Fri, Jul 02, 2004 - Page 20 News List

A documentary records Taiwan's rock 'n' roll movement

Director Chen Lung-nan's third film once again shows his passion for strong images and human-interest stories

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Nicky from Hotpink carries her guitar across the sand of Fulung Beach, in Ocean Fever.

PHOTO COURTESY OF CHEN LUNG-NAN

One does't have to be a rock 'n' roll fan to appreciate the film Ocean Fever (海洋熱), the hottest film in the 2004 Taipei Film Festival, which took both the "Jury's Special Prize" and "Audience's Favorite Award," at the festival in April.

From Tuesday next week (July 6), this independent film will be screened at SPOT -- Taipei Film House (光點台北). It's a film that vividly documents the process of Taiwan's independent bands struggling to participate in the 2003 Gong-liao Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival (貢寮海洋音樂祭), in order to fulfill what they believe is the spirit of rock.

For music fans, this film offers a preview and the right atmosphere to prepare for the upcoming Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival on July 16, July 17 and July 18.

For independent filmmaker Chen Lung-nan (陳龍男), the third film of his so-far immaculate career demonstrates his continued passion for strong images and human interest stories.

As for the bands, there Mango Run, a folk rock band with a female lead singer. There's Stone, an energetic funk rock band that raps in Taiwanese. There is the Aboriginal band Totem, which combines Aboriginal folk songs and blues rock. And there is the teenage girl punk band Hotpink; and funky pop Sunshine Boys.

The five bands presented in the film are all amateur musicians with an average age of 20 years. They are participating in the competition for the first time.

They didn't win, so in a way one can describe their performances as flops. Also, their music -- from an international point of view -- is not that original for young bands.

The point of the film, however, is not so much the music but these young people's spirits.

One of the trendiest descripitions of 20-something Taiwanese youth is the name "Strawberry Generation" (草莓族), which means they look pretty but are fragile and easily bruised. The film seems to try to refute such thoughts by showing that the rock dreams and devotion of these young people during the competition by showing that, in fact, they are strong and passionate and not easily broken.

Director Chen is good at catching the personalities of the people involved and the emotional high-points of their lives, especially when it comes to filming the young punk band Hotpink, and rap group Stone.

"I've waited too long in the line for the Golden Horse Film Festival, so I thought we should start a band," says Hotpink's lead singer Nicky. As for Stone, the band members practice rapping by slapping each other's faces. If someone messes up a line they get a slap.

There are also times when the bands face frustration, economic crises and, finally, experience true joy when they have finished their final performances.

Strictly speaking, the film still needs to be tightened up a bit as most of the plot is too sentiment-driven. It would also be a better documentary if there was some hard-hitting reality that these young people had to face.

Director Chen is an Ami and has made four documentaries, winning four awards so far. His first film As Long As You Come Back (回來就好) is about his young sister being a young single mom. Looking For Salt (尋找鹽巴), is a film about traditional Aboriginal rituals and conflict with modern society. It was a winner at the Taiwan Documentary Biannual (台灣紀錄片雙年展). Chen's next film will be a documentary about a young flight attendant who died in the China Airlines crash in Penghu.

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