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.
“We want to introduce to local documentary filmmakers the idea and practice of how to work with diverse social agents and increase the social influence of documentary cinema,” Lai points out.
On a less serious but equally important note, influential figures in the design and art spheres are under the limelight at the design film festival curated by the Urban Nomad team as part of the Taiwan Designers’ Week, a rapidly expanding platform for the country’s creative professionals. This year, the event comprises several themed exhibitions, workshops, forums and a design bazaar at the Flora Expo Park.
Among a compact selection of seven documentary films, Design is One: Lella & Massimo Vignelli reveals both the creative process and loving relationship shared by the husband-and-wife team, whose lifelong works include New York City’s subway diagram and signage and are regarded as the pinnacle of the modernist design in the US after World War II.
Also considered among the world’s most important modernist designers, the late Ray and Charles Eames come back to life in Eames: The Architect and the Painter, which looks at the married couple as two original geniuses not only famous for their mid-century furniture but for leaving a legacy that touches aspects of contemporary life.
Meanwhile, fans of Cindy Sherman’s art are given a behind-the-scenes glimpse into her personal life in the film Guest of Cindy Sherman. Co-directed and produced by Sherman’s ex-boyfriend Paul Hasegawa-Overacker, aka Paul H-O, the delightful documentary chronicles the five-year relationship between the artist and Paul H-O, offering an insightful look into Sherman and her works. In a lighthearted way, the film also portrays the humiliation of being the obscure significant other of an art goddess.
Other creative figures featured at the festival include architect Rem Koolhaas and Tomi Ungerer, an eccentric author of children’s books whose erotic art got him banned from New York’s publishing industry. For those interested in other activities offered by the Taiwan Designers’ Week, visit www.designersweek.tw.
What: 2013 Taipei Documentary Film Festival — Education? Education! (2013國際華人紀錄片影展—教育?教育!)
When: Today through Oct. 6
Where: Auditorium at Dunnan Eslite Bookstore (誠品敦南店B2), B2, 245, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市敦化南路一段245號B2) and Spot Huashan Cinema (光點華山電影館), 1, Bade Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市八德路一段1號)
Tickets: NT$120 per screening, available through 7-Eleven ibon, FamilyMart (全家) FamiPort and Hi-Life (萊爾富) Life-ET kiosks and ERA ticketing or online at www.ticket.com.tw
On the Net: fest.cnex.org.tw
What: Urban Nomad X Design Cinema (城市游牧X設計影展)
When: Today through Oct. 6
Where: Dome at the Flora Expo Park (台北花博公園爭艷館), 1 Yumen St, Taipei City (台北市玉門街1號)
Tickets: NT$170 in advance, NT$200 at the door, available online at tickets.books.com.tw
On the Net: designcinema.urbannomad.tw