image: Paramount Pictures
A summer of Taiwan film festivals is running around the world. From Vancouver BC Canada (June 21-25) to Sydney Australia (July 25-28) cities all over the globe are recognizing Taiwan’s contribution to international cinema. Then there’s the 21st Taipei Film Festival running from June 27 to July 13 (2019) in Taipei – an annual event that we highly recommend adding to your summer travel itinerary, should you find yourself in this neck of the planet at this time of the year. Regardless of whether or not you’re able to attend any of the above, there is another way to celebrate your love for motion pictures when in Taiwan – by visiting the locations of popular movies filmed around the island state. Below we have detailed the top five film settings in what is fast becoming known as the “Hollywood of Asia”.
Top 5 Hollywood Movie Locations for Film Buffs to Visit When in Taiwan
Kenting National Park – Movie : Life of Pi
Oscar winning Life of Pi owes some of its glory to Kenting National Park (among other Taiwan locations), where a poignant portion of the film’s conclusion took place. Which scene are we referring to? After spending two hundred and twenty-seven days floating on the Pacific Ocean with his companion, a tiger Pi named Richard Parker, the lifeboat washes onto a beach in Mexico. Pi’s jubilance is cut short after Richard Parker simply walks away and disappears into the nearby jungle without looking back, leaving our main character heartbroken by the abrupt albeit appropriate (it is a tiger, after all) farewell. Well, that beautiful beach was not in fact filmed in Mexico, but along the shores of Kenting National Park, a world class national park which is also home to some of the best ocean attractions on the island, namely snorkeling and scuba diving.
Taipei – Movie : Lucy
The film featuring Scarlett Johansen had the actor kicking butt well before she joined The Avengers entourage. From the capital to the landmark Taipei 101 skyscraper, the heroine’s antics were set to the backdrop of Taipei, although this time Taipei didn’t attempt to pass itself off as another city in Asia. French filmmaker Luc Besson went for all out authenticity for his movie, tapping into the unmistakable bustle, lights, night markets, and architecture of Taipei and viewers were better for it. As mentioned,a key location in the film was at Taipei 101, one of the world’s tallest skyscrapers – a fact that also makes it a top visitor destination in Taiwan and a “must see” for followers of this list. That said, we suggest watching the movie again and following by spending a day in Taipei identifying the numerous streets and marketplaces seen throughout the flick. For good measure, you can rest your head at Taipei’s Hotel Regent where a portion of the movie was also filmed.
Taroko and Yangmingshan National Parks – Movie : Silence
The historical period drama starring Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson and led by acclaimed director Martin Scorsese may have been set in Japan, but it was shot entirely in Taiwan. While it leveraged top notch studio facilities in Taipei and Taichung the movie looked to Taroko National Park in Hualien County in addition to Yangmingshan National Park near Taipei City for its breathtaking natural landscapes. Both natural wonders are counted on our aforementioned list of top national parks in Taiwan, so you can learn what you need to know about getting to each, here.
Kaohsiung Li De Baseball Stadium – Movie : Kano
We’re going domestic with this one, but before you feel betrayed regarding a list of Hollywood hits take note that this Taiwanese film gained notoriety in the Hollywood Reporter and Variety among other major U.S. entertainment media outlets:
“Producer-screenwriter Wei Te-sheng and his first-time director Umin Boya have delivered a relentlessly feel-good, united-we-stand crowd-pleaser about racial harmony in Japanese-occupied Taiwan that would make, say, the similarly anti-segregationist Remember the Titans look like a piece of gritty realism in comparison.” (The Hollywood Reporter)
Plus, it’s a baseball film, something that North American movie buffs know very well, which leads to the next logical point. Baseball is a big visitor draw in Taiwan, and given that the oldest (constructed nearly one-hundred years ago) and most historically significant stadium, Kaohsiung Li De Baseball Stadium, was used in the film, this is one location that movie and baseball fans alike will not want to skip.
Taipei City – Movie : Yi Yi
OK, so we’re going local again with this big film, but this Taiwanese flick competes in the same heavyweight class with major Hollywood hits, so much so that it’s number six on The New York Times’ 25 Best Films of the 21st Century. That’s right, this film is right behind There Will Be Blood and ranked ahead of The Hurt Locker, Munich, Mad Max Fury Road, Moonlight and much more.
“A packed, enthralling three-hour chronicle of modern Taiwanese family life, ‘Yi Yi’ has the heft and density of a great novel.” (The New York Times)
Watch the movie (it’s available for streaming via one of your providers) and you’ll fall in love with the bustling streets of Taipei. But unlike found in most Hollywood movies, this love won’t go unrequited as all you need to do is step foot onto Taipei City’s Taishun Street, Xinhai Road, and Grand Hotel Taipei to soak up the celluloid. There’s also an important scene in a Taipei City McDonald’s (No. 128, Section 4, Chengde Rd, Shilin District) but you can skip that, unless of course you’re craving a Big Mac or pork burger (McDees is a bit different in Taiwan) to go with your film location tour.
If you’re unfamiliar with Taiwan and would like help from someone who has in-depth knowledge of the movie locations listed above, book a tour and connect to a local guide.