Edward Yang: an important flag bearer of New Taiwan Cinema





Chinese name
: 楊德昌
Born: November 6, 1947
Died: June 29, 2007
Birthplace: Shanghai City

Edward Yang was a representative director of New Taiwan Cinema movement, whose works had always been closely linked to his Taiwanese and Chinese cultures. At the same time, he was one of the greatest film artists of the 1980s and 1990s. In his hands, the art of filmmaking became a means of thinking about changes in society. In 2000, his film "Yi Yi (一一)" deeply examined contemporary life in Taipei City, making him the first Taiwanese director to win the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Yang’s ancestry is Hakka and his ancestral home is in Meizhou, Guangdong Province. Born in Shanghai and grew up in Taiwan, he had been deeply influenced by Japanese comic culture since young age. When he was young, he went to the U.S. to study and became an information engineer.

While he was working in Seattle, he became greatly inspired by new German films, especially the German director Weiner Herzog’s "Aguirre, the Wrath of God." It helped him understand that wonderful movies can be done by one person without relying on a huge investment.

With a passionate enthusiasm for movies, Yang chose to switch to filmmaking and started a new chapter in his life at the age of 33. After returning to Taiwan in 1982, he directed “In Our Time (光陰的故事)” jointly with Tao Te-Chen (陶德辰), Ko I-Chen (柯一正) and Chang Yi (張毅), and laid the foundation for the style of  New Taiwan Cinema with its fresh and realistic narrative language.

Later in 1985, Yang directed "Taipei Story (青梅竹馬)," a modernism film that was influenced by the Western culture. Exploring the male and female psychology in the process of Taiwan's social transformation, the film subverted the traditional narrative and presented the society faithfully.

In 1986, the film "Terrorizers (恐怖份子)" was recognized by many international awards for its special narrative style and profound observations of people in the modern city. In 1991, the filming of "A Brighter Summer Day (牯嶺街少年殺人事件)” also caused a lot of discussion. That year, Yang was selected by Japan’s Kinema Junpo film magazine as the Best Foreign Director.

In 1994, "A Confucian Confusion (獨立時代)" won Best Original Screenplay at the 31st Golden Horse Awards. In 1996, he filmed "Mahjong (麻將)," which won the Honorable Mention at Berlin Film Festival’s Special Jury Prize.

Yang's films mainly depict the emotional life of the Taipei middle class under the transformation of lifestyles in Taipei. His style is delicate and contrasts with films set in local townships of another Taiwanese New Wave Cinema  director Hou Hsiao-hsien. Although Yang’s films have won numerous awards, his works are complex and have no exotic flavor, which hindered the international expansion of his popularity.

It was not until he made his seventh work "Yi Yi" in 2002 that Yang gained popularity in the Western film industry. Unfortunately, this film also became the last film made by Yang, who died in Los Angeles in 2007 due to cancer. "Yi Yi" was selected as one of the "Best 100 Movies of the 21st Century" by the BBC and New York Times.