Documentary - Completed 2015

The film will explore the story of Taiwan’s longstanding fascination for Western classical music, from the historical origins to its wide-ranging manifestations today.

    • Year of production
    • 2015
    • Genres
    • Documentary, Historical, Musical
    • Countries
    • Languages
    • Budget
    • N/A
    • Duration
    • 52 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Mark KIDEL
    • Writer(s)
    • Mark KIDEL
    • Producer(s)
    • Olivier MILLE (Artline Films)
    • Synopsis
    • The Island of 1000 violons introduces us to Taiwan, a country in the midst of a phase of vibrant musical growth, one which not only produces virtuosos, but has also developed an entire musical culture ranging from children’s education and philharmonic orchestras to composers and shrewd collectors. Classical music at the highest level, but also encounters and “fusion” between traditional and Western music. At a time when Western concert halls are seeking to rejuvenate and enlarge their audiences, here is a fascinating journey to a country that truly worships “great music.”
      We will take the Chimei Foundation’s unique collection of 1400 violins and the story of Shi Wen-long, founder of the one of Taiwan’s most successful corporations as the starting-point for the film. It is emblematic of the island’s complex and exciting relationship with Western classical music and Western culture, and will naturally lead us to discover Taiwan’s contemporary music scene and essential aspects of Taiwan’s cultural and musical history over the last 100 years.
      Taiwan's love story with Western classical music is a long and ongoing one. We will be exploring the historical cultural context, evoking the way in which Western classical music became now in Taiwan – originally via the ecclesiastical music of the missionaries, but more significantly during the Japanese colonial period, through the use of archive film and photographs from the period.
      In traditional China, Music was only a craft, often practiced, along with theatre and dance by a less respectable class. The more elevated status associated with the practice and enjoyment of Western classical music is something that came to Taiwan with the Japanese, as part of a package including the values of a modern and sophisticated society.
      We will look into the troubled period that followed – with the country under martial law until 1987, and the important part Western classical music continued to play in the education of young Taiwanese during this period.
      We will explore the nature of Taiwan’s powerful attraction to the West and its culture. How much has this been about the fascination of ‘otherness”, the mirror image of the West’s “orientalist” attraction to Asian cultures? It can be seen as a reaction born out of a sense of inferiority resulting from the impact of imperialism, the arrogance of the missionaries’ ethnocentric message and contact with a fast-moving technologically superior society.
      The stories of the musicians and experts that we will meet will create a coherent picture of the way in which Western classical music is experienced in Taiwan today and the role this plays in terms of education, status and the Taiwanese people’s sense of them-selves and the world around them.
      We will naturally see examples of classical music events in Taiwan, involving some of the best young musicians and the top orchestras, as well as concerto events with well-known Western or American soloists. We will also be able to look at Western classical music in relation to Taiwan’s own musical practices, from Beijing and Taiwanese opera to aboriginal ritual music, from small ensemble nanguan instrumental music and singing to the unique East-West hybrid of Western-style Chinese orchestras.
      The tapestry of interrelated stories will vividly evoke the present-day practice of Western classical music and will portray Taiwan’s vigorous and vital musical culture with unique qualities reflecting the openness that characterized the island’s culture and politics in the last 25 years.
    • Partners & financing
    • Arte (attached)
      PTS (attached)