Artists rarely shy away from discussing their work, but when Hou Chi-jan went to interview directors and actors behind Taiwanese cinema in the early 1980s for his documentary Taiwan Black Movies, he was met with embarrassment rather than enthusiasm. 'They would feel really strange about why I'm interested in the movies I asked them about - they tended to dismiss it as stuff that is historically and culturally worthless,' Hou says. Which is understandable perhaps. The hour-long documentary chronicles the island's films made from 1979 to 1982, the rise of a genre that traded heavily on nudity and bloodshed, or the equivalent to the sexploitation flicks popular in Hong Kong in the 1980s. But not all stars were dismissive, Hou says. Lu Hsiao-fen, a principal star of the genre, continued to steer the interview towards the melodramas of the later years of her career - Osmanthus Alley and Ann Hui On-wah's Song of the Exile. 'Having talked further, however, she would admit that her work in On the Society File of Shanghai is as yet the best performance she did,' says Hou, referring to Lu's performance of a violent, scantily clad delinquent caught up in a web of sex and violence. Hou, an independent filmmaker who has worked on an online database of Taiwanese films since his days as a university student, made Taiwan Black Movies to rediscover a chapter that he says mainstream film historians has rejected - even when the movies sold well on release during the time. Rather than a straightforward chronicle, Hou puts films into their broader context, linking the movies' violence to the Kuomintang's authoritarian rule during the era. The films steered clear of political issues by focusing solely on sensational violence. 'It started in the 1970s, when martial arts or romance films bore no link at all with politics,' says Yang Yuan-ling, the documentary's producer. 'It seems like the audience want something more extreme come the 1980s - so these so-called 'social-realist films' were born.' While historians see the 'black movies' as exploitative of women, Hou notes that films like Lady Avenger and Queen Bee - where the female leads strike out against men who harmed them - presented women as active players in their fate, not victims waiting for rescue be a male hero. 'Actually the films are surreal because, in real life, women were not like that in Taiwan then,' says Hou. That most viewers of these films were men had more to do with the bare flesh on show. 'I think the men relate to the women in the movies not because of gender - it's men who were finished off, after all - but it's more about the weak winning against the strong. It could be seen as an allegory of the lower social classes thrashing the establishment,' he adds. For those who want to see it, Taiwan Black Movies screens today at 9pm, Science Museum Lecture Hall.