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INTERVIEW: Director outlines evolution of documentary

Our Youth in Taiwan director Fu Yue said in an interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) staff reporter Lan Tsu-wei that she has a crowdfunding campaign to screen her award-winning documentary worldwide

Our Youth in Taiwan director Fu Yue gestures during an interview in Taipei on Feb. 20.

Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): “Our Youth in Taiwan” (我們的青春,在台灣), a documentary about the 2014 Sunflower movement, last year won best documentary at the Taipei Film Festival and the Golden Horse Awards. The title of the film reveals two key points: Youth and Taiwan. What were your considerations in naming it that?

Fu Yue (傅榆): In the film, the exchange student from China, Cai Boyi (蔡博藝), wrote a book titled I Am in Taiwan (我在臺灣,我正青春) about her observations and reflections while studying in Taiwan. I thought this title was very good and fit her personality and what she did. Precisely because she is still young and still curious, she absorbs new ideas like a sponge.

This film also talks about the youth of the filmmaker and those who were filmed. After the editing was complete, I told Cai: “This documentary is no longer simply talking about the youth of you and [Sunflower movement leader] Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), but has turned into our youth.”

She agreed that the title Our Youth in Taiwan was good because this youth belongs to us. This is a film that documents part of our growth process.

Including “Taiwan” in the title of the film was my insistence. I once went through a process of searching for my identity. Strictly speaking, I am a second-generation Southeast Asian-Chinese. My father is a Malaysian-Chinese and my mother is an Indonesian-Chinese. After searching for many years, I have come to identity myself as Taiwanese.

I hope that the place, country and environment we live in would improve. I am just a regular person, yet I hope Taiwan can break out of its international diplomatic and economic predicament, and even allow more people around the world to pay attention to the nation’s situation. Therefore I wanted to put “Taiwan” in the title.

If, in the future, this film is screened overseas, audiences would be able to tell from the title that this film is about people and events in Taiwan.

LT: In the film, the director becomes one of the characters; the director is no longer simply documenting the events from the sidelines. What are your thoughts on inserting yourself into the documentary?

Fu: Originally, I did not want to do this. I edited 12 versions of the film. The first version was 200 minutes long. At the time, I found myself at a low point. I completed the rough cut that the bidding process needed with a “just get it over with” attitude.

When I showed it to director Shen Ko-shang (沈可尚), he said that while it was excellent, he could not tell what the film wanted to express. “Where are you? What are your reflections?” he asked. He suggested that I add narration.

At the time, I felt a bit defeated, because I believed excellent documentaries should be like A Rolling Stone (築巢人), for which Shen took the Taipei Film Festival’s NT$1 million [US$32,360] top prize, which communicated 1,000 words using only the lens.

The advice Shen gave me then was: “Everything in the film is in the past.”

He suggested that I go back and discuss the present with Chen and Cai. So I edited another 100-minute version in which I asked them to look back on their past selves.

In the filming process this time around, I lost my composure and cried. It was out of control — very embarrassing, but also very honest. Thus, in the third version, I included the crying. I slowly adjusted that cut into the final product.

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