Ang Lee may carry an American passport, but Taiwan is always in his heart.
The Hollywood helmer was born in southern Taiwan, the son of a school principal, and now in his mid-50s he has come back to his roots in the southern part of the island nation to open up a new filmmaking studio with roots in Los Angeles.
The new high-end production facility is being jointly run with U.S. visual effects producer Rhythm & Hues Studios and the R&H Visual Effects Center in Taiwan plans to employ 200 Taiwanese digital film artists who will be trained by R&H experts. This is Lee's gift back to his native land, and he acted as the go-between for the Hollywood studio and local government officials in the port city of Kaohsiung.
In a recent interview with a Chinese-language newspaper. the city's mayor told local reporters in remarks translated here in English: “Kaohsiung is not only a good and scenic place for shooting movies on location, but we now can ‘make movies here. This will allow many young Taiwanese to work in the film industry. With this new studio, Kaohsiung can become the ‘movie city’ of Taiwan and a leading center for film post-production services island-wide, even Asia-wide."
At the press conference, Lee was his usual modest self and stood nearby as the mayor added: “Ang Lee is modest when he says he is proud of Taiwan. In reality, it should be ‘Taiwan is proud of Ang Lee,’ as everyone around the world knows who he is.".
The mayor noted that with R&H — one of the Hollywood’s biggest animation and visual effects companies — Kaohsiung met all the requirements to develop a mature film and TV entertainment industry and will be able to host both domestic and international productions, fully utilizing the southern port city's warm sunny weather, as well as its nearby green mountains, scenic rivers, seaside locations and harbor facilities.
For Lee, the opening of the R&H studio in Taiwan was another ''homecoming'' in a long line of many homecomings he had made over the years to the land that nurtured his Hollywood dreams as a teenager and college student.
"Now I can complete the vision of the sea in my heart,"Lee said in Chinese (and freely translated here). "This place is familiar to me. During my mandatory two-year military service for Taiwan's armed forces, I was stationed in Kaohsiung’s harbor area. Looking at the sea every day, it gave me free reign to dream my dreams and develop a limitless imagination, so it feels good to be back here."
"I never thought that one day I could come back to Kaohsiung port to engage in my favorite work with a group of American film-making partners, in this setting of sea, harbor and old warehouses, but here I am,” he said.
R&H also plans to build a next-generation cloud computing facility in Kaohsiung to service the visual effects and animation industry.
Lee was also in Taiwan to premiere his latest movie, "Life of Pi," which was largely shot in Taiwan and made over a period of four years. The five major television news stations in Taiwan featured his many press conferences during his 5-day stay here, with the three national Chinese-language newspapers given his visit ample coverage.