Music documentary to shine spotlight on the south

Back in January 2009 I attended a screening of the documentary “Voices from the South: Kaohsiung’s Independent Music Scene” at The Wall in Taipei. The documentary, directed by Don Quan, was about the indie music scene in Kaohsiung. The film followed the fortunes five Kaohsiung bands and four of these bands (KoOk, Orange Doll (橘娃娃), Shy Kick Apple (害羞踢蘋果) and Fire Ex (滅火器)) also performed at The Wall following the documentary screening which made it a unique experience.

Four years have now passed since Don Quan made the original documentary and he is now planning a follow up titled “Dig The New Breed: Voices From The South Part II.” I contacted Don by e-mail to ask him some questions about his new documentary project and the current state of the indie music scene in Kaohsiung. Continue reading

Smangus documentary to screen on PTS

Smangus: A Year in the Clouds, a documentary about the Atayal community of Smangus, will screen on Taiwan’s Public Television Service (PTS) tonight (30 June). The documentary had its premiere in Smangus on Tuesday night. It is a co-production between PTS and British documentary makers Dean Johnson and Frank Smith. The team filmed various aspects of the daily life in Smangus over a period of 15 months.

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Voices in the Clouds: a search for identity and belonging

Voices in the Clouds poster

Voices in the Clouds (眾族同聲) had its Taiwan premiere at the closing of the Urban Nomad Film Festival in Taipei on Sunday night. The documentary is a moving and personal story of a man’s search for identity and belonging.

Tony Coolidge was born in Taiwan, but moved to the United States of America with his mother and step-father at a young age. While growing up in the USA his mother kept details of her life in Taiwan hidden. She encouraged her children to speak English so they could fit in. A year after his mother passed away from cancer Tony returned to Taiwan to meet his mother’s family. Only then did he discover that his family were indigenous people belonging to the Atayal group.

After making this discovery Tony returned to Taiwan again several years later along with his younger brother and Taiwanese wife to further explore his roots and connections with Taiwan’s indigenous people. His journey of self-discovery takes him into indigenous communities around Taiwan. Continue reading

Taiwanese cinema in 2010

Taiwanese movie posters 2010

2010 saw a number of interesting Taiwanese films released. I saw and reviewed a good cross section of them on this blog. The gangster film Monga (艋舺) was the year’s big hit raking in over NT$250 million at the box office.

Au Revoir Taipei (一頁台北) and Taipei Exchanges (第36個故事) were two enjoyable films that showed a certain savviness in appealing to audiences. Seven Days in Heaven (父後七日), a drama about a funeral ceremony, also enjoyed quite good success. (I saw it but didn’t write a review.) Continue reading

Taiwan and the biodiversity crisis

Michael Turton has posted an excellent interview with Dr Bruno Walther about biodiversity in Taiwan. Dr Walther is a visiting professor at Taipei Medical University and also works at the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute. In the interview he discusses some of the key challenges Taiwan faces to protect its biodiversity.

Dr Walther and Klaus Bardenhagen have co-produced a documentary about the biodiversity crisis called Crisis of Life. It features interviews with a number of leading scientists. The trailer of the documentary is embedded above and you can watch more videos on the website.

Movie review: The Fourth Portrait

The Fourth Portrait movie posterThe Fourth Portrait (第四張畫) paints a wonderful picture of the life of a young boy, Xiang played by Bi Xiao-hai (畢曉海), who struggles to find his place in a world of poverty and domestic violence. It is the second film for director Chung Mong-hong (鍾孟宏) who made his directorial debut with Parking in 2008.

The story begins with the death of Xiang’s father who was his sole carer. He is temporarily taken care of by the school janitor before going to live with his mother who has remarried. Xiang’s mother, Chun-lan played by Hao Lei (郝蕾), is from China and works in a hostess bar. She is too tired and broken to give Xiang the care and attention he needs. In one scene where she goes to meet Xiang’s teacher she emotionally relates the difficulties and struggles she has faced since coming to Taiwan. Continue reading

Film festival to promote dialogue on death penalty issue

The Murder by Numbers Film Festival  (殺人影展3:亞洲與世界的對話), featuring films and documentaries on the theme of the death penalty, is on from 8-10 October in Taipei. It will be followed by screenings in Hsinchu and on university campuses later in the month. The festival coincides with the World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10 October.

The festival is the third to be organised by the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (台灣廢除死刑推動聯盟). The first festival was held in 2004 and the second in 2007. The theme of the third festival is a dialogue between Asia and the world. Asia is one of the regions of the world where the death penalty is most frequently carried out. Taiwan had an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty from December 2005 until April this year when four prisoners were executed. These executions again brought the death penalty debate into the spotlight and showed that Taiwanese society is deeply divided on the issue. Events like this film festival provide an important opportunity for people to engage in dialogue about the death penalty issue. Continue reading

Formosa Betrayed: a quest for truth and justice

Formosa Betrayed movie posterAfter a long wait Formosa Betrayed (被出賣的台灣) has come to Taiwan. I saw the film at the Taichung premiere on Monday night. The premiere was well attended and producer Will Tiao was there to to introduce the film. Tiao said it was the first ever Hollywood film about Taiwan’s White Terror period. He also said that as the film was produced in the USA and Thailand some details are not accurate, but the important point was to tell this story about Taiwan to the world.

The film is described as “inspired by actual events”. The murder of a Taiwanese American professor at the beginning of the movie is an obvious reference to the murder of Taiwanese writer Henry Liu in California in 1984. The Kaohsiung Incident, the Lin Yi-hsiung family murders, spies on US university campuses and the 228 Massacre are also alluded to in the film in varying degrees of detail.

Audiences in Taiwan will already be familiar with much of the historical background to the events portrayed in the film. Those with background knowledge of Taiwan’s history might find some of the details are not accurate or don’t concord with the chronology of the White Terror period and the early 1980s the film is set in. However, the focus should really be on the story of how an American FBI agent discovers the truth about the true nature of the ROC regime on Taiwan. It is this process of discovery by FBI agent Jake Kelly that forms the central part of the story. Continue reading