By Andrew Hamlin
Northwest Asian Weekly
Hou Hsiao-hsien, who’s been directing films since 1980, is considered one of the most prominent directors in the Taiwanese New Wave cinema movement. The Northwest Film Forum, in collaboration with the Grand Illusion Cinema, presents a retrospective of the director’s work. Northwest Film Forum programmer Courtney Sheehan took some questions over email.
NWAW: How did the idea for a Hou Hsiao-hsien festival come about?
Courtney Sheehan: The retrospective is organized in conjunction with a new book on Hou’s work by Richard Suchenski. The films coming to Seattle are part of an international retrospective coordinated by Richard Suchenski and the Center for Moving Image Arts at Bard College.
This retrospective is a major film event across the world, with participating venues in Austria, Japan, Brazil, and beyond. It’s a rare opportunity to screen Hou’s work on film, and we jumped on the chance to share these films with Seattle by teaming up with the Grand Illusion.
NWAW: Who was responsible for picking the titles in the series? How did that selection go?
Courtney Sheehan: Because this is part of a traveling retrospective of Hou’s complete filmography, the five titles in this co-presentation between Northwest Film Forum and the Grand Illusion were available at this time. The titles are a representative sampling of Hou’s work, spanning fifteen years and encompassing multiple themes in his work: autobiography, period drama, contemporary work, etc.
NWAW: What aspects of the director’s life and work make him ripe for viewing, discussion, and a retrospective series?
Courtney Sheehan: Hou Hsiao-hsien is arguably the most influential Taiwanese director, so his work is continuously worth revisiting or discovering. He is a master of the long take, and unmatched in his ability to weave emotionally textured narratives and characters.
NWAW: How did you go about coordinating with the Grand Illusion Cinema?
Courtney Sheehan: Seattle audiences will get to see these beautiful films thanks to this crucial partnership between the Grand Illusion and NWFF.
The costs associated with the prints would have been prohibitive for either venue individually, but by pooling resources, our two independent film non-profits are able to present Hou’s work. We are screening every film at each venue because we want to make the films available to audience in the different neighborhoods. The GI presented the last retrospective of Hou’s work in Seattle so it was a natural fit for that reason as well.
I believe that this sort of collaborative, cross-town partnership is increasingly important for creating the best independent film-going opportunities for Seattle audiences. We are especially excited about the partnership because it is Northwest Film Forum’s 20th anniversary this year, and the Grand Illusion was actually our first theater. The GI just celebrated its 10th anniversary as a volunteer-run theater last year, so it’s a perfect moment to revisit our tied history through this series.
The Scarecrow Project [Scarecrow Video] is also supporting the series by screening some of the films not included in this retro.
NWAW: Are the Northwest Film Forum and the Grand Illusion planning any more joint ventures? If so, what?
Courtney Sheehan: NWFF will do an encore screening of the sold-out VHSEX3 show on March 27th. We are hosting a joint members and volunteer party (with Scarecrow) on March 25.
NWAW: What’s in the immediate future for you as a programmer, and NW Film Forum in general?
Courtney Sheehan: I am continuing to focus on community building through programmatic partnerships with area organizations, schools, and community groups.
Right after the Hou retro, we’ll have the 2015 edition of our long-running design and architecture film festival ByDesign, co-presented with Seattle design firm Civilization. (end)
For more information about films, venues, prices, and show times for the Hou Hsiao-hsien festival, visit http://www.nwfilmforum.org/live/page/series/3446.
Andrew Hamlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.