Fri, Oct 27, 2006 - Page 17 News List

South by southeast

Taiwan's International Documentary Festival finds a new home in Taichung this year


The Up Series looks at the British class system by examining the lives of 14 subjects through interviews.


Taipei's loss is Taichung's gain.

With much fanfare, the Taiwan International Documentary Festival (TIDF) has bid farewell to the nation's capital, home to the biennial event for the last decade, and moved south to Taichung under the auspices of the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts.

This year's format was patterned after a similar festival held by New York City's Museum of Fine Arts (MoMA), festival director Jane Yu (游惠貞) said.

“New York's MoMA has built up an extensive film archive since 1935 and staged Documentary Fortnight [an annual showcase for non-fiction cinema] since 2000. So we think it was only proper to choose the most reputed museum as our model,” said Yu, a veteran programmer who is TIDF curator for the third time.

MoMA has organized one of this year's programs, American Documentary 1920s — Now. It features 12 films chosen as representative of breakthroughs in cinematic form and vocabulary over the history of documentary filmmaking. Sally Berger, the assistant curator of MoMA's Department of Film and Media, will share her institution's experiences with local professionals and museum administrators in a lecture.

To further integrate film into the museum space, a program titled Horizon will screen five interdisciplinary shorts in the museum's spacious exhibition room, much like video art pieces are presented in a fine arts gallery.

Another peculiar feature of this year's festival is its director in focus, Artur Zmijewski. A radical who defies documentary cinema's ethics in realizing his extreme concepts, the Polish filmmaker has created a series of constructed works on bodily dysfunctions and the physicality of human beings in relation to their intellectual and spiritual dimensions.

Performance Notes:

What: Taiwan International Documentary Festival 2006 (2006台灣國際紀錄片雙年展)Where: National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts (國立台灣美術館) at 2 Wuchuang W Rd Sec 1, Taichung (台中市五權西路一段2號); Taichung City Bureau of Cultural Affairs (台中市文化局) at 600 Yingcai Rd, Taichung (台中市英才路600號); National Museum of Natural Science (國立自然科學博物館) at 1 Guancian Rd, Taichung (台中市館前路1號)When: Today through Nov. 5Tickets: NT$30 through ERA ticket outlets or at the Net: For more information, visit

Whether it is quadriplegics making failed attempts to walk with the assistance of able-bodied men in Out For a Walk or a choir of severely hearing-impaired children singing Bach's Cantata 147 in Singing Lesson 2, Zmijewski's works force audiences to take a close but uncomfortable look at the subjects' bodies and accept the otherness of their worlds in order to challenge social constructs of what it means to be human.

The winner of the Golden Lion Award at this year's Venice International Film Festival for his latest feature Still Life (三峽好人), Chinese director Jia Zhangke (賈樟柯) will pay his first visit to Taiwan to screen his documentary Dong (東), which follows painter Liu Xiaodong's (劉小東) journey through the Three Gorges and Bangkok. Meanwhile, five Taiwanese directors will compete with each other in the international competition section, with works covering diverse forms and content ranging from betel nut beauties and corporal punishment to the lost history of Taiwanese child laborers who were sent to Japan to build fighter planes during World War II.

One of festival director Yu's favorites is the Up Series, by Hollywood director Michael Apted. The ongoing series was first produced by Britain's Granada Television network in 1964, when 14 children from different social backgrounds were chosen as subjects and revisited by the crew every seven years to shed light on the British class system.

Also aiming to become a platform for Asian documentary cinema, the festival turns to Southeast Asia this year for a line-up that includes inspiring works by four internationally acclaimed filmmakers from the region. Cambodia's Rithy Panh merges documentary with theater in The Actors of the Burned-out Theatre, in which he follows five Cambodian artists searching for a form of expression in a country whose traditional culture was severely damaged, and almost eradicated under Pol Pot's murderous regime. Malaysian director Amir Muhammad's The Last Communist is a semi-musical documentary that mixes interviews with “specially composed songs in the mould of old-fashioned propaganda films,” to tell the life story of Chin Peng, the exiled leader of the now-disbanded Malayan Communist Party. The film was banned in Malaysia earlier this year.

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