Awards

12th Taiwan International Documentary Festival – Awards 2021

These are the winners of the 12th Taiwan International Documentary Festival which took place from April 30th until May 9th, 2021 in Taipei, Taiwan.

Asian Vision Competition

Grand Prize

Shadow Flowers by Yi Seungjun – Korea | 2019 – 108 minutes

KIM Ryun-hee, a North Korean housewife, was forced to come to South Korea and became its citizen against her will. She tried to smuggle herself out of the country, even sought political asylum at the Vietnamese Embassy, but all her efforts were in vain. As her seven years of struggle to return to her family in the North continues, political absurdity hinders her journey back to her loved ones.

Jury’s Comments:
The jury extolled the film’s relevance, for “going beyond the usual North Korean defector story and asking important universal questions: What is freedom and home?” In response to receiving the award, the director, YI Seungjun, has this to say, “This is a great present for me, especially in this gloomy COVID-19 situation.”

Trailer:

Merit Prize

Lost Course by Jill Li – Hong Kong | 2019 – 179 minutes

The year was 2011: In Wukan, a village in Guangdong, China, corrupted officials had illegally sold the villagers’ land, and the villagers decided to fight back. From the outset of the protest, first-time documentary filmmaker Jill LI embedded herself in the community of Wukan for several years. She chronicled the complex experiences of three key figures in the movement, examining an unprecedented experiment in grassroots democracy and its fallout.

Jury’s Comments:
The jury enthused, “The film balances a portrait of selected central individuals with a mosaic-like, even Boschian view of the village at large, while reflecting and refracting the influence of broader political forces.”

Trailer:

Special Jury Prize

Soil without Land by Nontawat Numbenchapol – Thailand | 2019 – 80 minutes

For over 50 years, a civil war has been waged between the Shan people, the largest ethnic minority group in Burma, and the Burmese military. Jai Sang Lod, a young stateless Shan man living in the disputed borderlands between Burma and Northern Thailand, reluctantly submits himself to become a soldier for the Shan State Army. Trained to fight for Shan sovereignty as a lifetime duty, he yearns for a piece of identification and a steady living.

Jury’s Comments:
“An insightful documentary with compelling narratives, giving voice to the marginalized and the stateless.” Given the recent turmoil that Myanmar is embroiled in, director Nontawat NUMBENCHAPOL expressed, “I want to dedicate this award to all these small people who try to fight with the dictator for freedom and democracy,” and hope that democracy will come back to Myanmar in the future.

Trailer:

Special Jury Mention

For My Alien Friend by Jet Leyco – Philippines | 2019 – 73 minutes

A lone stranger broadcasts fragments of life he has experienced from different time and space, hoping to make a connection and communicate with other beings of life. Like a time capsule, this film contains artefacts of the first Filipinos, a family, a political upheaval, and the existence / non-existence of God, in an interactive and very obtrusive form rarely seen in conventional Filipino documentaries. Scan the QR Codes before and after the film for more hidden messages!

Jury’s Comments:
The film challenges the traditional expectations and demands of a ‘documentary film’ and a raw and resonant portrait of the contemporary Philippines”.

Trailer:

The Strangers by Myoung Sohee – Korea | 2018 – 81 minutes

After encountering a series of setbacks in life, the filmmaker returned to her hometown, Chuncheon, South Korea, a place she was once desperate to forget and leave behind. She visited her hard-working mother and sought to untangle their complex mother-daughter relationship, while recapturing their family portrait in vanishing memories and spaces.

Jury’s Comments:
The jury applauded the filmmaker’s skillful editing and “the restrained and deceptive approach, which transforms the film into an absorbing portrait of working class life where a family’s traumas are interwoven.”

Trailer:

International Competition

Grand Prize

Erased, _____ Ascent of the Invisible by Ghassan Halwani – Lebanon | 2018 – 76 minutes

In the mid-1980s, during the Lebanese Civil War, I witnessed the kidnapping of a man I knew. He has remained missing ever since. Ten years ago, I caught a glimpse of his face while walking down a street in Beirut; under layers and layers of ripped posters on a wall, parts of his face were torn off. I want to restore the man’s features, even though the city has been striving to erase the traces and trails of those who disappeared beyond recovery.

Jury’s Comments:
The filmmaker found innovative visual forms to address the crimes and disappearances of the Lebanese civil war of 1975-1990. “The film raised important questions that are not only relevant to the local context of Lebanon, but also extremely global as many countries have also been suffering from historical amnesia.

Trailer:

Merit Prize

No Data Plan by Miko Revereza – Philippines, USA | 2018 – 70 minutes

‘Mama has two phone numbers. We do not talk about immigration on her “Obama phone”. For that we use the other number with no data plan’, says the narrator as he crosses the United States by train. From Los Angeles to New York, multiple voices share thoughts, dreams and histories that evoke images far away from the enclosed interior of the train, creating a site of precarious movement, migration, and fugitivism.

Jury’s Comments:
The jury felt, “The protagonist’s fear of living as an illegal immigrant flows flurrying yet quietly along with the turning wheels. The film is a hidden autobiography refracting a deeper reality from the surface.

Trailer:

Special Jury Mention

Scheme Birds by Ellen Fiske, Ellinor Hallin – Sweden, UK | 2019 – 86 minutes

Bleak yet ultimately beautiful, Scheme Birds is a coming-of-age documentary, bursting with the frustration of a generation of Scots let down by society’s promises. We see the fading steel town, Motherwell, through the eyes of Gemma, a soon-to-be mother on the verge of adulthood. In a place where you ‘either get knocked up or locked up’, Gemma carves out brief moments of tenderness amidst the violence of her local housing estate.

Jury’s Comments:
The jury declared, “The smart use of voice-overs of the protagonists, the efficacious cinematography, the lively editing and the persuasive soundtrack all tie in wonderfully with the slowly but surely unfolding dramatic narrative.”

Trailer:

Taiwan Competition

Grand Prize

Opening Closing Forgetting by James T. Hong – Taiwan | 2018 – 80 minutes

This film is a visual record of long-lasting open wounds, and the disappearance of collective memory. The director examines the current plight of a group of elderly Chinese peasants, who, as civilians, have been made victims of the Imperial Japanese Army’s lethal human experimentation in Northeast China, suffering from the festering wounds for over 70 years. The director also visits some surviving soldiers of Unit 731——Japan’s notorious regiment devoted to biological warfare during World War II.

Jurys Comments:
The jury spoke highly of the film, “a powerful, courageous and well researched film which brings to light an unknown historical trauma that seventy years later hasn’t healed yet.”

Trailer:

Merit Prize

Gubuk (Hut) by So Yo-hen – Taiwan | 2018 – 54 minutes

Gubuk (Hut) is an experimental project growing out of Indonesian migrant workers’ personal experiences in Taiwan. Gathering in a staged hut built out of abandoned materials from a factory, the workers retell and re-enact their own stories under fabricated identities. In this space where fiction intersects with reality, they share tales of escape, of loss, and of suffering.

Jury’s Comments:
The film tells the story about a group of migrant workers who come together in a hut and talk about their life stories. “As they hide in this momentary anonymity, pleading creative license in this narrative altogether, a story about their community unfolds,” described the jury.

Trailer:

Special Jury Mention

Flow by Su Ming-yen – Taiwan | 2018 – 29 minutes

On a rainy afternoon, the filmmaker set out from a hospital and followed an elderly window screen repairman to Toad Hill, an old settlement on the outskirts of Taipei, helping him to find a woman from his past. On the dreamlike journey, the repairman discovered his long-forgotten and decayed memories of this metropoli

Jury’s Comments:
“The filmmaker adopts ‘flow’ as a metaphor to address daily scenes, refracting the wandering presence in the fringe of the cities. An exquisite piece of short film.”

Trailer:

Chinese Documentary Award

Grand Prize

Taking Back the Legislature by Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers – Hong Kong | 2020 – 47 minutes

A storm was brewing in the early hours of 1 July 2019—the 22nd anniversary of the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong. Facing the absurdity of the Hong Kong Government’s indoor flag-raising ceremony, protesters questioned the effectiveness of peaceful protest. They stormed the Legislative Council Complex as a last-ditch effort to ignite change in the Anti-ELAB Movement. Violent street clashes with the police continued deep into the night.

Jury’s Comments:
“The award is given to the two films that are inseparable, for their powerful vérité immersion, precise framing and sharp editing, fearless determination to document pivotal historical events at great risk of facing retribution from authorities, and for inspiring audiences to reject tyranny all over the world,” affirmed the jury in their assessment. “The fact that both films can be publicly screened and receive an award in Taiwan means a lot to us,” acknowledged the Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers in a short thank you video, “The meaning of the films wasn’t only to witness. Through looking back, we hope we could all get to know and better understand how we stand in solidarity.

Trailer:

Inside the Red Brick Wall by Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers – Hong Kong | 2020 – 88 minutes

The Anti-ELAB Movement came to a horrifying peak in mid-November at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. When protesters blocking the Cross-Harbour Tunnel retreated to the University, the police surrounded the area and put the school in a lockdown. Anxious citizens made various rescue attempts, but could barely go near the campus. Meanwhile, within those red brick walls, the camera captured the trapped protesters’ desperation and determination.

Jury’s Comments:
“The award is given to the two films that are inseparable, for their powerful vérité immersion, precise framing and sharp editing, fearless determination to document pivotal historical events at great risk of facing retribution from authorities, and for inspiring audiences to reject tyranny all over the world,” affirmed the jury in their assessment. “The fact that both films can be publicly screened and receive an award in Taiwan means a lot to us,” acknowledged the Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers in a short thank you video, “The meaning of the films wasn’t only to witness. Through looking back, we hope we could all get to know and better understand how we stand in solidarity.

Trailer:

Special Jury Prize

Lost Course by Jill Li – Hong Kong | 2019 – 179 minutes

Jury’s Comments:
The jury for the Chinese Documentary Award looked favorably upon it, recognizing it to be “an outstanding observational documentary about a social movement” while the Taiwan Film Critics Society lauded it, “for trying to dig deeper into the nuanced complexity of democracy.”

Special Jury Mention

Happy Valley by Simon Liu – Hong Kong | 2020 – 13 minutes

Through processing a year of bewildering news and images from my home in Hong Kong, I’ve come to question the significance of dear memories and personal joy in the face of things falling apart. As the days teeter toward an uncertain future, Happy Valley cinematically probes the role of the so-called ‘little things’. A rendering of the perseverance of spirit in Hong Kong – an attempt at irony that can’t help but be emotional.

Jury’s Comments:
“The film has succeeded in expressing the artist’s feelings, love, and impatience with the looming threat directly and poetically. The jury praises the filmmaker’s young, pure and straightforward perspective.” The director expressed his gratitude, saying this wonderful recognition really inspires and motivates him “to keep pushing on with my practice of chronicling the city of Hong Kong, a place that has meant everything to me.”

Taiwan Film Critics Society Prize

Lost Course by Jill Li – Hong Kong | 2019 – 179 minutes

Next Generation Award

The Taste of Secrets by Guillaume Suon – Cambodia, France | 2019 – 110 minutes

Guillaume SUON’s mother always refused to speak about her childhood during the Cambodian genocide. Seeking to understand her experiences, Guillaume and his brother began to film Antoine, a photographer and a grandson of Armenian genocide survivors, following him to the Middle East to photograph the ghosts of his ancestors. Antoine’s journey in turn paved the way for the brothers’ quest back to Cambodia—with their mother.

Jury’s Comments:
Chosen by a jury of 27 teenagers, the Next Generation Award was given to The Taste of Secrets, with the following observation, “The film shows the contradictory relationship between ‘the director’s eager to restore’ and ‘the subject’s intention to pretend to forget,’ displaying the filmmaker’s delicate execution ability.”

Trailer:

Audience Award

Walchensee Forever by Janna Ji Wonders – Germany | 2020 – 112 minutes

In this century-spanning family saga, Janna Ji WONDERS embarks on a voyage of discovery. She takes us from the family cafe at the Lake Walchen (Walchensee) in the Bavarian Alps, to San Francisco in 1967, where the infamous ‘Summer of Love’ took place. Tracking down each link in the chain, this documentary is a timeless family story about women from three generations and their search for identity, their self-realisation, love, loss, birth, and death.

Trailer:

Winners & Special Guests at the Award Ceremony of the 12th Taiwan International Documentary Festival

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