Fri, May 05, 2006 - Page 17 News List

Local documentaries are alive and kicking

By Ho Yi  /  STAFF REPORTER

Following the unexpected box-office successes of Jump Boys (翻滾吧! 男孩) and Let It Be (無米樂) last year, the local documentary film industry has expanded vigorously.

The latest testimony to the growing importance of this genre is the Premier Documentary Festival (嚴選台灣紀錄片大賞), organized by the Golden Horse Film Festival Committee (金馬獎執行委員會) and funded by Chunghwa Telecom (中華電信).

The festival, featuring a diverse lineup of 40 acclaimed short and feature-length documentaries, will stop off at towns and cities across Taiwan starting Wednesday and finishing July 16.

"The general public still views documentary cinema as a monotonous and proselytizing medium," Lee Ya-mei (李亞梅), the Golden Horse film festival's vice secretary general said. "We organized this free festival, with content to be screened at 20 venues around the country, to break such perceptions and give more people the opportunity to see the rich diversity of our documentary productions."

The films were selected according to their production values and substantiality, and will be presented in five sections: Golden Horse Awards Retrospective; Winners of Taipei Film Festival; Rhythm of Life; New Wave, New Way; Director in Focus: Yang Li-chou.

In the first two sections, audience members will have the chance to review the cream of the crop of Taiwanese documentaries such as A Secret Buried for 50 Years - A Story of Taiwanese Comfort Women (阿媽的秘密-台籍「慰安婦」的故事), a director's eulogy to his mother, Farewell 1999 (再會吧!一九九九) and To See Or Not To See (假裝看不見), a poignant story about Chinese prostitutes plying their trade in Kaohsiung.

New Wave, New Way consists of documentaries from a new generation of filmic talents that is breaking free from the didactic traditions of Taiwan's documentary cinema and injecting the medium with more creative license. The award-winning short documentary My 747 (我的七四七) is up-and-coming director Hou Ji-ran's (侯季然) study of Taipei city narrated through his beaten-up scooter, while BARK: Part 1 of Crouching Dog, Hidden Chicken (狗跳雞飛之一:狗幹) presents a quirky tale featuring freelance debt collectors.

After receiving critical acclaim for Jump Boys, director Lin Yu-xian (林育賢) shows off his experimental idiosyncrasies in Pray for Graffiti (鴉之王道), while Hard Good Life (雜菜記) is replete with the poetic visual aesthetics of a father-daughter relationship that is depicted through a reflexive gaze.

Also leaning toward the experimental end of the cinematic spectrum is director-in-focus, Yang Li-chou (楊力州). A veteran documentary filmmaker, Yang uses his unique sensibilities and filmic grammar to examine the hard life of Taiwanese immigrants in Tokyo in Someone Else's Shinjuku East (新宿驛 , 東口以東).

Besides the free screenings at colleges and community centers, those who are interested can also take advantage of Chunghwa Telecom's Multimedia-on-Demand service and watch the documentary programs on its broadband network until mid-June.

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