Years after her best friend Chun died on a mountain in Nepal during a trekking trip with boyfriend Yueh, director Lo Yi-shan returns to the scene to honour the promise Chun and Yueh made while trapped on a ledge. Chun died three days before rescue teams reached them.
The promise that whoever survived would tell the story of the 47-day ordeal became After the Snowmelt, a US$160,000 Taiwanese-Japanese docu-feature that was one of two grand prize winners at this year’s Taiwan Creative Content Fest (TCCF), which wrapped in Taipei on Friday night.
Presented as a “coming-of-age tale that delves into how teenagers grapple with their first experience of profound loss”, After the Snowmelt is Lo’s first documentary feature.
With 75% of its funding already in place before the TCCF win and currently in post-production, the feature is not an unknown project on the regional development stage. Support includes Korea’s DMZ Docs Development Fund, Indonesia’s Asiadoc Workshop and Japan’s Dojo Residency.
“Chun and I met at a Catholic girls high school, where his transgender identity drew criticism,” Lo says in her production statement for the Taicca pitch.
“Witnessing his silent tears, I admired his courage and resilience. Alongside his beloved Yueh, they inspired me to explore the world beyond the classroom, and we made a promise to travel abroad together someday... The desire to honour our high-school promise drove me to assume the role of the survivor and embrace the responsibility of sharing this story,” Lo says.
“Through this film I want to create a journey from trauma to reconciliation. It resonates not only with themes of gender, education and nature, but also services as a testament to the resilience of life, the potential for growth, and the realisation that life is not just about surviving, but about truly living and loving,” she says.
Along with Filipino fantasy feature film, Mother Maybe, After the Snowmelt won US$30,000 as part of a funding collaboration between TCCF organiser, the Taiwan Creative Content Agency (Taicca), and French agency CNC (Centre National du cinéma et de l’image animée).
The two prizes are part of a total US$200,000/NT$6 million funding awarded in this year’s Taiwan Creative Content Fest (TCCF) pitches, which involved 53 pitches in five categories plus six for a special workshop section.
The second Taicca x CNC grand prize winner is Filipino feature film, Mother Maybe, a comedy/fantasy drama that mixes Filipino folklore with a universal message of finding your own family and your place in the world. The film is produced by E&W Films/Southern Lantern Studios.
Mother Maybe, budgeted at US$550,000, is about a son reunited with his mother in Tokyo, only to find she becomes a mythical ‘manananggal’ creature at night. He then joins an absurd Japanese TV game show to earn money to pay for her treatment. The game immerses him into a different world, further separating him from his mother.
Producer Arden Rod Condez describes the multi-language Tagalog/Japanese/English project as “quite personal but, also, a little crazy”.
Directed by Sonny Calvento, the film’s ‘monster’ is a metaphor for the identity developed by people who leave their family to work abroad.
“It is inevitable that time and distance can reshape our being, and eventually, it reveals another persona that our family back home or even ourselves will hate,” Mother Maybe producers say.
This year was the first time the TCCF pitching was open to international projects. The decision to expand participation comes as Taiwan focuses on building its global footprint.
“Our goal is to provide creators with more funding while seeking additional international collaboration opportunities,” said Taicca chairperson, Homme Tsai, at the pitch awards ceremony.
In other awards made during this year's TCCF pitch, revenge thriller Maid of Vengeance, from Universe Of Ladies, received the Chunghwa Telecom Award, together with a cash prize NT$600,000/US$18,600.
Directed by 2022 Golden Bell Best Director winner, David Chuang (Danger Zone), Maid of Vengeance is about a TV anchor-turned-vigilante after her sex tape is leaked online.
Taiwan-Hong Kong supernatural drama, Appetite for Desire, co-produced by Taiwan’s Flash Forward Entertainment with Circle Luna and Content Digital Film, received the MIFFEST Award, the Choice of Deep Waters Award and Taipei International Film Award.
Before We Were Monsters (Outland Film Production), I Wish You Happiness (Storyable) and It’s Showtime! (Calendar Studios) also won NT$300,000 each in the “project to screen” TV series pitches, while Favorable Wind Ears (Xanthus Animation Studio) and Fresh Truck (Muteam Workshop) won NT$300,000 each in the animation category.
Second Woman (Sun Color Culture / The Grayhawk Agency) was given NT$300,000 for winning the friDay Video Original Story Award.
Other titles, including Indonesia’s A Ballad Of Long Hair (Sinema5/Akanga Film Asia), were picked to participate in film festivals around the world in 2024. A Ballad Of Long Hair heads to Udine’s Far East Film Festibal (FEFF) in 2024 and Maid of Vengeance will be presented at Lille in March 2024 for Series Mania.
Nine NT$100,000 awards were given for a range of story to screen development. These included Naver Webtoon’s Peenky Promise and Kadokawa Taiwan’s The Subordinate Leasing Program.
A total of 539 submissions were received for the five sessions, which included feature films, series, animation and documentary.
An edited version of this article appeared in ContentAsia's eNewsletter, published on 14 November 2023.