Thu, Apr 18, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Movie review: Our youth in Taiwan

With the stardom of youth activists Chen Wei-ting and Cai Boyi fading after controversies, director Fu Yue reflects on the many years filming them and puts together a subtly emotive and personal account of youthful idealism and how that changes

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Fu Yue, right, directs Our Youth in Taiwan, a documentary about youth activists Chen Wei-ting and Cai Boyi.

Photo courtesy of atmovies.com

We’ve heard enough about Fu Yue’s (傅榆) acceptance speech for best documentary at last November’s Golden Horse Awards, where she drew Chinese ire for stating that she hopes Taiwan can be treated as a truly independent entity. Now let’s look at the winning documentary.

On the surface, Our Youth in Taiwan follows a standard documentary format by following Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) and Cai Boyi (蔡博藝) through a dramatic period of their lives. Chen becomes one of the leaders of the Sunflower movement and Cai, one of the first Chinese undergraduate students in Taiwan, participated in a number of social movements and wrote a popular book, I Am in Taiwan (我在臺灣,我正青春), about her experiences. The two know each other and appear at many of the same events, but they generally live out two parallel storylines. Chen openly expresses his distaste for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), while Cai is often the only Chinese student at student protests — even those that carry anti-China connotations.

Those who follow the news will know that these two characters’ blazing youth and meteoric rise to fame (or notoriety) was cut short by controversy, more of which below, and they faded into the background, never becoming the influential powers of social change Fu envisioned when she started filming them in 2011. But it seems that Fu is affected the most by their downfalls, as she had been living vicariously through Chen and Cai, who were doing things that she did not have the drive for. As such, Fu becomes just as part of the story, her narration often revealing her insecurities, personal thoughts and hopes for social change. She may not have their moxie, but she shares their persistence and idealism. It’s a gamble for the filmmaker to insert herself too much into the film — especially in this case where she clearly admires, and even envies her subjects — but on the other hand, it’s better to just admit it and make it part of the story.

Film Notes

Our Youth in Taiwan

(我們的青春,在台灣)

DIRECTED BY:

Fu Yue (傅榆)

LANGUAGE: Mandarin and Taiwanese with English and Chinese subtitles

RUNNING TIME:

117 Minutes

TAIWAN RELEASE:

In theaters


Fu admits to struggling with this, as she originally believed that a good documentary should just speak through the lens. But if she decided to take the alternative route, perhaps she could have even inserted herself more as her background is also complex. Fu is a second-generation Southeast Asian Chinese who fully identifies as Taiwanese and supports Taiwanese independence despite her family’s allegiance to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). Surprisingly, little of this is mentioned in the film, as she plays herself off as a nobody following two rock stars around. Her background and personality could provide the third contrast between Chen and Cai, and could have sparked more insightful conversations between the three. Alas, Fu could not have known in the beginning as she didn’t decide to be part of the film until late in the editing process.

Somehow it still works, forming an interesting dynamic — the three don’t actually interact much on screen, but somehow it becomes a deeply personal account about the three of them, their youthful ambition and their changing attitudes and hopes toward realizing social change when faced with reality. This is why the film stands out from being just a recounting of a social movement — in fact, Fu missed the beginning of the March 2014 occupation of the Legislative Yuan — it’s more of a subtly emotive memoir and ode to those days of being naive and fearless.

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