Hou Hsiao-hsien is widely respected around the world for his invaluable contributions to the Taiwanese New Wave. Through unforgettable masterpieces such as A City of Sadness and A Time to Live and A Time to Die, Hou Hsiao-hsien has established himself as a contemporary pioneer of world cinema and one of the most prominent artists from Taiwan.
In addition to his stellar filmmaker, he has also acted in the beloved New Wave that is Edward Yang’s Taipei Story. The film is now seen as a definitive commentary on the effects of globalisation and the imposition of modernity on urban Taiwan and is often cited as a crucial part of the enigmatic body of work that Yang left behind.
Hou Hsiao-hsien has been on a hiatus for a while now since his last directorial feature was the 2015 wuxia film The Assassin which was regarded as one of the greatest cinematic achievements of the year. He even ended up winning the prestigious award for Best Director at Cannes, in addition to sweeping a lot of categories at the Asian Film Awards.
The latest reports have confirmed that Hou Hsiao-hsien is finally making his return to the world of cinema with a film called Shulan River which has been in the works for a while now. An adaptation of a Hsieh Hai-meng novel, he is set to begin work on the production very soon and will start scouting for locations this spring.
“It’s a movie about a river goddess set in the modern era,” he said in an interview Film Comment. “Taipei used to be in a basin with a lot of waterways, and aboriginal tribes lived along them. The waterways were used for paddy irrigation, but many of them have since been covered over by roads as a result of urbanisation.”
Adding, “They are all underground now. Many of the streets in Taipei are named after the old waterways. I thought, if there were a river goddess, she would be very lonely, feeling sad about this situation. I’m interested in this project because a lot of Taipeinese have lived in Taipei so long but they never got the chance to know about this. Xie told me about this idea before she wrote the novel. Now that the novel is there, I’ll choose some parts from it and adapt them into a film.”