The year-end film festival season officially begins today with not one but two events curated to appeal to a variety of moviegoers. Parents, students and educators are likely to be spurred into action or to simply feel inspired by this year’s Taipei Documentary Film Festival (國際華人紀錄片影展), which explores issues surrounding education.
Across town, design enthusiasts will flock to the Flora Expo Park (台北花博公園), where Urban Nomad (城市游牧) teams up with Taiwan Designers’ Week (台灣設計師週) for the second time to create Urban Nomad X Design Cinema (城市游牧X設計影展), a film festival that aims to reveal the minds of designers, architects, artists and other creative professionals.
Over on the scholastic side, education reform, digital education and school bullying are among the topics examined through the lineup of 45 documentary, animated and short films from 15 countries put forth by festival organizer Chinese Next, or CNEXT, a nonprofit organization that helps create documentary projects by disbursing money to aspiring filmmakers in Chinese-speaking regions. While looking for documentaries dealing with current affairs and global trends, the festival also wants to show works addressing challenges and problems relevant to Taiwanese society, according to festival curator Lai Chen-lin (賴珍琳).
“Internationally, there are a great number of documentaries exploring the issue of educational inequality; some discuss policies and family education. But still, many questions relating to Taiwan’s educational system are left unanswered, especially those concerning overeducated youth and unemployment,” Lai told the Taipei Times.
One film about unemployment is Generation Jobless, which delves into the worrying situation in Canada, where the unemployment rate for young people is nearly 15 percent, and one in three university and college graduates aged 25 to 29 get by on low-skilled jobs. The filmmakers then take viewers to Switzerland and show that education is assuredly linked to unemployment rates.
The education system is under scrutiny in Waiting for Superman, which tackles provocative topics such as the power of teachers’ unions and school bureaucracies in its analysis of failing public education in the US. Meanwhile, Learn to Reform (教改學堂), a CNEX production, looks at Taiwan’s education reform over the past 20 years through the eyes of parents, students, teachers, reform advocates, government officials and critics, and places the notion of reform into a larger historical context that is closely connected to the country’s political and economic changes.
Innovative changes brought by the advance of technology is studied in Future Learning, a documentary short that reveals a digital world where the roles of school and teacher are redefined as knowledge is taught and spread online, rather than face-to-face.
The real threat of school bullying is tackled in Bully, a character-driven documentary following five teenagers and their families to offer an intimate look into the lives of the victims and how they struggle with physical and emotional abuses in everyday life. Director Lee Hirsch will attend a forum on Sunday to discuss related topics with local educators.
A collaboration with Good Pitch, an American organization that helps to forge coalition between documentary filmmakers and social groups dedicated to social, political and environmental issues, Hirsch’s film is also a successful example of how documentary cinema can bring about social action. It gave birth to the ongoing Bully Project, a national campaign to end bullying in the US. Along with several filmmakers including Hirsch, representatives from Good Pitch will lead few seminars at CNEX’s Chinese Doc Forum, an annual event that takes place concurrently with the film festival and aims to connect filmmakers in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China with international producers and distributors.