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Taiwan series enters Europe’s largest series festival

Fragrance of the First Flower from streaming platform GagaOOLala has been officially selected as Taiwan’s first and only title to enter the prestigious French Series Mania International Festival.

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GagaOOLala’s Fragrance of the First Flower has been officially selected as Taiwan’s first and only title to enter the prestigious French Series Mania International Festival, set to take place from 26 August to 2 September. The title received the Gold Award at last year’s inaugural GagaOOLala Pitching Sessions (GPS) 2020, an international pitching competition initiated by the Asian LGBTQ+ streaming platform in collaboration with the Taiwan Content Creative Agency (TAICCA) to fund new and original queer projects.

Directed by the up-and-coming Taiwanese director Angel Teng, Fragrance of the First Flower is Taiwan’s first-ever entry into the festival’s Short Forms Competitions that features submissions from eight other territories including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Iran, Singapore, and South Korea. Furthermore, Fragrance of the First Flower also happens to be the only series included in the festival’s official selection, making it the first time that a title from Taiwan has been picked up for the highly coveted category.

The six-episode original lesbian mini-series featuring actresses ZaiZai Lin and Lyan Chen centers on the lives of two, long-lost high school lovers who suddenly cross each other’s paths as they go through different phases in their lives.

Yi-Ming (ZaiZai Lin), whose husband works outside of town, lives alone with her son. After years apart, she reconnects with Ting-Ting (Lyan Chen) at a wedding, a girl she was intimate with back in high school. The encounter with Ting-Ting not only sets Yi-Ming free from her oppressive marriage but also reawakens her feelings for Ting-Ting. The unexpected meeting reignites the spark and passion they once shared for one another, ultimately leading them to give the love they would have never imagined possible, a second chance. Now that Taiwan has finally legalized same-sex marriage, will Yi-Ming have the courage to change her life?

Hailed as one of Europe’s biggest and most important audiovisual showcases, Series Mania was first created at the Forum des images in Paris in 2010 and began being held in Lille, the capital of the Hauts-de-France region in northern France, in 2018. Over time, Series Mania has become France’s largest international event dedicated to new and unique television series from all across the globe. The festival is best known for its exclusive world premieres of some of the greatest international series (Chambers, The Twilight Zone, The Virtues, Baghdad Central) featuring many big names from the entertainment industry (Netflix, Amazon Studios, France Télévisions, Writers Guild of America) with the 2019 edition of the festival attracting more than 72,000 visitors with nearly 3,000 accredited professionals, for a budget of more than six million euros.

‘FRAGRANCE of the First Flower’ director Angel Teng with lead actresses ZaiZai Lin and Lyan Chen. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF gagaoolala

Upon receiving the official news of the selection, director Teng was completely taken aback and could not believe what she had read. Teng stated, “I was both amazed and thrilled to hear that Fragrance of the First Flower was nominated at the French Series Mania festival. I immediately video called the producer and we had a toast. The reviews we received at Series Mania for Fragrance of the First Flower were overwhelming. We are full of gratitude for the fact that a Taiwanese series could be noticed by European filmmakers for its uniqueness and originality; knowing that they appreciated and resonated with the story is the best form of encouragement for everyone who worked for the making of Fragrance of the First Flower.”

Elsewhere, Frédéric Lavigne, artistic director at Series Mania, had his fair share of praise for the GagaOOLala original. “In her first narrative series, Angel Teng finds the right balance between frankness and caution to dramatize the possibility of love. As story and characterization, it is subtle and sensible, thanks to the delicate interpretations of ZaiZai Lin and Lyan Chen, seamlessly portraying these two women at different crossroads throughout the years,” the director expressed.

Fragrance of the First Flower is the latest installment in GagaOOLala’s 2021 anthology “Queer Up the Volume,” a collection of original queer stories, each with its own title song, and music video, aiming to portray the different facets of the contemporary queer community and its wide-ranging issues. The “Queer Up the Volume” project is officially supported by Taiwan’s Ministry of Culture for which it received a subsidy from the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development.

Visit www.gagaoolala.com and their social media accounts in Facebook (www.facebook.com/GagaOOLalaEnglish), Instagram (@gagaoolala.official) and Twitter (@gagaoolala).

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