February 25, 2024

The immediate family of leading Taiwanese film director Hou Hsiao-hsien said on Wednesday that he had retired from filmmaking due to illness and is now living peacefully in retirement. They said that their family-run company remains active and in business.

The statement (see below) was issued in response to news articles earlier this week that followed an introductory speech given in London by critic and curator Tony Rayns before a screening of 1985 title “A Time to Live and a Time to Die,” one of Hou’s best-known features.

Rayns was reported to have said that Hou has dementia, will not direct again and that members of Hou’s company had lost their jobs.

The family statement – signed by Cao Baofeng, Hou’s wife, son Isaac Hou and daughter Bess Hou – explained that Hou had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease before the COVID pandemic and that COVID had, to their surprise, worsened the problems.

They continued by saying that Hou has recovered from the COVID-related complications and is now resting quietly at home with his family. His enthusiasm for film remains undimmed, but he will not direct again, they said. They specified by saying that “Shulan River” (aka ”On the Shulan River,” aka “Searching for the River God”), which Hou had been preparing for several years, will not go ahead.

“Nevertheless, his reputation as a filmmaker has been cemented through numerous critically-acclaimed films in Taiwan and internationally through the years. His contribution to the world of cinema will not be forgotten,” they said.

Hou has an enviable track record with directorial works including “A City of Sadness,” “The Puppetmaster,” “Flowers of Shanghai,” “Millennium Mambo” and 2015’s “The Assassin.”

Hou is known as one of the pioneers of the Taiwanese ‘New Wave’ who pushed boundaries in the 1980s at a time when Taiwan’s period of brutal military rule was receding, censorship abating and new possibilities were opened to artists and creators.

He is also known as one of world cinema’s foremost stylists, with many films displaying precise lighting and color in lengthy shots with static or extremely slow-moving camerawork.

Statement from Hou Hsiao-hsien’s family (unofficial Chinese to English translation)

“Our father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease a while ago, but it did not deter his passion for films as he continued to direct and produce his next film. More recently, his condition has worsened after a bout with COVID-19, and this has resulted in his retirement from the film industry.

While this is an unexpected development and disappointing news to all, we ask our father’s friends and fans not to despair. Before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he had often shared with us that his love for films has become purer.

Since recovery from COVID-19, he is now dedicating time to his family while recuperating with the same pureness and peace of mind. His company continues to be operational and we appreciate the kind notes of encouragement from all.

As our father has devoted his entire life to producing films, it was difficult for him to spare time and energy for the family. Despite the challenges, we are grateful that our father’s condition has allowed the family to spend time together and re-establish our love and devotion for one another. We ask everyone to kindly give our family space and peace, as this is much needed at this point of our father’s life.


Regrettably, the production of our father’s next film ‘On the Shulan River’ has discontinued due to his illness. Nevertheless, his reputation as a filmmaker has been cemented through numerous critically-acclaimed films in Taiwan and internationally through the years. His contribution to the world of cinema will not be forgotten, and his dedication and compassion toward film making will be fondly remembered by his friends and fans.

As we navigate this difficult time for our family, we again humbly ask for your kind respect for our privacy and extend our utmost gratitude for your support. No further comment will be issued at this time.

Hou Fuyue, Hou Yunhua, Cao Baofeng”

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