Taiwan Int’l Documentary Festival Celebrates Chinese Underground Films

Censorship of the media and political interference in festivals are hot button topics throughout Asia and Asian festivals.

Operating under the slogan “truth cannot be confined,” the 9th edition of the Taiwan Intl. Documentary Festival will kick off next week in Taipei (Oct. 9-19) with a whole lineup of “underground” films.

With territories including China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and Thailand all recently increasing restrictions on media operations and freedom of speech, the festival makes the claim that it is “the most liberal platform for documentary in the Chinese society.”

TIDF organizers say that they have sought recommendations from four festivals that the mainland China government has closed down, and that the selected films will be programmed in a new strand, called “Salute! Independent Documentaries in China.” The four include the Beijing Independent Film Festival (Lixianting Film Fund), China Independent Film Festival, Chongqing Independent Film and Video Festival and Yunnan Multi Cultural Visual Festival.

For the first time, the TIDF will also offer a Chinese Documentary Award.

Selections include “Spark,” a film that chronicles Mao’s Great Famine as seen through the eyes of a group of magazine editors who were sent for re-education; and “Petition,” the five-hour documentary about legal protest measures in China which won the documentary prize at the Hong Kong Intl. Film Festival earlier this year.

The festival will also play “To Singapore With Love,” the documentary by Tan Pin Pin about political exiles which was recently banned by Singapore.

Taiwan and China operate somewhat prickly political relations, with China insisting that Taiwan is a rebel province that will one day be reunited, by force if necessary. Former British colony, Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997 and has certain freedoms granted to it under a scheme called “one country, two systems.”

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