The UK premiere of The Deserted, Tsai Ming-Liang’s 2017 feature length virtual reality (VR) film, is one of the highlights of the inaugural Taiwan Film Festival UK. The initial screening is on 3 April 2019, at a specially designed VR pop-up cinema at Asia House in central London, and will then be open to the public from 4-8 April, with seven showings a day.

The Deserted tells the surreal story of a man living in a ruined house in the mountains with two ghosts and a fish. Recovering from an illness and unable to communicate with the ghosts, his only companion is the lone fish who swims with him in the bathtub.

A lauded master of slow cinema, Tsai Ming-Liang chose this film to open the retrospective that he curated in close collaboration with Festival director, Aephie Chen for the Taiwan Film Festival UK.

This includes a selection of his fiction feature-length films and shorts showing at the Tate Modern’s Starr Cinema from 5 – 7 April and Tsai will participate in post-screening Q&As, as well as lead a filmmaking masterclass at the Tate. This is a rare opportunity to hear him in conversation as Tsai has not been to the UK for over a decade.

The VR cinema is in partnership with Art Cinema and sponsored by HTC Vive Arts and MSI, the Festival’s virtual reality partners. The UK premiere of The Deserted will be shown in 8K resolution, which is a significant improvement on the 4K resolution of the original world premiere at the 2017 Venice Film Festival.

Director Tsai Ming-Liang collaborated with Taiwanese architect Rain Wu to create the cinema, incorporating visual clues from the The Deserted’s film set – a rural ruin with lush tropical nature visible through the wall punctures. High performance gaming computers from MSI and HTC VR

Content Center’s groundbreaking VR Theatre Management System will be used to create a synchronised, immersive cinema experience where 20 people can watch the film at the same time. This technology has influenced the design of the physical space which resembles the lobby of a cinema, typically seen as a waiting space. It represents the area in between constant reality (the outside world) and a temporal reality (the cinema screen), a Purgatory space between the living and the dead of the film.

“Art Cinema is thrilled to work with Taiwan Film Festival and help stage the UK premiere of The Deserted by the highly-acclaimed Director Tsai Ming-Liang. This installation aims to bring the most thrilling experience to an array of audiences ranging from Film d’Auteurs lovers all the way to the most savvy explorers of virtual reality realms. Such encounters establish what 21th century paradigms of art display and engagement are all about,” says Art Cinema founder, Myriam Blundell Phillips.

The Taiwan Film Festival is a collaborative effort between FilmTaiwan and the Cultural Division of the Taipei Representative Office in the UK to showcase the talented and distinct cinematic voice of Taiwan through a programme of classic and new independent films. It also aims to provide opportunities for Taiwanese filmmakers and producers to showcase their works to Icelandic and UK distributors with the goal of creating interactions between the countries.