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Behind the Beauty of Taiwan's Documentary 'Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above'!

By InCinemas  /  22 Aug 2014 (Friday)

A Golden Horse Award for Best Documentary, a nomination for Best Original Film Score, and the highest locally produced documentary in Taiwan - these are just a few accolades to the Taiwan box office hit Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above, but beyond the height of its glory is a painful and treacherous process.

Well, as the saying goes ‘every successful story is a painful beginning’, is very true. For director Chi Po-Lin, success wasn’t an overnight incident nor was it a smooth-sailing ride; but one met with many setbacks and sacrifices, not forgetting the 400 hours spent in the air to create a remarkable film like this.

The decision for director Chi to give up his government job and a few years short to receive his pension, to pursue his aerial photography documentary wasn’t an easy choice. Despite numerous attempts to tender his resignation, he held back for various reasons - family, funding and support. It took him about a year before he finally submitted his letter.

“Before I went to bed each night, I will tell myself to pluck up the courage and tender my resignation to pursue my dreams; but when I wake up the following day, I get hesitant on making the big decision, which made me hate myself even more,” said Chi

The final straw came when Taiwan was hit by the destructive Typhoon Morakot in 2009, leaving 461 people dead and 192 others missing. Shooting aerial photography during disasters is no stranger to Chi, having braved these dangerous weather for that perfect shot, but 10 years of experience was no way close to what he was expecting next.

“For the past 10 years or so, I will head out to take aerial shots of typhoons and earthquakes but when I went out to shoot Typhoon Morakot, it was devastating. The debris was much serious than the previous years!

It was my first time crying while shooting aerial shots in the air… The first reaction wasn’t about feeling hurt, but fear; it felt like the world was coming to an end. It was too scary,” Chi recounted.

“I felt that I had a mission to present what I’ve seen about Taiwan to the rest of the citizens.”

Funding didn’t come easy as well. He mortgaged his house to purchase the film camera specially used for aerial filming, estimated to be $70 000USD.

“We initially hoped that collaborations with entrepreneurs and organisations will cover the cost of purchasing the aerial film camera but because of the lack of funding, we had to fork out the money from our own pockets.

I didn’t tell my family members when the documentary was an a planning stage, it was only when I was certain about embarking on it that I announced it to my parents, wife and son.”

Even when the team were in their production process, it was constantly a ‘funding the documentary while filming carries on’, with a notion that they might have a limited amount of time to gather footage around Taiwan.

Director Chi shared how he was rejected from many entrepreneurs when they first embarked on the documentary, explaining the hardship of making Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above a success.

“There was one entrepreneur who told me this: ‘Why should I give you my hard-earned money for you to pursue your dreams?’ To be honest, what he said isn’t wrong and I believe that once we take the first step, people will start noticing our effort.”

[About Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above]
Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above <看见台湾 > is the first film documenting Taiwan
with aerial photography. Through the lens of veteran aerial photographer Chi Po-Lin
and his team, audiences are able to explore Taiwan from such a height and angle
that has never been seen before.

Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above <看见台湾 > Opens 28 Aug 2014, exclusively at Cathay Cineleisure & JEM!
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