Friday, November 21, 2008

Taiwanin International Documentary Festival 01. – 06.11.2008

Taiwan International Documentary Festival website


After Lithuania I made a stopover in Helsinki for five hours. I manage to do some laundry, and even pause for a moment in my thoughts, about my travelling. When you travel, you always leave from one situation and when you return, in a way you return into the moment you left. The progress in the point of departure (=homeland), however, cannot be paused with a remote control, so things keep moving on while you’re gone. Time cannot be controlled, and it’s not physically possible to divide oneself into different locations at once. A trip is always a choice. It’s not only an “addition” – a new nuance amongst the old or a dessert after dinner. It’s an either-or – here or there – situation.

Excessive travelling affects personal relationships. Restless lifestyle alienates and frightens – and of course fascinates, at least in case of the traveller. How is one able, and dares to build anything around a restless lifestyle… or on the other hand, why not. Maybe being on the move creates a feeling of security and keeps away the fear of standing still, at least ostensibly. Perhaps it’s also a way for me to play overtime, so to speak. Especially when I know the importance of stopping and also feel drawn to it.

Taiwan brings up a lot of memories. I go through them a lot during the trip. Maybe I’ve previously experienced so much and so quickly here that I haven’t had the time to deal with it. I am at the Taiwan festival for the second time. The festival is organised every other year, and the first time being in 1998 when I was in Taipei with my film Karmapa – Two Ways of Divinity, set in Tibet. Now the festival has moved to the country’s (or county’s, according to the Chinese) second largest city, Taichung. This isn’t a small place either with its population of 2,3 million.

Festival advert outside the hotel

The festival started out 10 years ago ambitiously. The programme was great, and the prizes remarkable. From Finland Pirjo Honkasalo and Marita Hällfors also attended with their film Atman. The festival therefore offered a chance to get to know Pirjo a bit better, whose work I’ve appreciated a good deal over the years. Although festivals, in a way, have a restless nature, many deepening, calming and structuring moments take place, also with colleagues.

The facade of the Taichung art museum

It frustrates me that Taiwan doesn’t organise the festival every year. The gap years drop the event off the map and the persistent development of the festival and its organisation becomes more difficult and clumsy. The location and the audience seem like an excellent subject for doing something significant through persistent work. The centre of the festival is Taichung’s art museum, which has presented the festival in a magnificent way. Screenings take place on four screens simultaneously, and there is a surprisingly large audience even in the daytime screenings. The Taiwanese are also eager to have discussions. Shadow of the Holy Book generates long discussions after its screening, one of which lasts over an hour. My film about Tibet and being blacklisted by China also interests the Taiwanese, who clearly read Shadow of the Holy Book through their own situation and their relationship with China: worried, in a way, on how deep they can sink with China and how far will China go with its oppression.

The front of the Taichung art museum

Post-screening discussion

I have brought my Olympic shirt to the festival. I was invited to the Beijing Olympics by the Finnish Lottery and the Finnish Olympic Committee as part of their delegation, but in the end China refused my visa. All the delegation members received the “dress for the games” for the Olympics, including a shirt where Finland has been stylishly embroidered in the back in Chinese. I wear the shirt to the screenings and discussions as I am, after all, the Finnish representative here and the only one as well. Furthermore, I will never be allowed any closer than this to China – not during the current totalitarian rule anyway. I’ll let this be my Olympic representation. Shadow of the Holy Book had also been selected to be screened at a festival in Beijing, but after the Olympics it was also deemed for the blacklist and the festival removed it from its programme.

Arto wearing the Finnish representative shirt

The Taiwanese are very warm and cordial in their organisation – its of course part of the culture, but strongly appears to be genuine. Every guest receives a so-called assistant, who helps with the scheduling, practical matters and also acts as a local guide. The festival club is missing from the event, which is a small minus point. However, it’s clearly tied into the culture – instead of partying, people prefer to walk and take the guests to the night market, which is Taichung’s most active centre and meeting place.

The US elections conclude at the latter half of the festival. In the minds of many a miracle takes place through Obama’s victory. In Taiwan, too, many locals and festival guests are touched by it and feel pride – listen to Obama’s victory speech deeply moved, yours truly included. In Obama people’s anguish becomes concrete, as well as the hope for something better. An inconceivable possibility of change culminates in him, in which people want to believe. The world is at great emergency. It will make Obama’s mission impossible. Hopefully as much as possible will live on from this “symbol of purity” and hope – past the years and terms in office.

The same emergency and fear also lingers on around here, and it should somehow be unravelled from people’s minds. Obama will not be of any help, when China looms as a shadow around the corner like a developmentally distorted big brother.


John said...

Research and preparations for this film festival commenced at the beginning of 1997. Advice was received from people in various fields, including experts in overseas film festivals and assembly members who could appreciate cultural enterprises. In April, the National Assembly gave its consent and the outline of the festival began to take shape. It is said, however, that the real motivation for the film festival came from the Taiwanese delegation's report upon its return from the YIDFF.

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