So many films have been made since the creation of moving pictures, it’s hard to find a new topic that captures the attention of an audience. What is increasingly apparent is that a unique perspective and personal connection resonate louder with the film going public and the film industry itself than an innovative genre. To achieve this takes talented artists whom have a visceral attachment to the story, someone like producer Guo Guo’s relationship with the film Hello from Taiwan. Guo’s work on famed Chinese television programs like Be With You and films for Jueben Pictures, such as the internationally lauded Meiduo, certainly vetted the producer’s expertise but her childhood experiences provided an emotional connection. Guo Guo states, “This film talked about being a stranger in a new place and trying to adapt. I relate to it tremendously as it was pretty much my life when I was a kid. I was moving around a lot and always found myself adapting to a new environment while dealing with family separations. There was a lot I didn’t understand. When this script came along, I realized this as a chance for an adult me to reconcile with myself; to also give myself an opportunity to understand, now as an adult, what was going on with my own parents and why they did what they did.” Great art is manifested not only in the eyes of the audience but in the souls of those creating it; Hello from Taiwan stands as proof of this.
Though brought about due to a cataclysmic event, the human story of Hello from Taiwan is a situation happening with increasing frequency. Living in different countries, spouses and siblings are separated for some time. In the case of this story, an earthquake has brought a five-year-old Taiwanese American girl named Christy (Brandilyn Cheah of NBC’s multiple Primetime Emmy Award-Winning Series This is Us) and her mother to reunite with her father and two older sisters. Christy’s experience profoundly displays the layered separation one can feel, even at such a tender age. Beyond the cultural divide, she battles with the presence of siblings who have spent a year becoming closer to each other while furthering their distance (literally and emotionally) from her, as well as the unspoken rift between her parents. This is eloquently displayed as Christy uses a fork at dinner while her mother and sisters’ utensil of choice is chopsticks. The earthquake depicted in the first scenes of this film becomes a template for Christy’s world which cracks and threatens to crumble around her, consuming her happiness.
Writer/Director Tiffany Frances’s vision for Hello from Taiwan is a result of working with an extraordinary producer like Guo Guo. From casting three adolescent girls fluent in both Mandarin and English and the procurement of famed Taiwanese actors Janet Hsieh (of the Netflix series The Ghost Bride) as Joyce [mother] and Barney Cheng as Barry [father] to manifesting San Jose California in the early 90’s, the seeming mundane qualities depicted in the film are deceptive. The effort it took to create this world is not something you want the audience to notice when watching a film such as this. Guo Guo relates, “There are aspects you just don’t think about when watching this film. The airports of 1992 just don’t look the same as they did in 2020. There’s a lot of work put into taking the audience back to this time whether that’s the look of a California airport, the cars that characters own and drive, or even the houses they live in.” The world which Guo Guo and her producing partners Wenjie Kong, Marina Viscun together with Tiffany created with production designer Shi Min Yong is astounding in it’s perfect simulation of California before the turn of the century.
An audience typically credits the actors and the director for establishing the emotional connection they establish with a film. While this is most certainly a vital part of the experience, it’s obvious in a film such as Hello from Taiwan that a producer as invested and talented as Guo Guo is equal in importance. The cast appears on screen as a result of the belief of the producer. The time-travel which the cast and audience experiences is similarly the fruit of the seeds planted by Guo Guo. Yes, there are many great producers in the industry but the belief in the story and personal connection with the script for this producer catapulted the film to its incredible outcome. Hello from Taiwan is a painful tale, but one full of beauty if you know where to look: in the love the parents have for their children even while being torn from them, in the kindness a sister shows another during an argument, in the longing a little girl has to be loved. Hello from Taiwan is a great film because great filmmakers like Guo Guo pushed it to be great. Among others, Hello from Taiwan has received awards from the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, Imagine This Women’s International Film Festival, Oxford Film Festival, Toronto Shorts Film Festival, and notably the Grand Jury Prize at the Taiwanese American Film Festival.