04/May/2015 – Tana DluhosovaWorkshop

Taiwan Documentary Week in Prague

Taiwan Documentary Week in Prague

Taiwan Documentary Week in Prague: “The Vitality and Sustainability of Taiwan Documentary”

Date: May 14–16, 2015

Venue: Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts and Svět knihy (Veletržní palác)

Prior to the 1980s documentary was a marginalised form of filmmaking in Taiwan. However since the turn of the new century, documentary filmmaking on the island has evolved into an enthusiastic cultural practice, almost outshining the significance of feature films. Many Taiwanese documentaries are made by the Public Television System (PTS), which created a documentary platform, View Point (jilu guandian), in 1999. Several projects shown on View Point proved to be commercially successful in the 2000s when they enjoyed theatrical release. The rise of documentaries in Taiwan has enriched the local cultural milieu for it indicates that local audience’s taste and choice in films has been extended to different forms of content and filmmaking. It also suggests that Taiwan’s film and television industries are no longer an exclusively local and insular operation as labour, money and ideas flow between different audio-visual sectors and locations.

Taiwan Documentary Week aims to provide the general public in the Czech Republic with an intimate and lively glimpse of contemporary Taiwan society by bringing to Prague a series of high-quality, diversified and recent Taiwanese documentaries. Through the public screenings and direct interactions with filmmakers, scholars and industry insiders, the organisers hope to facilitate meaningful exchanges and cross-cultural dialogues between Taiwan and its friends in Europe.

The event will conclude with a roundtable session, “The Vitality and Sustainability of Taiwan Documentary”, on 16 May 2015. The discussion will address more universal questions that are not necessarily Taiwan-specific, for example, what are good documentaries? How to balance quality and popularity (is there really conflict between the two)? Where does vitality and creativity of (Taiwan) documentary filmmaking lie? What conditions may increase or reduce the sustainability of a documentary industry? What are the similarities and differences between documentaries made in Taiwan and in other countries? Where can we situate Taiwanese documentaries in the international markets?

Please join us at this exciting and informative Taiwan Documentary Week in Prague. We look forward to seeing you!


May 14, 2015 (Thursday)

(Venue: Film and TV School, Auditorium, Smetanovo nábřeží, 2)

9:00 Opening Remarks
9:30­–11:00 Documentary: Bird without Borders 返家八千里 (2009, dir. Dean Johnson, c. 60 min)

The programme focuses on a migrating bird, Black-faced Spoonbills, a species facing extinction. However there was relatively little research about its life cycle and habitats due to political obstacles across East Asia. Black-faced Spoonbills normally arrive in Taiwan in autumn, stays for the winter and leaves for the north in the spring. The programme traces the migration route of the bird from Taiwan through Japan to the borders between South and North Korea and finally to a remote island in the Northeast of China. The production team follows the work of several researchers and experienced bird enthusiasts in these countries to humanise the story, highlight the social-political issues involved, and to foreground the importance of international cooperation for conservation and scientific research.

Discussion with Dean Johnson and Lin Leh-chyun 林樂群

11:00–11:30 Coffee Break
11:30–13:00 Documentary: The Other Side 對岸異鄉人 (2012, dir. Tsai Chung-Lung, c. 70 min)

Since the opening of borders between Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the early 1990s, many Taiwanese businesses (including different levels of managers, workers and their families) have migrated to the mainland. How do the Taiwanese immigrants adapt to China’s political, cultural and social environment and negotiate their own multiple identities? Meanwhile there is a wave of new immigrants from the PRC to Taiwan through marriages. How do the ‘mainland brides’ learn to (re)adjust their expectations and realities with their new homes in Taiwan? What kind of challenges and opportunities these immigrants face when they move to the other side?

Discussion with Tsai Chung-Lung 蔡崇隆 and Yu Ming喩溟


(Book Fair: Svět knihy, Veletržní palác, Left Wing, Audio-visual Room)
15:00-16:50 Documentary: A Rolling Stone 築巢人(2012, dir. Shen Ko-shang, c. 60 min)

Caring for an autistic adult can be seen as an act of faith. It is unpredictable. A regular interaction can lead to a violent lashing-out. This award-winning documentary records such moments. However, due to its lack of exposition and its pure form of observation, the film captures something even more profound: life as a collection of failure, pain, and tragedy as felt by its protagonist, 50-year-old Chen Hung-tung, a father who cares with extraordinary patience for his 30-year-old son Li-fu. The director said: “Through filming this documentary I witnessed how familial love is torn in the face of this transient life. I have also seen the nature of love—a lifelong sacrifice that we can never abandon, something that gives us pain as well as delight in the process.”

Discussion with Kuo Li-hsin 郭力昕 and Ming-yeh Rawnsley


May 15, 2015 (Friday)

(Venue: Film and TV School, Auditorium, Smetanovo nábřeží, 2)

9:00–10:30 Documentary: A Year in the Clouds: Smangus 司馬庫斯 (2011, dir. Dean Johnson and Frank Smith, c. 90 min)

High in the mountains of Taiwan is a remote village of Smangus. Inhabited by a unique group of indigenous people called the Tayal, Samangus is the only place in Taiwan that now practices common ownership of land and property. The documentary follows the everyday lives of the Tayal people in their effort to find balance between nature and man, as well as their endeavour to establish the system of common ownership in the 21st century. How does it work? What are the challenges and the reward?

10:30–11:00 Coffee Break
11:00–12:40 Documentary: A Town Called Success 戰浪 (2013, dir. Frank Smith, c. 60 min)

Unofficially labelled as a Taiwanese version of “Old Man and the Sea”, A Town Called Success tells the story of a group of harpoon fishermen in a small fishing village in Taitung County who rely on the traditional fishing methods to haul in the catch. The director believes that the story about the harpoon fishermen in Taitung has a universal theme that transcends national borders. He said: “My strongest interest is always finding a story about people’s lives in a changing world and finding how people are coping with their society and the way their society is changing. What goes on in that tiny fishing town in eastern Taiwan is very representative to the rest of the world.”

Discussion with Dean Johnson and Lin Leh-chyun 林樂群


(Venue: Book Fair: Svět knihy, Veletržní palác, Left Wing, Audio-visual Room)
15:00-16:50 Documentary: The Men Behind the Movie Billboards (2013, dir. Chen Po-Wen, 39 min)

Before the advent of digital image making and mass-produced printing, the advertisements for films at local cinemas in Taiwan were hand-painted billboards produced by a group of diligent painters. These billboards conveyed the glamour and excitement of the new releases, becoming an essential part of the modern cityscape. In the 1960s, the surging production of Taiwanese language films spurred on a booming industry in painted billboards, attracting numerous apprentices to work for the master painters. After decades, this craft is now on the verge of extinction. Only a tiny number of people keep up the tradition. Through interviews with former billboard painters and local history researchers, the fading memories of those once-vibrant images resurface in front of us, providing us a new perspective on those unknown, dedicated artists.

 Discussion with Ming-yeh Rawnsley


May 16, 2015 (Saturday)

(Venue: Film and TV School, Classroom 1, Smetanovo nábřeží, 2)

9:00-12:00 Roundtable on “The Vitality and Sustainability of Taiwan Documentary”

Topics to be discussed include:

  • PTS and Taiwan documentary (Lin Le-chun 林樂群)
  • Opportunities and challenges of making documentaries in Taiwan (Tsai Chung-long 蔡崇隆)
  • How to cultivate young filmmakers in Taiwan? (Kuo Li-hsin 郭力昕)
  • How do Taiwan documentaries inspire filmmakers in China? (Yu Ming 喻溟)
  • Television documentary and international market (Ming-yeh Rawnsley)
  • My experiences of making documentaries in Taiwan/Asia and the UK/Europe (Dean Johnson)
  • Prospects of Asian Cinema and Documentaries in Czech Academia (Viera Langerová)


Open Q&A


Invited Participants:

  • Saša DLOUHÝ

    Member of  the Syndicate of Journalists of The Czech Republic, member of the European Film Academy, founding partner of freeSaM Ltd. He is produced following documentaries:  Azores Under Water (2007), Valdez: the Whale Paradise (2009), Summer in Shanghai (2010), Trafacka – Temple of Freedom (2011), liebe Indigo (2013), Happy Together (2014)

    Haruna Honcoopová is a graduate from Charles University in Prague (Sinology), spent 1 year in Taiwan studying Chinese and currently works as an independent filmmaker, film producer, visual artist and also works at various film festivals in the Czech Republic and Japan (Osaka Asian Film Festival). In Prague she also works at two (and only) Asian film festivals – Filmasia which is presenting recent fiction films from the Far East region (including Taiwan, China, Hongkong, Japan and Korea), and Eigasai which is focusing on recent Japanese films and presenting retrospectives of well renowned Japanese film directors.
  • Dean JOHNSONDean has been making documentaries in Asia since 1993. As an experienced filmmaker and producer, his career started with the BBC on current affairs programme. He also directed TV series for Animal Planet and Discovery Channel. He is currently executive producer on all Infocus Asia’s NGCI output and has won many awards and nominations in international TV and film festivals.
  • KUO Li-hsin 郭力昕Li-hsin earned his PhD in Media and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is currently Associate Professor of the Department of Radio & Television at National Chengchi University. He has published widely on documentary films in Taiwan. His most recent book is Interrogating Reality: Politics and De-politicisation of Documentaries 真實的叩問:記錄片的政治與去政治 (2014, in Chinese).
  • Viera LANGEROVÁis a journalist and a film critic. She  attended Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava (Slovakia) and received her PhD at Charles University in Prague (Cultural Studies) and at Bussiness School in Tallinin, Estonia (Inter-cultural Communication). She was an editor in following journals Film a divadlo [Film and Theatre], Dialóg [Diaolog], Slovenské pohľady [Slovak Perspectives], and served as an editor-in-chief of Czech and Slovak monthly journal Listy [Letters]. She also cooperates with a news agency Associated Press in the Slovak Republic. She is a member of FIPRESCI and committees for international film festivals. After her  four years stay in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Pakistan she focuses on Asian cinema. Her second area of research is cinema of European post-communist countries. In addition to two books: Filmový změpis: kontinentální Čína, Hongkong, Taiwan [Film Geography: Mainland China, Hongkong, Taiwan] (2010), Urdu, parda, burka: Pět let v Pákistánu [Urdu, parda, burka: Five Years in Pakistan] (2011), she also wrote many academic articles. She serves as a consultant for Internatinal Film Festival in Karlovy Vary, International Film Festival of Muslim Cinema in Kazan (Russia), and International Film Festival in Iraq Kurdistan. She also acts as a curator and she is program consultant for Festival of Iranian Film. She teaches at Film and TV School of Academy of Performing Arts (Prague).
  • LIN Leh-chyun 林樂群Leh-chyun is the Deputy Director of Taiwan’s Public Television Service Foundation (PTS). He is also the Director of the PTS’s International Department, which has played a crucial role in using high-definition technology to make documentaries about Taiwan that focus on sustainability, the environment and culture. Leh-chyun’s international initiatives have offered valuable opportunities for the PTS to share experiences with and learn from international collaborators through co-productions.
  • Katerina PROCHAZKOVÁKaterina is a journalist recently working for Czech TV – Foreign news desk. She is a former Asia correspondent for Czech Radio and frequent contributor to domestic and foreign newspapers and magazines. She specializes in covering news from China, Japan and Korea and spent the last ten years living and working in Asia – in Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore and Tokyo. Katerina studied journalism at Ostrava University and Glasgow University. She subsequently gained extensive knowledge of political science with an Asian focus and language skills (Mandarin Chinese and Japanese) at National Taiwan University (NTU), Beijing Foreign Studies University (BFSU) and Sophia University in Tokyo. She is a member of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China (FCCC) and the Beijing International Society (BIS).
  • Ming-yeh RAWNSLEY 蔡明燁Ming-yeh received her PhD from the Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds. She is currently Research Associate, Centre of Taiwan Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. She is also Secretary-General, European Association of Taiwan Studies. She has published extensively in both English and Chinese on the subjects of Taiwan cinema, Chinese cinema, media industries in East Asia, as well as media and democratization in Taiwan.
  • TSAI Chung-Lung 蔡崇隆Chung-long is an independent documentary producer and filmmaker in Taiwan. He is also an assistant professor at the Department of Communications at Chung Cheng University. He has been a long-term observer of human rights and environmental issues. He is well known for his documentaries on Taiwan’s new immigrants, including My Imported Wife and The Other Side. His works are powerful because they show simultaneously rational analysis and deep human emotions.
  • YU Ming 喻溟Yu Ming received her PhD from Film Studies, Beijing Normal University. She is currently a lecturer at the School of Cultural Communications, China Institute of Industrial Relations. Ming’s research focus has been on documentary productions and international film histories. She is a prolific writer and filmmaker in the realm of Chinese documentaries.