Past event

Beautiful Duckling free screening This classic of Taiwan's 'Golden Age' of filmmaking is screening for free as part of the Colour Across Chinese Cinemas film series - free

In this rural melodrama, the relationship between duck farmer Lin Tsai-tien (Ko Hsiang-Ting) and his devoted daughter Hsiao-yue (Tang Pao-Yun) is tested by opera performer Chao-fu (Ou Wei), who threatens to reveal the dark secrets of this family's past. Considered a classic of Taiwan's ‘Golden Age' of filmmaking, the film received awards for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography at the state's recently established Golden Horse Awards. The film is also well-known for launching the career of film star Tang Pao-Yun, which historian Menghsin C. Horng notes garnered her the nickname of ‘Duckling Princess'. Among the first wave of domestically produced colour features in Taiwan, the film was produced by the Central Motion Picture Corporation, owned by the Chinese Nationalist Party (or Kuomintang / KMT). As film scholar Chih-Heng notes, only 30% of Mandarin-language films made in Taiwan appeared in colour at this time, marking Beautiful Duckling as a rarity of the period. Yet colour played a crucial role in the evolution of Healthy Realism, a distinctive genre promoted by the KMT government from the 1960s to encourage positive civic virtues and the development of a thriving, modern state. Although inspired by post-war Italian Neo-Realist films and leftist Shanghai cinema of the 1930s, Healthy Realism avoided the pessimistic associations of its predecessors and instead focused on positive virtues such as morality, altruism, fairness, and civic duty. These values were implicitly rendered as advantages of the supposedly benevolent governance of the KMT and imagined as a shared cultural connection between Mandarin and Taiwanese traditions. One of the founding films of the genre, Beautiful Duckling highlights the valuable role colour played in enhancing cinema's realist aesthetic, not least through its lush depiction of Taiwan's picturesque countryside, inspired by the watercolour landscapes of famed Taiwanese painter Ran In-Ting. Indeed, this palette helped distinguish the realism of these films from their earlier European and Chinese counterparts (typically captured in the shadowy greys of black-and-white), lending a brighter, airy atmosphere to these bitter-sweet tales of everyday life in Taiwan.

+ The screening will be followed by a discussion with Kuan-Ping Liu, Curator of the Taiwan Film Festival Edinburgh and Peize Li (PhD Candidate in Film Studies, University of St Andrews)

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