Away from Home: Documentaries About Disasters and Struggles over Land in Taiwan

Documentaries for Future Generations: Huang Shu-mei’s works

An introduction to the work and films of Huang Shu-mei, who, after the massive earthquake in 1999, spent a long period of time supporting and documenting Chungliao’s surviving residents as they re-built their homes and communities. She continues to make films on disasters and the natural environment, as well as on people’s changing ways of life.

Formosa Dream, Disrupted

TAIWAN / 2007 / Chinese, Taiwanese / Color / Digital File / 145 min

Director: Huang Shu-mei
Photography: Lin Li-hsiang, Yang Chung-min, Wang Bao-lian, Huang Shu-mei
Editing: Yang Kai-yen
Producers: Wu Yi-feng, Lee Chung-wang, Kuo Hsiao-yun, Lee Ya-feng, Lin Jin-hui, Chen Lian-feng, Lee Jia-ying, Huang Yu-shang, Lin Shio-hua
Source: Huang Shu-mei

The massive 921 Earthquake of September 21, 1999 and the extensive landslides that came with it devastated Chungliao Township in Taiwan’s Nantou County. In the aftermath, one neighborhood of twelve affected households relocated from Chingshui Village to rented land not far from the mountains, hoping to rebuild their homes as soon as possible; and yet, the county government’s stubborn bureaucracy and regulations continue to stand in their way. In this film the director accompanies the inhabitants through their long and painful battle, bringing attention to the government’s rigid attitudes towards disaster relief. The director’s previous work, An Encounter with Chungliao, was screened as part of a YIDFF 2005 section titled “Facing the Future and Walking Tall—The Endeavors of Taiwan’s ‘FullShot.’

A Letter to Future Children

TAIWAN / 2015 / Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Lukai / Color / Digital File / 96 min

Director: Huang Shu-mei
Photography: Lai Yu-chang, Huang Shu-mei
Editing: Tsai Yi-feng
Source: Huang Shu-mei

While filming the aftermath of the 921 Earthquake in 1999, director Huang Shu-mei dreamed, late at night, of being caught in a landslide. Ten years later, that nightmare came true when Typhoon Morakot hit Taiwan. This film passes down a record to future generations about how the natural environment of this beautiful island has been spoiled through careless treatment, from its colonial past leading up to the present.

Coming Home

TAIWAN / 2018 / Chinese, Paiwan / Color / Digital File / 99 min

Director: Huang Shu-mei
Photography: Yang Chong-ming, Lai Yu-chang, Chuang Ron-hua, Chen Hsian-song
Editing: Tsai Yi-feng
Animation: Lin Xin-fang
Source: Huang Shu-mei

The mountainous regions of Pingtung County in southern Taiwan were also ravaged by Typhoon Morakot. The descendants of indigenous peoples there, feeling their ancestral lands were being lost to disaster and the traditional culture of their tribe at risk of disappearing, they return to their land and its rich natural resources, committed to educational activities that convey the language, traditional culture, quotidian wisdom, and even the spirit of their tribe itself to children in the area.

Huang Shu-mei

Born in Peihe,Tainan in 1969, Huang Shu-mei graduated from the department of radio, television of the World College of Journalism. In 1990, she joined FullShot, assisting field interviews for documentary films. In 1991, she started making her own documentary projects. Besides these, she also has years of experience promoting documentary film screenings in communities throughout Taiwan. In 2006, she returned to her hometown Tainan to live and work. After the 921 Earthquake of 1999, she documented the reconstruction progress for four-anda- half years, completing two documentary feature films, An Encounter with Chungliao in 2006 (the 2005 version showed at YIDFF 2005), and Formosa Dream, Disrupted in 2007. The recipient of numerous film awards in Taiwan, she continues to work as an independent documentary filmmaker. Her latest work is Coming Home (2018).


Discussion Living with Disasters: Current Documentary Film Practice in Taiwan and Japan

Recent changes in digital media have resulted in a flood of moving images that mean our daily lives are bombarded with waves of visual information. Under these circumstances, how should the face of disaster be communicated through moving images, and what are some tools for interpreting them going forward? What does it mean to document, to convey, and express—in filming, editing, and even screening?

Date and Time: October 15 (Tue) 15:30–18:30
Venue: Yamagata Museum of Art 2
*Consecutive/Simultaneous Interpretation in Japanese and English
Wood Lin (Program Director of Taiwan International Documentary Film Festival), Huang Shu-mei (Filmmaker), Komori Haruka (Filmmaker), Aikawa Yoichi (Sociology / Histories Researcher), Kadobayashi Takeshi (Media Theory / Culture and Expression Theory Researcher)
Moderator: Hosoya Shuhei (Art / Media Researcher)