Fri, May 16, 2003 - Page 18 News List

Grit on a shoestring at Purely 16

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

A still from Paramount of Jade Mountain On My Back, showing at Purely 16.

PHOTO COURTESY PURELY 16

Though it was originally just a compilation of shorts for independent filmmakers to show their 16mm films, Purely 16 (純16) has become a synonym over the last three years for a new film genre in Taiwan -- representing raw, original and cutting edge works made with limited budgets.

The third Purely 16 is not just a carnival for independent filmmakers to have fun, however, it is also being seen as a cradle for Taiwan's up-and-coming talents.

This year, Purely 16 has selected 16 films (16 by coincidence, apparently), including five works of fiction, six documentaries, two animations films, two experimental films and one yet-to-be-announced closing film. Eighty percent of the films are made by filmmakers born in the 1970s and the 1980s.

"This event provides the first opportunity for exposure of these films, with more screening times and longer showing periods," said Lee Yin-yi (李穎儀), coordinator of the film festival.

"Many of the films have won awards at the recent Taipei Film Festival, or Golden Horse Awards, in the short film section. But they don't usually get to be seen by a wider audience."

To ensure movie fans enjoy the films in a safe environment, Lee said the cinema has been sterilized with photo catalysts using nano technology, specially for the festival.

"We will also test your temperature at the door," she said.

Those who liked Cheng Wen-tang's (鄭文堂) Venice-winning film, Somewhere Over the Dreamland (夢幻部落) should not miss his 16mm short filmBadu's Homework (風中的小米田), a 37-minute film about an Aboriginal kid's adventure finding the millet rice field, which represents Aboriginal life in the past.

It is a fairy-tale-like story told through the eyes of Aboriginal kids, about an Aboriginal culture gradually eroded by modern life.

Distance is another surprising short fiction, by 20-year-old Leste Chen (陳正道). It's a simple story about a teenage couple struggling with the college entrance exams.

They want to separate for a while to study hard for the exam, but fate keeps drawing them to each other, in bus stops, small eateries and libraries. In just 20 minutes, Chen expresses his talent with smooth digital-camera work, smart dialogue and excellent handling of his actors.

Parachute Kid is Tom Lin's (林書宇) 70-minute feature film.

It depicts the life of "little overseas students" (小留學生) in Los Angeles. They are teenagers sent by their Taiwanese parents to the US to study and pursue a "better life."

Little do the parents know that the kids join local gangs, sell drugs, but never learn English. Some cannot even communicate well with their ABC (American born-Chinese) girlfriends.

Carry the Paramount of Jade Mountain On My Back (揹起玉山最高峰) is an impressive documentary that one should not miss. The film traces the little-known story of two aging Aborigines and their careers as mountain guides in the 1950s. When the sport of mountain climbing began to develop in Taiwan, climbers were heavily dependent on the help of Aborigines. They not only found routes, they also found water, camping sites and most importantly carried the supplies of the climbers.

The two guides' proudest memory is of their experience carrying the 100kg statue of deceased revolutionary hero Yu Yu-jen (于右任) up the peak of Mount Jade, which became the mountain's landmark.

Sadly, their health deteriorated because of hard labor and the statue was destroyed by climbers over the years.

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