A look at Taiwanese and Mainland Chinese “Youth films”

Recently, another Taiwanese film“Our Times” (2015) became popular in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mainland China, it seemed to have recreated the box office miracle of “You are the Apple of my eye”(2011) , whose heated wave we can still clearly recall. Why is Taiwan so keen on making so called “Youth films”?

Every country or region has its most successful film genre; for example, the United States has Sci-fi films, France has comedy, South Korea has Crime&Gangster, Mainland China has period epic films, and comedy is gradually taking over the market. Speaking of Taiwan’s most successful film genre, it has to be “Youth film”.

This genre called Youth film has also became popular in Mainland China’s market, and a number of mainland-produced films have succeeded in box offices in the past few years, including Wei Zhao’s “So Young”(2013), Yibai Zhang’s “Fleet of Time” (2014),and Frant Gwo’s “My old Classmate” (2014). If we make a comparison, we will see that there are great differences between Mainland Chinese and Taiwanese Youth films. This is not surprising; the same genre of film nurtured in different soil will surely produce disparate fruits.

There is an accurate summarization of Taiwanese Youth films: “little fresh” and “little happiness”. Watching a Taiwanese youth film is like bathing in warm subtropical sunshine, feeling the sea breeze in your face, riding on a bike and feeling relaxed, shedding a teardrop only because a grain of sand has been blown into your eye. It is said that since 2000, Taiwanese economy entered the period of stagnation, therefore young people started to pursue private joy, trying to make the most of all the little satisfaction and happiness in their daily lives; and another reason is that social upheaval made young people more pessimistic about long-term great happiness. Taiwanese youth films used to be known for its “Cruel Youth films”, such as Hsiao-hsien Hou’s “The boys from Fenggui” (1983) and Edward Yang’s “A brighter summer day”(1991), therefore each era has its own characteristic temper.

With regard to Mainland Chinese youth films, we can find a set of identical patterns. First and foremost is nostalgia- Mainland Chinese youth films love to use a past age as a contrast to the present, while adding melodramatic stories such as cheating, in romantic relationships, youth abortions, car crash, love triangle and school violence., etc. Compared to Taiwanese youth films, Mainland Chinese youth films are indeed much “crueler”.

The transition of time is a major theme in Mainland Chinese youth films, this may be due to the tremendous transformation this country has experienced in the past thirty years where the rapid development of economy and social changes constantly overturns people’s values and leave them disoriented. People’s love and dreams become fragile and destined to be compromised and crushed in the face of materialism and consumerism.

However, films are not the same as real life, if the film audiences believe that all Taiwanese youngsters live like they do in the films, drinking bubble tea and enjoying carefree romantic relationships, then they are mistaken. As a matter of fact, more and more Taiwanese young people start to care about politics, societal issues, the environment and ordinary citizen’s lives than the older generation, and they have the courage to take actions to express their opinions and attempt to change the reality. Films are the epitome of countries and eras.


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