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Book & Film
POSTED | 23:47 PM | 02-04-2014

Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above

-- By Kelly Tang

A documentary reveals Taiwan’s beauty and pathos




A new documentary, Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above, has become a national big hit and recently won Taipei’s Golden Horse Award. 

It allowed viewers to see not only the majesty of Taiwan’s scenery but also how people have destroyed their own country. The documentary forced authorities to face pollution and land development problems and to submit counter-measures.

The documentary features Chi Po-lin, a famous director and an aerial still photographer. Chi rented a helicopter and set a tiny camera under the front nose of the fuselage to feature more than 300,000 pictures from 1,600 flying hours over the past 20 years.

“If you have never seen this before, it’s just because you were never tall enough.” This is the first narrative of the film, pairing up the majesty of Taiwan’s Central Mountain Range across the screen. The gorgeous views impressed audiences who realized how beautiful Taiwan presently is.

Chi’s aerial photography had us see verdant mountains and forests; however, on crossing one mountain top, there was a huge collapse. Exposed yellow land slices could be easily observed. The camera’s eye found bald spots with many big trucks busily carrying logs cut out from the land.

The photography’s eyesight moved from the high elevation to the coast. There are numerous aquaculture ponds in southern Taiwan where fish and shrimp are cultivated. Those twisted roots and intertwined joints were consuming vast amounts of groundwater. Next to this were recessions submerged in sea water. Moving to the north, waste water polluted the ocean in nauseating black and yellows.

The documentary shows Taiwan’s beauty and wretchedness, forcing the public to face up to these bleeding injuries of the motherland. The earth is sunken because of the overuse of groundwater; land is polluted by waste water and trash; mountains are over utilized and are losing their ability to retain water.

This film delivers a strong message. Many government administrators are appointed to watch this documentary, but only watching and touching is not enough to solve these problems. The government in Taiwan has to further its determination to fix the environmental disasters, instead of fearing some financial groups. 

The 93-minute documentary is narrated by the famous writer and director, Nien-chen Wu. Nolay Piho, an Aboriginal pastor and actor, known by his Chinese name Lin Ching-ta, also wrote and performed several songs in the film. Subtitles are in English.

Such a theme is universal in the world-wide battle between nature and industry. “I am not here to judge.” director Chi Po-lin was quoted as saying. “I understand there is a price to pay for the life we live, but each of us must stop ignoring all the destruction.”

Kelly Tang is a Taiwanese journalist. 


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