and Pusan International Film Festivals. In Berlin, it was presented by the Taiwan delegation and participated in the Taiwan GIO sponsored event there,” the statement read.

“We believe these actions by the GIO are yielding to political pressures within Taiwan and are at the expense of the original spirit of the subsidy. Such actions, if continued, will surely jeopardize the future of Taiwan cinema as well as the credibility of GIO. We feel that such accusations leveled at Jet Tone and proposed actions are to the detriment of the Taiwan film industry and intend to pursue all available legal recourse to defend our rights,” the companies stated.