The apparition of the Pathé-Baby movie projector in 1922, and the Pathé-Baby camera which arrived the following year, marked the beginning of the development of amateur cinema in Taiwan. This study proposes a new approach to Taiwanese film history through the lens of small gauge film. It is an attempt to unearth the development of a culture of amateur cinema (home-made film for family leisure, or as a hobby) during the Japanese colonial period. This culture – introduced by Japanese equipment manufacturers and distributors – nurtured a network of amateur film lovers.
We extensively reviewed the available literature published in Taiwan concerning small gauge films, examined their misunderstandings or mistakes (when dealing with Western techniques), as well as elements possibly leading to further research. Second, the materials (newspapers, magazines, photos) newly found by our research team were analysed in order to construct an early history of the development of Taiwanese amateur cinema. Finally, the article focuses on the case of Lai Kun-sen (賴崑森, 1900-1990), an amateur filmmaker and cameraman of “One Day of Outing of the Chang Family” (張家訪問之一日, 1930), the oldest Taiwanese amateur film in existence, proving that there was already a mature culture of amateur cinema in Taiwan in the early 1930s.
Through an epistemological approach, the focus of this study shifted from analysis of the content, or standard format film, to development of small gauge film, their technical styles and the construction of an amateur culture. In this way, a new possible approach to Taiwanese film history opens up for the pre-WWII period.