Taiwanese filmmaker Chang Yi dreams of creating animation that can rival Pixar

SINGAPORE - Chang Yi gave up film-making for glass art in the 1980s despite being one of Taiwan's leading filmmakers.

He is probably best known for Kuei-Mei, A Woman (1985), which won the top awards, including Best Director and Best Leading Actress, at the 22nd Golden Horse Awards.

More than 30 years later, Chang has returned to making films and set up an animated film studio as a commitment to the late Taiwanese filmmaker Edward Yang, who did not live long enough to make the animated films he dreamt of making.

Speaking on the telephone from Taiwan, Chang, 67, says he dreams of creating an animation style distinct to Chinese art and culture that can compete with the likes of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, as well as American animation giants Pixar and Disney.

Referring to the 1998 Disney animation film Mulan, which is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, he asks: "Do you accept their representation of Hua Mulan? The character's big eyes? Her body language?

"I think some aspects of Chinese society are very different from Western society. As Chinese people, what efforts have we made to (tell our stories)?"

Chang will make an appearance next week (on April 21 and 22) at the Singapore Chinese Film Festival, which runs from Thursday (April 18) until April 28. He will be accompanied by his wife, actress and contemporary glass artist Loretta Yang, the star of Kuei-Mei, A Woman.

Chang tells The Straits Times that cinema and feature films will continue to be relevant despite shortening attention spans and the availability of free videos on social media.

"Shortening attention spans is a malaise of modern society. But for filmmakers with conviction, they won't care about this. They will continue to work hard to make deep, thought-provoking films.

"Television has existed for so long, and it did not replace cinema." Referring to the epic science fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), he added: "Do you think it can be enjoyed on a mobile phone?"

During the festival, Chang will attend Q &A sessions after the screenings of Kuei-Mei, A Woman and the drama This Love Of Mine (1986) on Sunday (April 21).

Kuei-Mei, A Woman (1985) stars Yang as a woman who arrives in Taiwan in the 1950s, and enters into a disadvantageous marriage with a widower with three unruly children and a bad gambling habit.

Asked what today's audience can take away from this film, Chang replies "Kuei-Mei's strength" and her "very firm beliefs".

"There is suffering and hardship in every time period," he added. "Although people's financial situations today have improved, we have new hardships, such as people living alone and mental stress."

Chang will also give an introduction to his film A Dog's Life (2018), an animated movie made of four stories about dogs and their owners at its screening on Monday (April 22).

In addition, Chang is one of four directors whose work is featured in the festival's closing film, In Our Time (1982), which comprises four episodes by different directors.

The Singapore Chinese Film Festival is organised by the Singapore Film Society and Singapore University of Social Sciences' Centre for Chinese Studies.

For more information, go to scff.sg.