Erenlai - Focus: Free Memory 2010 TIDF
Focus: Free Memory 2010 TIDF

Focus: Free Memory 2010 TIDF

In October 2010 was held in Taichung the 7th biennial Taiwan International Documentary Festival. eRenlai was omnipresent at the festival; working in collaboration with the festival, providing festival snaps, videos and cutting-edge interviews with the best in the lonely, but precious art of documentary. The festival showed its continued prestige inviting some of the biggest names in the documentary world from North America, Europe and Asia including producers, directors, editors and cameramen whilst not turning its back on Taiwan's own documentary trade with its many workshops, lectures and the Taiwan Award. This focus will take this occasion to look at the power and importance of documentary in the contemporary world of overloaded, abused information and the flux audiovisuel and explore the festivals main theme of 'Free Memory'.

週二, 12 十月 2010

TIDF 2010

Last month saw the 7th biennial Taiwan International Documentary Festival held in Taichung. eRenlai was omnipresent at the festival; working in collaboration with the festival, providing festival snaps, videos and cutting-edge interviews with the best in the lonely, but precious art of documentary. The festival showed its continued prestige inviting some of the biggest names in the documentary world from North America, Europe and Asia including producers, directors, editors and cameramen whilst not turning its back on Taiwan's own documentary trade with its many workshops, lectures and the Taiwan Award. This focus will take this occasion to look at the power and importance of documentary in the contemporary world of overloaded, abused information and the flux audiovisuel and explore the festival's main theme of 'Free Memory'. This freeing of one's memory was best incorporated in He Si-ying's fantastic bubble head design, yet the festival also included the Memory Wall, a space where the public was invited to bring a picture that meant or signified a lot to them then the proceeding pictures taken, holding their pictures, joined the wall.

tahimik_kidlateRenlai caught up with the festivals special guests including some of the biggest names in documentary, both Taiwanese and foreign. But before any of these we interviewed with the festival director who gave us some background information about the projects and participants. They included the academic and founder of the Swiss Visions du Reel, Jean Perret; emotional and intuitive director amongst the most celebrated in the field of documentary, Heddy Honigmann; Beijing's biggest documentarist/curator since the Great Reform in China, Wu Wenguang who brings with him the documentaries produced for The Village Documentary Project and of course the king of Third World film, the dancing indo-genius Tahimik Kadlit. Furthermore we have podcasts with director of a very different type of holocaust movie, Yael Hersonski, Hong Kong director Yao Ching and Tahimik's son Kidlat.

Yet TIDF is more than just a showcase for international documentaries and a rubber stamp for multi-thousand dollar prizes. It is also a place for young aspiring directors, filmmakers and artists to learn from the experts. As such they incorporated 'family box' installations from talented children which had their origins in Sylvia Chang's GOSH Foundation. The three young winners of the competition from the year before were delighted to have their stunning video art works displayed in the MOFA gallery as well as being showcased on eRenlai. Please sit back and enjoy the works from Liu Min-chieh, Li Pei-tzu and Yang Hsin-he.

Finally, nothing can truly match up to the visual arts experience and equipment at Taichung's NTMOFA, so if you couldn't make it to the festival we bring you a taste of the cinematic experience you missed, whether it be the techplex media art centre, with its experimental screenings or the wondrous outdoor 'starlit screenings'. Indeed, it was on the 22nd October 2010 at 7pm when the helium filled balloons were released flying from the net that was our brain, way into the skies and as such we could begin with the release of these memories from all around the world hundreds of movies beginning with the first film Doc Taichung, a montage of 6 different films, made by six different directors especially for this year's 2010 festival.


To see the award winners please click here

 

 

週二, 12 十月 2010

Free Memory!

What is the difference between our memory's reality and the reality recorded in images. How can we transform, release and liberate our memory, allowing us to view the things we remember from a different perspective?

Memory is formed by history. The blind spot of memory lies in its ability to remember only that which it wishes to remember. Even so, Edward Said once said: culture is simply memory struggling not to be forgotten. Through these documentaries, which supposedly record reality, are we able to explore and understand the depths of memory, the past that has been blinded so by our prejudice? And are we able to breed understanding and concern in the wider world and to free our memory. Furthermore it is due to the presence of a camera that we bravely decide to talk of our experiences and memories. This is another level of meaning in the theme 'free memory'. Liberating our memory, does not only concern itself with objective history external to ourselves, but is also concerned with thorough retrospection on our own life and memory. Here, festival director Angelika Wang gives her own explanation of Free Memory, the main programs in this year's festival, the state of documentary and gives a few recommendations of films to look out for:

To match the theme of "Free Memory" this festival featured a memory wall - My Photo, Our Wallpaper - where you could choose a picture that meant something to you, then be photographed holding the picture which would eventually stuck on the wall. While Angelika had put up the first photo,  the opening ceremony was concluded as we all watched the proud parents of Angelika put their own picture on the wall, a tribute to the passing of memories through the generations. Perhaps by exploring this festival, you can come closer to understanding the significance and importance of documentary.

 

 

週一, 01 十一月 2010

Cinéma du Réel by Jean Perret

To show its commitment to documentary film, Taiwan allowed the necessary conditions for an exchange of knowledge from the best documentarists around the world. One particularly fruitful scheme was the DOCumentary DOCtor project, which invited young Taiwanese directors to present their projects and be given tips and advice by the experts. Alongside Janne Niskala and Min-chul Kim, Jean Perret completed the panel of experts. Jean Perret founded the Swiss documentary festival Visions du Réel in Switzerland and he is now the director of the Cinema Department of the Art Institute at the Geneva University of Arts and Design.

When Ida and Nick caught up with Jean in the VIP suite, he was delighted to tell us more of his missions in the documentary, against the flux audiovisuel (audiovisual flow) andthe inebriation of information.

Photo: Liu Lu-chen

 

週五, 22 十月 2010

Injecting art into the veins of our youth

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How would you fit your family in a box?

Bicycle pedals coming out of the sides of the box? A tree of hanging photographs? A girl with her finger on the edge of a sharp broken mirror with her grandpa’s cigarette lit and smoking above her head? Or simply a box full of glass smashed to smithereens? These were just some of the family boxes provided by the young artists from the second season of the Gosh Foundation’s Fruit Camp.

While the organizers, major directors and officials opened the 2010 Taiwan International Documentary Festival on Friday 22 October 2010, the underlying missions of the festival had begun long before, as the organizers asked: How can the seeds of creativity and collective memory be passed onto the youth? How can these young talents be nurtured to produce marvelous works?

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The self-made Taiwanese star, Sylvia Chang tried to answer these questions when she founded the Gosh Foundation, which was intended to inspire young artists to transcend the traditional artistic spectrum and keep creating. When Sylvia, a self-taught actress, singer, playwright and director, arrived in Taichung, she immediately went on a tour of the festival's installations - including the works of the ‘Family Story vs. Video Art’ installation, which were the fruits of the second Gosh Foundation ‘Fruit Camp’.

The preliminary group of young artists had to install the quintessence of their family story in one box; meanwhile, advanced students who had excelled the previous season, the original Fruit Camp, invited you into their huge boxes/makeshift homes to play with their life-size toys and view their video art works about their childhood. They had initially been asked to bring their works to be selected and refined the year previous, with the most talented receiving one on one training from top artist in a suitable artistic field.

The results of this training were astounding. In Childhood vs Childhood, Liu Ming-chieh contrasted the childhood of his grandma with his own, for example cutting between footage of his younger brother innocently playing with a paper airplane, and that of fighter jets during the Japanese colonial period, which represented how airplanes were perceived in his grandmother’s memory. Li Pei-tzu created a formidable animation video which explored her winter melon producing ‘Squash Family’- ‘squashes’ in Taiwanese can refer to short, fat people. To research these ‘family stories’ the kids had to engage their elders with questions of their youth - inheriting and developing their memories. This is a lesson that could help all youths communicate better with their elders. Finally, Yang Hsin-he visually expresses her inner struggles of a life and memory fractured between her early years in Kaohsiung and more recently in Yilan. The young artists were enthralled by the opportunity at such a young age to display their works in Taiwan’s most prestigious art museum.

 

See Min-chieh’s Childhood vs Childhood, Pei-tzu’s Squash Family or Hsin-he's Homesick

Images by Liu Lu-chen

週四, 28 十月 2010

Family box vs video art: Homesick

Yang Hsin-he was one of the advanced students from the first season Gosh Foundation ‘Fruit Camp’. The three advanced students Family Story vs. Video Art installations, which were displayed in the middle of gallery street, the quintessence of their family story into one box; their huge boxes/makeshift homes to play with life-size toys from their childhood and with their video art works being shown in the middle. They had initially been asked to bring their works to be selected and refined previous, with the most talented young artists receiving one on one instruction from top artist in their chosen field. Yang Hsin-he's instructor for this project was Yao Jui-chung.

I was born in Kaohsiung but now live in Yilan. So far my life has been divided into two parts: I am now in Yilan, but my childhood was spent in Kaohsiung. There were so many things that happened in Yilan that is hard for me to make it clear right now. But I am sorry to say that most of the things I remember in Kaohsiung as a child have already disappeared now. I created this work just to get back to those places that were meaningful for me in my childhood and to visit the lands I was once family with.

Images by Liu Lu-chen

週四, 28 十月 2010

Family box vs video art: Squash Family

Li Pei-tzu was one of the advanced students from the first season Gosh Foundation ‘Fruit Camp’. The three advanced students Family Story vs. Video Art installations, which were displayed in the middle of gallery street, the quintessence of their family story into one box; their huge boxes/makeshift homes to play with life-size toys from their childhood and with their video art works being shown in the middle. They had initially been asked to bring their works to be selected and refined previous, with the most talented young artists receiving one on one instruction from top artist in their chosen field. Li Pei-tzu's instructor for her 'Family box vs video art project' was Shih Ming-hui.

They call me the shorty, because I am short and fat and with short legs… you must have heard the song about a short guy. Those 'squashes' (a phrase that used in Taiwanese dialect to refer to the short persons) you find in my works are all my family members. Why did I choose squash? Because like squash, I am also fat, short and have short legs. This animation has recorded some of the interesting things that happened to my family. I hope the animation can remind you of all the precious moments, including those funny ones you shared with your family. I don’t want to spoil the fun for you so just watch it yourself. Ha Ha~~

週三, 27 十月 2010

Family box vs video art: Children x Children

Liu Min-chieh was one of the advanced students from the first season Gosh Foundation ‘Fruit Camp’. The three advanced students Family Story vs. Video Art installations, which were displayed in the middle of gallery street, the quintessence of their family story into one box; their huge boxes/makeshift homes to play with life-size toys from their childhood and with their video art works being shown in the middle. They had initially been asked to bring their works to be selected and refined previous, with the most talented young artists receiving one on one instruction from top artist in their chosen field. Liu Ming-Chieh's instructor was Yuen Kuang-ming.

In Childhood x Childhood, Liu Ming-chieh contrasted the childhood of his grandma with his own, for example cutting between footage of his younger brother innocently playing with a paper airplane, and that of fighter jets during the Japanese colonial period, which represented how airplanes were perceived in his grandmother’s memory. He contrasts the learning of the Japanese alphabet for his grandmother, with his learning of a Mandarin phonetic alphabet used in Taiwan.“Time is different now,” said my grandmother to me in a Taiwanese dialect as she recollected her past. I still remember these words profoundly. Two utterly different childhoods between my grandmother's and my own. They are more than half a century apart from each other. In my work I wanted to express what my grandmother wanted to say, but I couldn’t really hear what she could hear and vice versa. There seemed to be no connection between her generation and mine. Yet the two childhoods, 63 years apart are somehow connected by the changes and variations. Two memories; two memories in different childhoods. I wanted to reflect on the changing times with my work. Furthermore, I wanted to extend a hand to my grandma, the work to serve as a reflection on the modern environment.

 

週三, 27 十月 2010

Directing Intuition: When you are making a film, leave the window open

In October 2010, Taiwan International Documentary Festival welcomed Heddy Honigmann as their special guest. eRenlai & TIDF interviewed her under the watchful eye of her own camera.

Born in Peru to Polish Jewish immigrants, Heddy Honigman moved around the world a lot before eventually settling in Holland. She went from literature, to poetry, where she realized she was writing her poem though a series of images and that what she really wanted to do was make films. Yet even in film Heddy has alternated between fiction and documentary. Added to the various languages she speaks, her lifestyle has always had a nomadic touch: “It sounds cliché but I am from everywhere. If I had been in Taiwan and young, I would become Taiwanese. I can root anywhere; I call it a gift for film”. For Heddy, film is closely related to memory. Her family members were great story tellers, especially the women. Her mum said “the world is full of horrible things,” but that “you can’t cry about everything in life”. You have to approach everything with a degree of humor and irony. “You have to live and smile a little, or die.”

Heddy says: "When you are making a film, leave the window open." The art of improvisation is more important when your making documentary. You have a dialogue, not an interview. For example when asked: How do you capture their inner reactions? She retorted: How do you kiss a woman? It’s different every time. It either works or it doesn’t. For example the former Bosnian War soldier in Crazy. He had sweaty hands. He kept looking down. He told me once that he had tried to commit suicide. He was willing to tell me this. Why? I was talking to him like I talk to a person, I only film people, I had tears running down my face because of some of the stuff he told me. Of course I stopped myself making any sounds. But I was listening to him because I was genuinely interested in him and what he was telling me.

Do you observe people for a while before deciding to interview them? Have you already built up a relationship with your subjects?

It depends. Most of the time, I research. I make sure the supporting pillars are in place. I make sure the film is possible. I then search for 3 or 4 characters that are so strong that they will always remain in the film, even if it gets difficult. I might find them in the street, or the cemetery; it’s intuition. I am looking for ‘film characters’. Some people may have interesting content but when they communicate there is no emotion. Some of the people in my films rival Robert De Niro. For example in Crazy, it was very important which music the soldier was listening too; I maintained a veto on Mariah Carey. I dream up my characters. In my dream they would be playing Janis Joplin’s Summertime. In a way it is at type of casting, but the process is open and while filming you can find many new beautiful characters. For instance, in Forever, I randomly encountered a woman in the cemetery. We were eating apples in the tree shade, she walked by and said “bon appetit”, so we caught up with her and asked her for an interview. In it, she revealed that her husband, who was twenty years younger than her, had died from a bee sting, just three years after their marriage. It was a very strong story. All I knew was that she had been visiting a tomb; my intuition told me there was a story there. I am very curious by nature; I never have a complete plan. I hate documentaries where you feel the questions are already prepared. For example the interviewee says her father is dead and then the next question you ask is: “How long have you been in Taiwan?”

In the work Crazy, you ask the interviewee to play a song, which seems to be an emotional medium to trace back through their memory. Meanwhile you continue filming them until near the end of their song.  If I were filming you about your life or a memory, what would be playing?

The film would definitely be full of Bach. He is a master, a genius in joy. Wherever I go, Bach is my home in exile. Also, recently when I was frustrated and all was going wrong, I opened an old file about 10 years old. It had Madonna, George Michael, and the Rolling Stones. So now I have a cocktail of music on a file, which always brings my sprits back and makes everything better.

How do you deal with strong emotional reactions from your subjects? In Oblivion for example you persisted in questioning the shoeshine boy despite his apparent discomfort.

With the shoeshine boy, reality was giving me a slap. He had no dreams, nothing, it was blank. So in a natural way, you respect the moment, the silence, but you know you have to continue – you cannot leave the person alone with his problems. For instance with the women whose husband died, there was no second thoughts; I reacted in the most natural way possible. I said “C’est terrible” because it simply was horrible. In the end, she looked at me and I looked back. She understood that it was the end and simply left. It was a beautiful moment. When the soldiers in Crazy hear the music they love, some would eventually look at me in a way that says “Please, stop the torture” and as soon as I see that, I immediately turn off the camera. I just have to stop. Sometimes when you film, you trespass over the frontier. You see that you went too far. I’m very much aware, that when you make a documentary, you use people. So you need to respect them a lot, you can’t squeeze them.

週二, 02 十一月 2010

Documenting his own reality: The films of Kidlat Tahimik

The first film directed by and starring Kidlat Tahimik is Perfumed Nightmare (1977). He is a Phillipines born director who released this film with the help of Francis Ford Coppola. Although his films were shown as part of the documentary film festival in Taizhong at the end of October, they do not follow the style of the conventional documentary, and incorporate what could be called performance art, or a performative rendition of memory, experience and emotion.

The director, in what seem to be fictionalized sequences, traces his memory of setting out from the Phillipines to France and then the US. The director seems to attempt an experiential or sensous recreation of the trip. First setting out from his imagination of the West, a kind of Occidentalist structure with its foundation in Voice of America broadcasts and dealings with American soldiers and later recognizing the error in this imaginary of the West. The film employs a lot of surrealist imagery to fragment the logic of the narrative and the events on screen quite often happen in contradiction to the narrative voice of the film.

The film seemed to be countering the notion that modernization in the guise of progress is a good blueprint for what in the West is referred to as "The Third World". The protagonist who had been eager for progress to occur rescinds his membership from a fan club of an immigrant to America who helped to build the Apollo space shuttle. This signals his realization that the American dream is not the path to happiness. At first he is awed by France but as he grows accustomed to life there, he realizes that technological progress does not endow places or things with the meanings and emotions that places and things are endowed with in his hometown. The faceless encroach of the supermarket on the 4 seasons market confirms for him this absence of meaning that he comes upon in the West. Despite his ever more caustic tone in his films, Tahimik, in his interview with erenlai.com, insists that he is not anti-Western in his sentiments, but rather feels that the contemporary world could benefit from the application of aboriginal values to modern life, the indi-genius way, as he calls it. A theme he goes on to develop in his film Why is Yellow the Middle of the Rainbow (1994), suggesting that "old ways" are essentially an untapped resource in terms o_MG_0912f conservation and ecology; what he calls "an inbuilt brake system" Although used in an ironic tone in this later film, he adopts the dichotomy of first and second world on one hand and "the third world" on the other, dividing the world into "indigenous" and "Western" peoples, he seems to buy into this way of categorizing the world, which in essence is a result of a Western ethnocentric psyche. He traces the recent social and political events of the Philippines through the eyes of his son, Kidlat. He seems to be continually harking back to an imagined "non-Westernized" Filippino nation, embodied in his mind, in the Igorot aborigines. This is stressed in another of his films, his 1981 film Turumba, narrated from the perspective of a young boy called Kadu, gives an account of the dehumanizing effects of the European system of mass production on the village where Kadu lives. The local craft of Papier-mâché prepared for a local festival called "Turumba" is distorted and homogenized by a German woman who starts to export the craft works to Germany en masse. What had originally been a family enterprise laden with tradition, becomes a sudo-sweat shop, and the models that had been used before are discarded for the 1971 Munich Olympic Games mascot. Kadu's father who originally had been the Kantore at the festival every year becomes the boss of this enterprise and becomes obsessed with accruing status symbols of wealth, including a TV, a Mercedes Benz, foreign travel. This material wealth is contrasted to Pati, a machete maker, who lives simply but happily without the pressures of trying to prove wealth in material possessions.

 

The theme of both of these films along with Tahimik's debut film, Perfumed Nightmare, talk of a disillusion with the Western "developed world" and a pastoral longing for a simpler life uncomplicated by a imported system of values. These films reminded me somewhat of the short story 蕭蕭 (Xiaoxiao) by 沈從文 (Shen Congwen). The short story, in one interpretation, conveys a longing for life on the margins of civilization, as yet untouched by modernization. The old society's rules and laws although seemingly chauvinistic and oppressive are regulated by the institutions and the men and women within the society. This is represented within the story by the horrible things we hear about how women are treated in the society in which Xiaoxiao lives, but the relatively benign treatment of the protagonist herself, which denies us a feminist reading of the story. This suggests the pre-Western society had already evolved an independent "Chinese Modernism", the potential of which was lost with over-exposure to Western modernism. The film like this short story seem to be praising this cultural wilderness while simultaneously acknowledging its coming destruction. Both the film and the short story question the prizing of the modern above the native, and seem to point to an already void desire to found an alternative Eastern modernism, independent of the perils of what is often called "The American Dream".

 

Some excellent bits of the first film include the Filippino cast "whiting up" in a scene where they act as the white guests at a farewell party that make Kidlat feel small, prompting him to say:

I am Kidlat Tahimik, I'm not as small as you think, nothing can stop me from crossing my bridge.


Another scene, earlier on in the film, is where religious self flagellation is portrayed, and Kidlat goes to pray to the Virgin Mary, who speaks to him in a very crude manner, revealing the snideness of an icon who demands the pain of self-flaggelation. Mary describes Kidlat in the garb of self-flaggelation as "sexy". In his interview he discusses in more detail his relationship with religion, particularly Catholicism. Which he sees not as an enemy but as a circumstance, which has interfered with the cultural brake mechanism in the Philippines.

His apparent view of Western culture is summarized in his first film as follows:
 
 
The white carabao is rare, it is born against nature. The white carabao is beautiful but inside its cold and aggressive. One day, Kidlat, you will understand that the beauty of the white carabao is like the sweetness of the chewing gum the American soldiers gave you.

This seems to me to indicate the illusion created by Eastern imagination of the Occident and the subsequent disillusion that it begets.

A Clip from Perfumed Nightmare

週日, 31 十月 2010

The Un-Bollywood

“We are fed up”.

So says one of the Nats, a community of street performers in eastern India, featured in the documentary King of India.  As itinerant performers existing on the margins of society, the Nats pass through the markets, street corners and fairs of metropolitan India, eeking out a living by putting on shows. Another day, another dirty slab of concrete, another set of headstands and tightrope walking.  Possessing the dual charms of athleticism and cuteness, the child performers grind out their show several times a day, hoping to bring in enough rupees to keep their family afloat. The kids’ energetic dance and acrobat routines are driven by rhythms pounded out an old drum and tin plate rattling against the ground.  Squint your eyes, muffle your ears and maybe you might mistake it for a big ticket Bollywood number.  Or maybe not.  The dust and desperation of these children is the Un-Bollywood.  The throbbing beats and gyrating hips filtered through the dusty melange of Kolkata’s backstreets offers us a different story altogether.

 

The King of India is just one of several films about India and South Asia that were screening at the 7th Taiwan International Documentary Festival in Taichung.  These depictions of struggle are far removed from the all-singing, all-dancing entertainment juggernaut that is Bollywood.  In addition to King of India, I also saw Dreaming Taj Mahal and three of the Journeys with Kabir tetralogy.

 

Dreaming Taj Mahal tells the story of a Pakistani driver, Haidar, whose lifelong dream is to visit India’s Taj Mahal. Frustrated by small-minded village life, government propaganda and the semipermeable membrane of the Indo/Pak border, Haidar never gives up his dream of visiting the Taj.  He lives in a world where fear of the Other conspires to trap him.  The restrictive duality based on Hindu and Muslim differences that shapes Indo/Pak relations is nothing new though, Kabir had already dealt with similar issues in an altogether different era.

 

Kabir was a poet who lived 500 years ago in India and the Journeys with Kabir films look at his contested legacy.  Kabir sought a more inclusive society through religious tolerance.  His poems have long existed in an oral tradition and are kept alive in many different ways.  The director, Shabnam Virmani, stated “the more people I meet, the more Kabirs I meet”. Almost everyone seems to have a different interpretation of Kabir’s poems, from the universal view of the protagonist, Dalit (untouchable) folk musician Prahlad Tipanya, to the more dogmatic and exclusivist position of some of the pundits and experts met on the roads and rails of India. The Journeys with Kabir filmsoffer a probing look into the forces that shape contemporary India, from communalism to globalisation, with an ever-present folk soundtrack.  For fans of Indian folk music, the Kabir movies are worth watching for the extensive concert footage alone.

 

These stories are given time to unfold and are uncluttered, especially Journeys with Kabir.  The characters have space to talk, to let their feelings flow.  The ambient (and not so ambient) sounds of India reverberate throughout – car horns, train station announcements, heated finger-waving discussions.  The India shown here is the flipside of years of economic development.  Those in the village and those who have moved from the village to the city in search of a better life aren’t shown to be sharing in the spoils of India’s growth.  They survive in a world where the politics of caste continue to shape one’s destiny.

 

As opposed to the glitzy glamour Bollywood, these movies are better seen in the context of subaltern studies.  Writers in the subaltern studies group have long attempted to give a voice to those who are neglected by most historical accounts, an approach that can be equally applied to film.

 

For several decades writers from the subaltern studies group have been generating a view of history that locates the place of minority, repressed or low class people within the context of post-colonial societies.  The work of these writers can help explain how the lower castes remain on the fringes of Indian history.  Evolving from the work of Antonio Gramsci, subaltern refers to non-elite or subordinated groups.  A large number of groups have this status in India as they are marginalised by their caste or other socio-economic factors.  According to Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak[1], the existence of the subaltern is an unavoidable product of the discourse generated by elites.  This discourse in India has been primarily concerned with the democratic progress towards modernity and is found in the media and history books.  The subaltern is thus “marginalized not because of any conscious intentions but because they represent moments or points at which the archive that the historian mines develops a degree of intractability with respect to the aims of professional history”[2].

 

The characters in these movies all occupy the role of the subaltern.  Be it the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan, the struggle for equality for the lower castes or the ferocious forces of globalisation that threaten to leave large portions of the Indian population behind as the country modernises, these events are so large that the voices of the marginalised can be easily drowned out.  Watching the Indian selection from the 7th Taiwan International Documentary Festival won’t necessarily be an entertaining couple of hours, but it will be eye opening.  The frustrations of the characters in these movies say so much more about the unfortunate reality of so many in India than your average Bollywood extravaganza could ever hope to.

You can watch the Journeys with Kabir tetralogy at http://www.cultureunplugged.com/

 


[1] Gyatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography” in Ranajit Guha (editor), Subaltern Studies IV, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1985.

[2] Dipesh Chakrabarty, “Minority Histories, Subaltern Pasts” in Saurabh Dube (editor), Postcolonial Passages: Contemporary History-writing on India, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2004.

 

週一, 01 十一月 2010

Festival Awards TIDF 2010

On 30th October 2010 the results of the awards for the Taiwan International Documentary Festival were released. The awards were divided into International Feature Length Competition, International Short Film Competition, Asia Vision Award and the Taiwan award. The jurors had been carefully watching the nominated films which had originally been selected from 1527 submissions received in 2010, to reduce them to the final 12 prize winners. The films were shown on the last day of the festival and will be shown at the Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival in November. The results for the 2010, 7th Taiwan International Documentary Festival Award Winnerare as follows:

International Feature Length Competition

Award

Title

Director

Grand Prize

In The Garden of Sounds

Switzerland

Nicola Bellucci

Merit Prize

Let the Wind Carry Me

Taiwan

Chiang Hsiu-chiung, Kwan Pun-leung

Merit Prize

War Don Don

Sierra Leone

Rebecca Richman Cohen

Jury’s Special Mention

The Woman with the 5 Elephants

Germany, Switzerland

Vadim Jendreyko

International Short Film Competition

Award

Title

Director

Grand Prize

Countryside 35x45

Russia

Evgeny Solomin

Merit Prize

Divine Pig

Netherlands

Hans Dortmans

Merit Prize

In Case of Loss of Pressure

Belgium

Sarah Moon Howe

 


Asia Vision Award

Award

Title

Director

Grand Prize

Passion

Mongolia

Byamba Sakhya

Merit Prize

Amin

Canada, Iran, South Korea

Shahin Parhami

Jury’s Special Mention

Iron Crows

South Korea

Bong-namPark

Taiwan Award

Award

Title

Director

Grand Prize

Hand in Hand (牽阮的手)

Yen Lan-chuan, Juang Yi-tzeng (顏蘭權、莊益增)

Special Jury Prize

Nimbus (帶水雲)

A-yao Huang (黃信堯)

Jury’s Special Mention

Avoiding Vision (是你嗎?)

Chen Yuan-chen (陳婉真)

Audience Choice Award

Award

Title

Director

Audience Choice International Award

 

I Shot My Love

Germany, Israel

Tomer Heymann

Audience Choice Taiwan Award

Let the Wind Carry Me

(乘著光影旅行)

Chiang Hsiu-chiung, Kwan Pun-leung

(姜秀瓊、關本良)

 

A fantastically immersive sensory experience and one which resonates long after it is viewed by the audience was Nicola Bellucci’s In The Garden of Sounds which won the Grand Prize for the International Feature Length Competition. This film sets itself apart from regular narrative treatments because we are allowed to enter the sensory world of both the main character and those children whom he transforms. The Merit Prize went to Taiwan’s Let the Wind Carry Me which opens up to be an inner portrait of an artist as a human being. The film displays great cinematic qualities and it seamlessly weaves itself into the life and work of one of the world’s great poetic cinematographers, Mark Lee. Director Chiang Hsiu-chiung especially brought her son up on stage when receiving the Merit Prize. Rebecca Richman Cohen’s War Don Don received the other Merit Prize for a film about a war crimes case following Sierra Leone’s civil war which displays the human tendency to judge and be self righteous with our media biased knowledge. Finally A Woman and 5 Elephants was given a jury’s special mention.

Evgeny Solomin who won the International Short Film Competition Grand Prize in 2002 for his film Katorga, won the award again this year with his film Countryside 35x45, full of unforgettable images captured in black and white. Heddy Honigman said of Countryside 35X45 that “the stories are as touching as the images we see”. The first of the two Merit Prizes was handed to Divine Pig, in which Hans Dortmans gives you all the beef (or should I say bacon?) regarding the irony of life choices, as he follows a butcher and his favourite pig…all the way to the slaughtering house. The other Merit Prize went to In Case of Loss of Pressure, where a Sarah Moon Howe who was close to breaking down, took up the camera, and filmed the struggles of her previous life as a stripper with a young boy suffering from symptomatic epilepsy. The film is a sincere response to real life difficulties.

The Grand Prize for the Asian Vision Award went to Byamba Sakhya’s Passion, an honest, touching and open film in which Sakhya gives us his vision of the present state of Mongolian cinema and its inheritance from the past. Shahin Parhami’s Amin won a Merit Prize for this film about lost origins, skilfully combining individual loneliness with the whole nation’s love of music, as it follows the fate of a dying music. Finally, director Bong-nam Park, who was one of the three foreign guests running the DOCumentary DOCtor workshop this year, received the Jury’s Special Mention for Iron Crows, whose lens displayed a silhouette of Asia in the globalizing world. Its close up observation of workers in a Bangladeshi ship destruction yard reveals the absurdity and ruthlessness of human civilization. These pieces were all charming and touching pieces of Asian cinema.

Yen Lan-chuan and Juang Yi-tseng previously won the Taiwan Award Grand Prize for their film The Last Rice Farmer (無米樂). They won it again this year with Hand in Hand (牽阮的手). Juror Wu Wenguang, an important Chinese documentarist said that this film told a moving, sad love story which was full of drama and emotional inspiration before bringing the audience to life with his clinical sense of humour. The Special Jury Award went toA-yao Huang’s Nimbus, which uses beautiful cinematography to show us the history of a Taiwanese landscape in transition. Chen Yuan-chen’s Avoiding Vision was given the Jury’s special mention.

Last but not least, in the Audience Choice Awards I Shot My Mother won the international prize and Let the Wind Carry Me the audience prize.

Article originally written with Shinie Wang for the Taiwan International Documentary Festival

週一, 01 十一月 2010

The crazy thoughts of silent lightning

An interview with Kidlat Tahimik, a movie director, writer and actor born in 1942 in the Philippines.
 
 
Is referring to your work as “documentary film” justified?
Tahimik: For a long time I never really thought of genres. I did my first film Perfumed Nightmare and then my second and third. Then in 1989, suddenly, I was invited by the Yamagata documentary festival to show a certain film I’d made, and I said “You mean I’m a documentary maker? But my films are not like the BBC!" I always thought that that was the mould for documentary. Over time the documentary has relaxed what its outer shape and inner shape is supposed to be. So I guess I am a documentary maker, documenting my crazy thoughts.

What do you think is the most common misconception of your work?

Tahimik: My works are very open ended, so I don’t know. I think for a close-ended world that’s where most misconceptions will occur. I like it if there are 200 spectators and 201 interpretations.
 
Tahimik Junior: I think one of the things is that they sometimes perceive my father’s work as anti-western and I think it’s not so much anti-western as pro-indigenous. The other side.
 
Tahimik: Our side. Like for example my mother watched my first film and asked me “Why did you make such an anti-American film?". And then I said to her, “Ma, it’s not anti-American, it’s more oriented towards finding our own inner strengths. We have been subdued by American education, maybe in a certain sense we’d never been aware that we were overly Westernized because of our Western curriculum, and because Hollywood’s curriculum. American idol has been in our country long before American Idol became a TV program.
 
 
In your film Turumba, you make reference to the nativization of Western religions. What do you think of the massive influence that the church plays in the Philippines today?
 
 
Tahimik: I look at Catholicism as a circumstance rather than an enemy. I have a feeling that it has contributed a lot, although its ideals, like many great religions are quite lofty and worthy. But because it doesn’t really belong to our people, it tends to be interpreted at our convenience. So when you read about all the corruption in the Philippines, I think it is linked to the Catholic idea that you can live a completely sinful life, and at the moment of your death you have an act of attrition and you just go to heaven. So Marcos is in heaven. So it may have interfered with our cultural brake mechanism. Maybe that’s why there is a seeming anarchy in our country.
 
 
Do you think that the term “The Third World” has transformed in meaning in recent years or been reclaimed?

Tahimik: I didn’t really understand that it was a dichotomy, as opposed to the first and second world. I guess it’s mainly economic nomenclature. An indigenous chieftain in one of my films. He always mispronounced the word “indigenous” saying "We indi-genius peoples have been trampled upon, our indi-genius culture is looked down upon”. And I said “Wow! It’s a really cosmic mispronunciation.” to combine the “genius” with the indigenous culture. I think that third world juices can be harnessed for economic development. There is a lot of indigenous wisdom that can balance this world which has lost its brakes.
 
Listen to the interview here:   
 
 
For a review of three of Kidlat Tahimik's films see Conor's article: Documenting his own reality: The films of Kidlat Tahimik
 
 
 
 
 
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