A Gift from the Sky—The Tragedy of Hsiaolin Village, Part 2

- TAIWAN / 2013 / Taiwanese, Chinese / Color / Blu-ray / 153 min

Directors, Sound: Lo Shin-chieh, Wang Hsiu-ling
Photography: Lo Shin-chieh
Script, Editing, Producer: Wang Hsiu-ling
Music: Lin Shen-hsiang
Production Company and Source: Akai Image Production Co.

On August 8, 2009, a small Taiwanese village was completely annihilated by a typhoon and large-scale landslide, resulting in countless casualties. Those who survived still wonder why things had to happen this way. Some seek out mediums to realize reunions with the dead, while a couple finds hope in the child they are trying to conceive. There are others who still cannot escape the pain of losing their families. Rigorous and heartrending, A Gift from the Sky meticulously records the never-ending suffering of these villagers, and their spiritual fortitude as they try to rebuild their lives.

[Director’s Statement] Hanging out in Hsiaolin Village for thirty-six months, I have become a fly that cannot be banished nor avoided, hovering around this project of reconstruction and presenting the true greed of human nature.

Are films made for the audience to see how others recover from suffering, to encourage audiences to observe the true joys and woes of other people, to see the conflicts? Choosing the destruction of Hsiaolin Village as my subject, I have to record whatever I see and hear with my camera, never taking orders nor instructions from anyone, and never becoming a silent camera holder with no perspective at all.

Hsaiolin Village was an extremely popular destination after the disaster. Even a CNN crew came. Local scholars were the first to acquire resources for reconstruction. Even now, in March 2013, there are still many projects funded by external parties operating in Hsiaolin Village. However, who should take credit for the reconstruction, as everyone tries to achieve something there? Will the Hsiaolin villagers eventually be sent into oblivion? Or will their livelihoods be transformed entirely? When there are too many resources, interpersonal feelings start to drain. Instead of taking advantage of the disaster for their personal benefit and reputation, documentary directors should instead reflect, and look into their minds seriously.

Lo Shin-chieh

- (From the left)
Lo Shin-chieh (A-kai)

Born in 1960 in Tainan, A-kai is a veteran independent documentary filmmaker. He chooses to always treat sociopolitical issues involving labor disputes, environmental crises. He has made his films entirely on his own, and his films have also been embraced as a textbook for domestic labor education. A-kai challenges political correctness through his documentaries. His first film with Wang Hsiu-ling, Funny Competition Between Labor and Management: You have Me in You (1998, YIDFF ’99), won the Best Documentary Award at the First Taipei Film Festival in 1998. Right before the second anniversary of the Morakot Disaster, A Gift for Father’s Day—The Tragedy of Hsiaolin Village Part 1 (screened at YIDFF 2011), also co-directed with Wang, received the Grand Prize and the award for Best Documentary at the 2011 Taipei Film Festival.

Wang Hsiu-ling

Born in Tainan City, Wang Hsiu-ling is a non-mainstream documentary filmmaker, who entered the field of documentary filmmaking without any academic training, nor the support of any institution. Led by A-kai and her younger sister, she first stepped into the world of documentaries as an errand girl. Together with her partner, A-kai, she has completed several films, focusing solely on political, social, and laborer-related issues.