Global Politics and a Cinema of Localism: Contemporary Taiwanese Film

Author: Robert Hyland, Queens University, Canada
Published: December 2014

Citation: Hyland, R. (2014). Global Politics and a Cinema of Localism: Contemporary Taiwanese Film. IAFOR Journal of Asian Studies, 1(1).


In the opening sequence of Wei Te-sheng’s Cape No. 7 (Hai Jiao Qi Hao) (2008), the lead character Aga smashes a guitar against a lamppost while shouting ‘Fuck you Taipei.’ He then leaves the city on his motorbike and turning his back on the metropolis, heads down Highway Number One toward the southern county of Pingtung. This is a brief moment of populist politics in the film, and Aga’s rejection of a ‘false’ Taipei identity in favour of a more ‘true’ local identity relates to contemporary Taiwan’s contested political identity.

The People’s Republic of China, which officially considers Taiwan a province of the mainland, insists that the world deny Taiwan independent nation status in international venues, considering Taiwan as encompassed by China under a ‘One China, Two Systems’ policy. In Cape No. 7, Aga’s cry becomes a means of denying that reductive imago of Taipei as province of China/Taipei as representative of all Taiwan. By translocating its story to Pingtung’s ethnically diverse and linguistically polyglot local communities, the film articulates a comprehensive and encompassing conception of Taiwan that is posed in opposition to Mandarin speaking ‘Chinese Taipei’. The film promotes a Taiwanese identity that consists of a diversity of political and cultural forms: Han Chinese as well as Hokklo, Hakka, aboriginal and immigrant. This paper explores the search for ‘the local’ in contemporary Taiwanese populist cinema.


Taiwan, sovereignty, nationalism, cinema studies, politics, localism, zhonghua studies