Taiwan hoping for tourism boost from movie Life of Pi


Taiwan is hoping to cash in on the early success of the movie "Life of Pi," which was filmed mostly on the island by Oscar-winning Taiwanese director Ang Lee, a tourism official said Tuesday.

Since the wide release of the 3-D movie on Nov. 21, it has shot to No.5 in the international box office rankings, grossing US$30 million, major movie news websites show. In China alone, it has raked in more than 100 million Chinese yuan (US$16.1 million) in just four days, topping the box office there.

It is also No. 1 in India, home to three of the main cast members -- the lead actor Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan and actress Tabu, On the opening weekend there, the film grossed 195 million rupees (US$3.5 million), according to the Indo-Asian News Service.

Yang Ruey-tzhong, director of the Taiwan Strait Tourism Association's Beijing Office, said Taiwan is hoping to boost its tourism through promotion of the film sites, particularly among Chinese tourists.

Based on a novel of the same name by Canadian Yann Martel, the movie tells the story of Pi Patel, a 16-year-old Hindu boy who survives a shipwreck and is stranded on a lifeboat for 227 days with an orangutan, a hyena, a wounded zebra and a Bengal tiger called Richard Parker.

Most of the scenes were shot in Taiwan over a four-year period, with the Taiwan-born director using computer-generated imagery to create effects such as a raging Pacific Ocean.

At the production studio at the site of a former Taichung airport, the film crew built a huge wave pool that simulated the Pacific Ocean.

An exotic floating island where Pi arrives during his journey was shot in Kenting Banyan Park, and a scene that portrays a Mexican beach was filmed at Baisha Bay, southern Taiwan.

Yang said the tourism association is stepping up promotion of those sites and surrounding tourist attractions, including the Maokong Gondola in suburban Taipei.

Many of the places are worth "wandering around leisurely," he said, but did not elaborate on the promotional campaign.

Animals from Taipei Zoo, including rhinoceros, lemurs, and a Formosan black bear native to Taiwan, were used in the filming at the Taiwan locations.

Some of the scenes were also shot in India, in Pondicerry, Kerala and Munnar, among other provinces.

The fantasy feature has also been doing well at the box office in Taiwan and Hong Kong, grossing NT$65 million (US$2.23 million) and NT$42 million, respectively, over the first five days, according to Taiwan media reports. 

(Source: Focus Taiwan by Lawrence Chiu, Ho Hung-ju and Kendra Lin 27/11/2012)

'Life of Pi’s' Oscars give limelight to Taiwan 

When Ang Lee, who won an Oscar for directing 'Life of Pi,' announced that he couldn’t have done the movie ‘without the help of Taiwan,’ the island cheered.

Ang Lee poses with his award for best directing for
'Life of Pi' during the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre
on Sunday Feb. 24, 2013, in Los Angeles.

When the hero of “Life of Pi” is staring desperately out at the endless, picturesque ocean as a shipwreck castaway somewhere between India and Mexico, he wasn’t actually there.

And when he and a Bengal tiger reach a palm-lined, white-sand Mexican beach after 227 days at sea without hurting each other, they weren’t actually there, either.

Like most of the film, those scenes were shot in Taiwan. And when Taiwan-born film director Ang Lee won an Oscar for best director Sunday and announced that he couldn’t have made the movie “without the help of Taiwan,” it brought a much-welcomed limelight to Taiwan, as local governments and the film industry attempt to beef up Taiwan's image as a site for movies.

“When Lee said he particularly thanked "Taichung, I was really moved,” Taichung Mayor Jason Hu told reporters Monday in a phone interview. “Before the awards, Ang Lee had given me a call and said, ‘Mayor, if I win I will mention Taichung.’ “

“Life of Pi,” based on a 2001 novel by Yann Martel, is set in spots around the globe: castaway Pi’s homeland of India; the Pacific Ocean, where his family’s ship wrecks while relocating their zoo; Mexico, where he ends up; and Canada where he tells the story.
But Mr. Lee used his homeland to find the some 3,000 crew members and film some 75 percent of the movie. In addition to best director, Life of Pi was awarded Oscars for best cinematography, original score, and visual effects.

Big push to attract foreign film crews

Taiwanese cultural officials have long fought to attract foreign-based film crews, to help drive the economy.
The farming and industrial hub of Taichung put up $1.69 million for use of a defunct airport, including a wave pool that served as the cinematic ocean, a city spokesperson said. Taiwan’s central government added another $10.14 million to help cover the total cost, estimated at $120 million.
Taiwan has given subsidies to local filmmakers for more than 60 years to develop talent and, in earlier days, advance government views. Few local productions have reached the global acclaim of “Life of Pi,” though Lee says he hopes to promote tourism in Taiwan through film.
Filmmakers and cultural officials say the next step is to get more films to depict Taiwanese city skylines, so that they become recognizable.  “Life of Pi,” though it was filmed in Taiwan, does not explicitly “say” Taiwan.
“It’s not like 'Mission Impossible,' where you see someone jump off a landmark skyscraper in Shanghai,” says David Frazier, co-founder of Taiwan-based Urban Nomad Film Fest.
The island is known for varied landscapes and visible displays of traditional Chinese culture, and has a lot to offer filmmakers, say officials.
Taiwan should play up its hospitality toward film crews, says Zoe Tuan, general secretary of the Chinese Cross-Strait Film Association in Taipei.
She points to an example that happened during the filming of “Life of Pi.” The crew needed 450 fish for an ocean scene, she says, and Taiwanese fishermen quickly complied because they wanted to help, according to local news reports.
“Taiwan has a keen sense of hospitality, and for a director the film set can become a second home,” Ms. Tuan says. 
(Source: www.csmonitor.com by Ralph Jennings 25 February 2013)

‘Life of Pi’ catalyst for new Taiwan ‘Time for Celebration’ ‘ calendar of events

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The global spotlight having turned on Taiwan following local boy Ang Lee’s recent ‘Best Director’ Oscar win for the film Life of Pi, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau has seized on the opportunity with the introduction a ‘Time for Celebration’ calendar of special events taking place this year.

These include the Dragon Boat Festival on 06 June, taking place in Lukang Township.

The Dragon Boat Festival began as an occasion to drive off evil spirits and to find peace in life and today it is a key event with thousands gathering to watch the excitement. Teams compete to the sound of beating drums and rowers win by grabbing the flag at the end of the course. Many traditional customs accompany the festivities such as the drinking of Hsiung Huang wine and children are given fragrant sachets, both of which are thought to ward off evil spirits.

A culinary highlight of the festival is eating the traditional dish Zongzi which are glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves.

The calendar will also feature the Ghost Festival on 09 September in Keelung.

Traditionally, it is believed that ghosts haunt the island of Taiwan for the entire seventh lunar month from dawn on the first day of the month, when the gates of the netherworld open, ending on the 29th day of the month, when the gates close.

The Ghost Festival combines the Buddhist Ullambana Festival and the Taoist Ghost Festival, both of which honour dead spirits. Highlights of the event include folk-art performances, the opening of the gates of hell and the release of burning water lanterns. During the festival, families make offerings to their ancestors and ghosts of the underworld.

Other calendar highlights include the Taiwan Cycling Festival on 11 November taking place in Yilan, Hualien and Taitung countries.

Since its debut in 2010 the festival has brought together world-renowned cyclists for a top-class international event. The two main events are the Formosa 900 and the Taiwan KOM, however there are a number of smaller cycling events also taking place for amateur cyclists.

(Date: 1MAY2013 / Source: Taiwan Tourism Bureau)