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Scene from “Ai-Mei” (photo courtesy of Hyena Films)

Production Report featured in
German Films Quarterly 03/2008

Since her award-winning documentary, Den Tigerfrauen wachsen Fluegel (2005), about three generations of Taiwanese artists, and the TV documentary Made in Taiwan, Monika Treut has established a very close relationship with the island republic.

Ai-Mei, Treut’s latest project, the first ever German-Taiwanese co-production, tells of a mysterious and unusual love story between two cultures and two cities.

“My fascination for Taiwanese culture developed especially from the tension between the rapid social and political changes of the young Taiwanese democracy,” Treut says, “and the still very deep roots of the people in the 5,000-year-old Chinese culture.”

She was “particularly inspired by Chinese ghost myths. Women enjoy a freedom in these stories which the traditional suppression denies them in everyday life. In this in-between world they become erotic, daring and ambitious creatures who finally follow their own wishes and also find a way to take revenge.”

As usual, Treut has selected very strong and impressive women for her protagonists.

Inga Busch’s credits include the latest Wim Wenders film, the 2008 Cannes selection Palermo Shooting, Maria an Callas and the 2005 German Film Award-winning Alles auf Zucker!. Her own awards include the Hessian Film Award 2004, the Max Ophuels Audience Award 1999 and the Adolf-Grimme-Award 1997.

The two Taiwanese actresses are, of course, unfamiliar to audiences here in Europe, but Ko Huan-Ju and Hu Ting-ting are familiar film and TV faces in Taiwan. And eagle-eyed viewers and film buffs might well recognize Hu since her overseas credits include Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) and the recently deceased Anthony Minghella’s Breaking and Entering (2006).

Actor Jack Kao is also known to Western audiences through his work in such films as One Armed Swordsman, The Conman, Time and Tide, Mona’s Dad, Fall... in Love, Reflections, God Man Dog and, most recently, Sniper.

Monika Treut, who takes director, co-writer and producer credits on Ai-Mei is the co-founder (together with director and camerawoman Elfi Mikesch) and now sole owner of Hamburg-based Hyena Films.

Why the name?

"Monika Treut has a fondness for hyenas. You could almost call it a fellow feeling. After all, in hyena society, the female is dominant and moreover, these are beasts which survive by scavenging for scraps, fearlessly standing up to larger predators for a share of the spoils. Such is the life of an independent filmmaker... For many years, she has worked to the point of exhaustion to carve out a niche as an international filmmaker, writing and directing all her films, raising the production finance herself, editing, promoting and even, on occasion, distributing the finished product"

– excerpted from Colin Richardson’s "Monika Treut: An Outlaw At Home," in A Queer Romance, edited by Paul Burston and Colin Richardson (London, New York 1995).

SK
Genre Love Story
Category Feature
Year of Production 2009
Director Monika Treut
Screenplay Monika Treut, Astrid Stroeher
Cinematography Bernd Meiners
Renate Ober
Uwe Haas
Yang Sha-Yi, Isolde Rueter
Cast Marek Harloff, Jana Schulz, Jack Kao, Ko Huan-Ju, Hu Ting-ting, Inga Busch, Lu Yi-ching
Producers Li-Fen Chien, Monika Treut, Aileen Lee
Production Company Hyena Films/Hamburg, in co-production with Chi & Company/Taipei
Length 89 min
Format 35 mm, color
Original Version
 English, German, Mandarin
Sound Technology Dolby SR
Festivals Cambridge 2009, Rio 2009, Seoul Int. Women's FF 2018
With backing from BKM, Filmfoerderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein, 3sat, Government Information Office Taiwan, Public Service TV Taiwan
German Distributor Ventura Film/Berlin

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