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Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above
IMDB Rating: 8.0/10 from votes
Release: 1 November 2013 (Taiwan) /

Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above

Genre: Documentary, Drama
Director: Chi-chuan Tsui,
Stars: , , ,
Synopsis: A documentary that documents Taiwan from an aerial perspective. It offers viewers a glimpse of Taiwan's natural beauty as well as the effect of human activities and urbanization to our environment. Written by ycl6

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Critic Reviews


Living in this part of the world, Taiwan shouldn't be an unfamiliar tourist spot for us. Beyond our Facebook and Instagram photos with somewhat ridiculous sounding hashtags like #ILoveTaiwan and #TaiwanHoliday, how much do we really know about the East Asian state which has an area of 36193 square kilometers? Beyond the metropolitan area of Taipeiwhere you devour your enormous chicken fillets and oyster mee sua, how much do you know about the island formerly known as Formosa? In this day and age where we move faster than we think, is there relevance in understanding a country's heritage and history?

Both a commercial and critical success, this 2013 documentary film has made its way to Singapore, and amidst the breathtaking visuals, it asks some important and somewhat grave issues which we, collectively as a human race, has chosen to ignore for the longest time. The 93 minute feature length production documents Taiwan completely in aerial photography. It is a tribute to Taiwan's natural beauty (something not many of us are aware of), and gained attention back home when it earned NT$11 million (S$458,336) in its first three days at the Taiwanese box office, a record opening for a documentary in the territory. The film went on to win the Best Documentary at the Taipei Golden Horse Awards, before making its way to several international film festivals.

Directed by Chi Po Lin, a former civil servant turned aerial photographer, produced by prominent Taiwanese filmmaker Hou Hsiao Hsien and narrated by respected personality Wu Nien Jen (we love the script has a Chinese old school poetic romanticism), the film's first 10 odd minutes blows you away with its unbelievably awe inspiring shots of Taiwan's various well known spots. It begins to feel like a tourism promo reel, with Singaporean composer Ricky Ho's magnificent and operatic score. You feel a little overwhelmed (all the while wishing you have the opportunity to visit Taiwan soon to snap similar photos and share them on your social media platforms), and begin to wonder where this documentary is headed.

Then it strikes you hard – the film begins showing you how human greed and negligence has damaged the island's beauty. You see how irresponsible environmental crimes affect Taiwan's mountains and coastline, and how this supposedly natural disasters like floods and landslides (which Taiwan often experiences) is nothing more than a result of human actions. You feel a little guilty because you remember wanting to enjoy mountain grown vegetables and sip mountain tea while staying in European inspired inns, just because travel brochures tell you it's the best way to enjoy Taiwan, and to a certain extent, to appreciate life. The documentary explains to you, in simple geographic terms, how this obsession with economic expansion may one day lead to the country's downfall.

Yes, you may feel that the film is starting to get preachy, dishing you with environmental messages that you already know from elsewhere. But nothing works better than showing you visuals that leave you dumbfounded and shocked – an effect that's more far reaching than a horror movie. The chilling thought that the terrifying images you see on screen are due to fishermen, farmers and businessmen's doings is one you have to experience to understand the dire situation. This documentary may be Taiwancentric, but we all know this is a universal issue that needs to be dealt with urgently.

Thankfully, the last 20 minutes of the film reminds us there is hope yet. When the film closes with one of our favourite on screen visuals this year – a choir singing an aboriginal tune on Yu Shan, Taiwan's tallest mountain peak, you'll step out of the cinema wanting to do your part for conservation. Next step, which is of utmost importance, is to actually making a conscious effort to protect this planet we call home.

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