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The Singapore Chinese Film Festival pays tribute to environmental filmmaker Chi Po-Lin

By Say Peng  /  25 Apr 2018 (Wednesday)

In July last year, tragedy struck the director of 2013's Golden Horse Best Documentary winner, Chi Po-Lin. Renowned for his critically and commercially successful documentary, Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above, which documented Taiwan's environmental beauty as well as its destruction, Chi met his death doing the work he loved. He was filming the sequel to Beyond Beauty in Hualian when his helicopter crashed, killing him, and also the pilot and a photographer. 

Still from Beyond Beauty

In 2014, the Singapore Chinese Film Festival (SCFF) screened Beyond Beauty, which was later commercially released in cinemas. Chi came to Singapore to promote his film and became good friends with SCFF festival co-director David Lee.

Lee, who had watched Beyond Beauty when he was in Taiwan for the Golden Horse Awards in 2013, decided to pay tribute to Chi by re-screening his film at GV MAX at Golden Village Vivocity.

Still from Beyond Beauty

In addition, Lee decided to curate a program of ecological films to accompany Chi's film. Entitled Remembering Chi Po-Lin: Filmmaker, Photographer and Environmentalist, the program features four documentaries from Singapore/Malaysia, Taiwan, and China.

Still from Ocean

1. Ocean (dir. Ke Chin-Yuan) & The Disappearing Hills (dir. Yeo Kai Wen)

Director Ke's Ocean, a purely visual marine poem, displays images from the sea in the most direct and simple way, with no music and voiceover. It is Direct Cinema in the sea.  

Ocean will be screened with Singaporean Yeo Kai Wen's short film The Disappearing Hills. In recent years, the cameron highlands have suffered the effects of deforestation and development in the form of annual flooding, which has devasted property and claimed lives. Inspired by the late director Chi Po-Lin, Yeo's film documents the lives of those affected by the environmental devastion.

Still from Black Bear Forest

2. Black Bear Forest (dir. Lee Hsiang-Hsiu)

Dafen, the central part of Yushan National Park in Taiwan, is known as the "realm of bears". It is a place rich in wildlife and aboriginal culture. In 2010, director Lee Hsiang-Hsiu approached Hwang Mei-hsiu, the head of the Institute of Wildlife Conservation, National Pingtung University of Science and Technology with the idea to make a documentary about Hwang, known to many as “Mother Black Bear”. Making and completing the film took Lee six years, and, in an interview, she said that it was all worthwhile. The film premiered at Taiwan International Documentary Festival to much acclaim.

Still from Plastic China

3. Plastic China (dir. Wang Jiuliang)

Screened at Sundance and the International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam, and nominated for Golden Horse Best Documentary, director Wang Jiuliang's Plastic China, by following two families, explores how waste are recycled by the bare hands of workers and the deeper issue of how the global consumption of plastics affect the lives of workers and the environment. 

Besides film screenings, there is also a panel discussion, entitled Eco-documentaries: A Tribute to Chi Po-Lin, featuring Amy Tseng, producer of Beyond Beauty; Ke Chin-Yuan, director of Ocean; and Yeo Kai Wen, director of The Disappearing Hills. The panel will discuss eco-documentaries and all the things it takes to make them.

Speaking to InCinemas, Lee said that before director Chi took up aerial photography and filmmaking, Chi was, first and foremost, a passionate activist for the environment. The stark images of environmental destruction depicted in the film shocked the country and ignited a national conversation in Taiwan and led to legislative changes and crackdowns such as the suspension of a factory manufacturing iPhone parts in Gao-hsiung, which was dumping unprocessed waste into the river, turning the river orange in colour. By curating the accompanying films to Chi's own, Lee hopes to continue Chi's lifelong mission to spread awareness about the environment.
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