Fri, Sep 07, 2007 - Page 17 News List

Social causes feature at Iron Horse Social causes feature at Iron Horse

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

The Corporation by US directors Mark Achbar, Jennifer Abbot and Joel Bakan. Photos: Courtesy of Coolloud Collective

The Iron Horse Film Festival brings the issues confronting sex workers, dissidents and small businesses to the big screen

Political dissenters in the Philippines have been arrested without cause, interrogated and possibly assassinated by the Philippine government. Taiwan's sex workers protest against being marginalized by the state. These unpleasant truths are set to be exposed at the Iron Horse Film Festival (鐵馬影展). Organized by the Coolloud Collective (苦勞網,, the festival strives to give voices to the violated and the oppressed from around the world.

Founded 10 years ago by a group of college students, Coolloud has evolved into the country's foremost online information platform for activists and the socially conscious.

With help from friends and volunteers, the first edition of the festival was held in 2005 as a way to bring further awareness to the issues the group covered online. "The past three years have been arduous," said Wang Yi-hua (王藝樺), Coolloud's executive secretary. "Each year we think of giving it up, but support from friends and audiences keeps us striving to make the festival a permanent event."

Local and foreign groups, such as Hong Kong's Video Artivist, South Korea's independent media center MediACT and Media Cultural Action, an independent anti-globalization media group, have all contributed in some way to this year's festival.

The result is that the festival will screen 28 documentary, feature and experimental works from Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and the US, grouped by the issue each addresses.

The White South section will feature current affairs in the Philippines, including purported political persecution, human rights violations and the suspicious death of labor union leader Ka Fort. These issues are covered in such films as Echo of Bullets, Pangulong Fort and There is Blood in Your Coffee, all made by Philippine labor group South Tagalon Exposure. Free the Sagada 11, which focuses on the plight of backpackers arrested in Sagada, will also be screened.


What: Iron Horse Film Festival (鐵馬影展)

Where and When: Today to Sept. 16 at the Chinese Taipei Film Archive (國家電影資料館); Sept. 15 and Sept. 16 at Happy Life Lo Sheng Sanatorium (樂生療養院); Sept. 12 to Sept. 20 at Hsinchu Municipal Image Museum (新竹影像博物館)

Entry: Admission to the festival is free.

On the Net: For more information, visit

Social injustices aggravated by the global spread of capitalism will be covered in another section. The award-winning The Corporation is a documentary for which 40 corporate insiders, and critics such as Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein and Michael Moore were interviewed. Grain of Sand follows hundreds of thousands of public schoolteachers who have waged a 25-year struggle against global economic forces.

The treatment of foreign workers and blue-collar workers also comes under the festival's scrutiny while The Path and 16 Takes on Korean Society reveal the broken dreams of foreign workers in South Korea. Two local films, Memoir of Miss Kuan, A Celebrated Sex Worker (一代名妓-官秀琴) and Old Chicks: Bailan and Her Girls (老查某-白蘭和她們) lay bare aged sex workers' struggles for survival after they were forced to work underground following the government ban on prostitution.

On a lighter note, US director Nic Nill spent four years documenting the history of San Francisco's graffiti scene in Piece by Piece while Cut is a hilarious underground musical film that ridicules the movie rating system in Singapore.

"The works we screen are those made by people who see films as playing an active role in social movements. We use simple language to reach out to the people ... . We understand that festivals and films can raise good questions, but cannot solve them. The festival is seen as a platform through which collaborations among groups and individuals can be made possible and audiences can be exposed to social and political issues they were hitherto unaware of," Wang said.

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