Film Reflection

Reflective Journal on one of the Taiwan films
Taiwan Week Schedule
Monday: Day Off Film 7:00pm @ Blue Mouse Theatre
Tuesday: Whale Island Film 6:00pm @ Tahoma Room

Prompt: write a reflective journal entry (about 500 words and in at least three paragraphs) on either Day Off or Whale Island&*
1) Review this how-to Jamboard: Write A Reflective Journal on a Movie
2) Include a title for your writing
3) Add word count at the end of your enter  – at least 500 words and in three paragraphs
4) Post you entry on below under Comments

23 thoughts on “Film Reflection

  1. Whale Island Review

    Whale Island is a Taiwanese film that follows the life of two unrelated men. The first man, Liao Hong-ji, is a writer, who spends some of his time adventuring and participating in experiments, such as the “Drift” project that is documented in this film. He uses his time around the ocean as inspiration for his literature. The second featured man is Ray Chin, who is an underwater photographer. While the two men seem disconnected at first, the viewers quickly begin to see the connections revealed. Perhaps the most prominent link between the two is their clear love for the ocean. It is what leads the entire documentary. Their respective love and dedication to the sea. They make it clear that many Taiwanese people are fearful of the sea and what lies below. Both men feel passionately that if more people were to experience the sea, and the many wonders of the water, the stereotypes would dissolve. It’s also interesting to note that even though Taiwan is one of the largest fishing nations on earth, they have such a lack of oceanic culture, which is brought up primarily at the beginning of the film. There is one truly striking shot, where Liao Hong-ji stands on a beach, where a truly massive net is being hauled out of the water behind him as he stares stoically into the water which nails this aspect.

    The pace of the film is quite slow, the shots are long, and the narration over the film is not word heavy, to get the viewers to focus more on the visual aspects. There is quite the juxtaposition between the shots of the whales and the sea, and the home life, behind the scenes of the men. The men’s lives are chaotic, children running rampant, and subjects of messy divorces, and while the shots pertaining to these aspects are quite calm, there is a certain level of chaos that makes itself apparent in this style of filmmaking. I also believe that the filmmakers wanted to have the audience feel something. Unlike some more traditional documentaries, which are neutral and educational, this film has some lighter scenes and emotionally heavy moments. There are some jump cuts of silly children, and people getting seasick that may make the audience giggle, but the majority of the feeling of the film is in the failures that the men feel regarding their families. This is what I would call the subplot of this film. Both men feel as if their intense connection and devotion to the sea has disrupted their family life, whether it be Liao Hong-ji, partially abandoning his daughter, and seeking that connection later in the film. Or Ray, who constantly leaves two little boys at home to go on photography trips, although he seems to have an interesting relationship with them, which left me unsure if he appreciated or wanted to be a father. This plot point also relates to the start of the film, in which the narrator speaks about how creatures who are constricted will not thrive while they are under restrictions. While at first this could be taken as wildlife bouncing back after being confined by pollution or other factors, by the end of the movie another option is present. I was under the impression that both men seem to be confined by their family life, and seem to slightly resent their families for limiting their career. Ray specifically speaks about the fact that other professional photographers travel year-round and that he would love to do the same, but he has obligations keeping him at home.

    Overall the film had a really interesting style, I enjoyed the behind-the-scenes subplot that was presented, as well as the parts about the wildlife and their career aspirations. I would say the weak points of the film were the sluggish pace, which instead of creating anticipation for what came next, left me a little frustrated. Additionally, the drift project that Liao Hong-ji was pioneering left me a little bit confused. I felt it wasn’t adequately explained, especially the part about the pods that they attached to the raft. I also felt that although the idea of creating an “oceanic culture” in Taiwan was a repeating idea, it didn’t really stick with me as much as some of the other points, but that could just be personal. As a whole, it was a complex film that was visually and mentally interesting, there were just a few things that I think could have been improved to create a stronger film.

    word count: 759

  2. My Reflection

    In the documentary “Whale Island”, we are able to gain insight on two Taiwanese men both on varying paths of life yet share a similarity because of their love for the sea.

    Some overarching themes that I thought about throughout the film was the emphasis on the importance of family and Asian societal standards/culture as a whole. The writer, Mr. Liao was shown to have an estranged relationship with his daughter yet over the course of the documentary, they had begun to have a better understanding of each other. On the other hand, Ray Chin, the underwater photographer, struggled with balancing his passions along with being with his family. Mr. Chin had mentioned that he already dedicated 3-4 years to raising his children and he didn’t want to dwell on the feeling of being “left behind” again. Family is their source of strength, yet at the same time, it appears that it can become a burden to them and hinder their passions. I believe that they both struggled and continue to struggle to figure out what to prioritize in their life. Chasing your dreams or family? It isn’t something that they can answer immediately and they are still on the journey to figuring that out.

    In Asian culture and society in general, there is an idea about what kinds of professions are socially acceptable and stable. I believe that lots of people judge you immediately based on what your occupation is. The standards are set pretty high so if you aren’t, for example, a doctor or a lawyer (or anything of that “caliber”), they may assume negative things about you. Like in the film when Mr. Chin’s father is concerned about his son’s job and the stability of it. “How will he support his family with this job”? Not to mention that underwater photography is an extremely dangerous occupation as well. Not only does the film convey a sincere message to people who are too afraid to reach for their dreams, it also emphasizes the importance of having a good support system.

    Lastly I wanted to discuss the theme of bravery and courage. Doing these types of jobs out on the open sea requires some degree of bravery, it is extremely dangerous and unpredictable. As both men face conflicts during the course of their adventures, it does not hinder them from attempting to achieve their goals. Despite the history and politics that have made the Taiwanese people turn away from the sea, Mr. Liao and Mr. Chin truly embody the human spirit of never giving up and facing challenges head-on in an embracing manner. They both love the sea and continue to love it even after criticism and injury. I admire the two of them for reaching out for their passions and continuing to inspire other people to do the same.

    All in all, I think this film captured many important aspects of human life such as culture, societal norms, nature, family, and perseverance very well. It made me reflect on my own life and how these lessons can apply to the choices I’ll make in the future.

    519 words

  3. My Reflection

    I watched people talk about their love of the ocean and taking pictures of whales

    There are two main people the film seems to focus on. One was a photographer named Ray Chin, and the other was a fisherman turned-writer named Liao Hung-Chi. Something that was brought up repeatedly was their struggle to prioritize something they love over their family. First, the photographer has a wife and two sons. While his relationship with his wife wasn’t deeply explored, his relationship with his sons seems to be a good one. But what he had trouble with was balancing his life between his passion for taking pictures of whales and his life with his family. Something I found interesting was when he asked whether or not his sons would like to go on a trip with him to the ocean, and they said no. What surprised me was their reasoning for why, or at least, what the father thought their reasoning was. It was stated that they did not want to go with their father to the ocean because, in their minds, they thought that someone going off the boat meant that person would disappear forever. To actively watch their father go off the boat, would be something that the sons would fear and so they decide to avoid it by not joining their father on his trip to the ocean.

    The fisherman-turned-writer, Liao, is described to be more of a solitary person. He had bad experiences with socializing and therefore preferred not to be in situations where he needed to interact with people. I don’t quite understand his motivation for wanting to be near the ocean or going on trips to the ocean in order to write about it, but I do know he was passionate about it. He ultimately came to a point in his life, where he needed to pick between his passion and his family, and decided to go with his passion. This ultimately led to having an estranged relationship with his daughter who hates her father for choosing the ocean over his family. But it seems that near the end of the film, they seem to be reconnecting.

    I guess because of the conflict, I believe it was between China and Taiwan? Well due to the conflict, it seems many people in Taiwan seem to have an aversion to the ocean. So much so that I believe it was stated that there was a law that was created that did not allow people to travel on the ocean. Well, it didn’t seem to stop one of the Liao and Ray who both have a lot of passion for the ocean and such.

    What confused me was why they decided to build a raft of floaters. I didn’t quite understand the purpose of having built a raft and dragging it by boat when it could have been just the boat. I think the funniest part of the film was the dead chicken though. Aside from how one of the people was born in the year of the chicken, and how it seemed to be a terrible sign to him as someone born in that year, it just seems like such a mystery to me. Like how did the chicken even get there, and if it was manufactured to be there, why, and for what reason? It’s just the strangest mystery to me that unfortunately did not get solved.

    555 words

  4. The Essence of People and Time

    In the 2023 Day Off Taiwanese Film directed by Fu Sola Tien-Yu, the common message that came across to me was the essence of people and time, and how important it is. Throughout the film, Tien-Yu walks the audience through a day off of a woman/mother, A Rui, who runs a barber shop. In the beginning, her small, local shop is portrayed with many different customers. In contrast, there is a more modern shop and we see the difference of interactions and moods in the shop. One day, A Rui hops in her car and leaves town with no notice but a “Day Off” sign on her shop. While no one knows where she is, she is reflecting on her life and is able to interact with different people, new and old.

    Through A Rui’s time as a barbress, the whole community has walked into her shop to get haircuts and we’re able to see her tireless work and the effort she puts into each customer. Later in the film, we find out that she has really bad knee problems; and instead of taking it easy, this is when she starts her long journey to cut the hair of a sick client, who she had known for so long.

    During her journey, all the way up til A Rui cuts her sick clients hair, Tien-Yu places an emphasis on the small moments she experiences with everyone. Tien-Yu was strong in being able to put so much emotion in every single moment, causing the audience to realize how precious each one was to her when they realize it’s over. At first, I didn’t understand the plot until she got to her customers house because they kept jumping back and forth in times and areas, which could present a weak spot. Going back to the strengths of this film, I believe that the characters portrayed their emotions really well, even if it was to show that they were trying to hide their emotions. From A Rui traveling with her bad knees to seeing a patient who was too sick to go to her, it just shows how she values her customers and took pride in everything she did.

    Using the common theme of people and time, using the barbershop setting was a good idea because in the haircutting business, you really only see customers so many times a year and for maybe an hour or two max for a cut. Knowing this, this film gives us a good idea that all the time matters no matter how long, and that it’s the little things in life that build lifelong memories and connections. Seeing how A Rui is able to connect with her customers in such a simple, small period of time, it allows the audience to reflect on their own life and see how they treat each moment. With her customer being bed ridden sick, we also get the message to not take any moments or people for granted because you don’t want to look back on all the memories and have regrets.

    Overall, I thought that this film portrayed the theme of the value of people and time very well. A Rui made a simple situation meaningful with so many different examples to how this can apply in all of our lives. If I wasn’t taking this class, I probably wouldn’t have gone out to watch this Taiwanese film; but I’m glad I did because not only was I able to gain some valuable insight, I was also able to gain a glimpse of what Taiwanese films are like. Now I can apply this film to my life to remind me how every moment matters and that I should be grateful for every experience I’m given.


  5. My Reflection

    I went and attended the viewing of Day Off at the Blue Mouse Theater, and to me, it was a very heartwarming and warm experience. The movie centers around a woman named A Rui who runs a very small hairdresser shop at her home, whose clients are all locals who she has got to know each of personally. The movie mainly focuses on her relationship with one particular old man who was also a neighborhood dentist, who now suffers from complications of old age and health (whose name I unfortunately forgot), and how she makes a personal house visit to cut his hair. Throughout the film, we also meet A Rui’s children, all of which have flown the nest in some way or another to pursue their careers (or lack thereof, such as the son who still lives near her that seems to be struggling to do that), and also question why she puts so much care into her work despite so many other options. The movie focuses in so much on A Rui’s personal relationships, and does a lot of exploration about the impact of relationships between people.

    To me, the movie hit a special place in my heart. First off, with it being set in Taiwan, there was a lot of familiarly and faint nostalgia I had just watching the cinematography and landscape. While I do not come from Taiwan, my family comes from Cambodia. The slightly cramped downstairs stores with old metal doors, the fruit being left out on patios and rooftops to dry in the sun (only to forgot about them being there when it starts raining), and the long countryside dirt paths reminded me so much of Cambodia. As for the movie being spoken in Taiwanese, I was also pleasantly surprised by how much of it I could actually understand without subtitles, since a lot of words in Taiwanese are the same as the ones in Teochew, which is the dialect of Chinese that I speak at home.

    Most of all however, I started to find myself really attached the A Rui herself. As the main character, of course it makes sense that the movie focuses on her internal struggles and perspective, but what made me so attached to her was how much she reminded me of my own mother. My mother isn’t a hairdresser, but instead a nail technician, and she often tells me about how her regular customers are all either neighborhood teenagers, or older women. It reminded me a lot of how A Rui’s main customers are all old men, along with the occasional kids. Also like A Rui, my mom sends messages to her regulars when they haven’t come into the salon in a while. Another thing that hit close to home for me was how it is implied that A Rui goes off on her own quite often, and how her kids tend to be a little dismissive about it since they no longer live with her, and when she does small things like showing up to deliver a random bag of fruit, her kids find it heartwarmingly silly. A Rui’s relationship with her children to me was a little bittersweet, since these are also things that my own mother does, and me and my sister often don’t know what she’s up to since neither of us live at home anymore.

    In conclusion, the movie culturally resonated with me a lot and I really enjoyed it, and later that night, it motivated me to call my mom and check in on her.

    592 words

  6. Day Off Film Reflection

    I went to the first movie showing, the “Day Off” film on Monday November 6th. Professor Chang’s discussion about Taiwanese filmmaking was a really interesting way to give some context about what we were about to watch. I liked how she didn’t give much away about the movie, but instead gave information about the history of Taiwan Film culture, and the effect it has had on Taiwan and those who watch these films. She expressed how each Taiwanese film is a unique experience and how going into it without any expectations is, in her mind, the best way to watch a Taiwanese film. It allows a sense of mystery and grants the watcher a chance to experience all of the director’s decisions without past knowledge that might “spoil” the movie. I liked learning the history and how just recently, Taiwanese film making has been becoming very popular just as it once was in the past.

    This movie was truly unlike any movie I have seen. It portrays the life of a hairdresser, a life that seems so normal, yet this movie is able to capture the beauty of everyday life. I would say this movie was a bit slower paced than I, as an American immersed in action packed movie culture, is used to. Which in my opinion, is a really refreshing change of pace. The slow shots and the silences between dialogue really brought forth the normalcy of the hairdresser’s life and made me feel as if I was experiencing it all alongside her. I am one who is usually not very interested in movies, so before the movie started, I was coming in with low expectations. Thinking that I might become bored or want to fall asleep. But, I was pleasantly surprised, and even with the slow pace, I found myself enjoying the movie immensely.

    My favorite part of the movie was the relationship between Lu Hsiao-fen’s character of the hairdresser, and the ex-son in law, Chuan. It was very heartwarming and sweet. I thought that this relationship uncovered a lot about her personality and how caring and thoughtful she was. Even though he was technically not a part of her family anymore, she still included him in her life and chose to spend time with him. Another part of the movie that revealed her inner kindness was when she drove all the way to cut the hair of her old customer for free. No matter what anyone else said about how stupid it was to do that without being paid, she did it anyway. The scene where she was running down the street crying after cutting his hair was heartbreaking. She cared so much about him and what he had done to help her through the tough times when her husband was in the hospital. She brought peace to his last moments and to his family through her storytelling. I think that this act of kindness can also go to explain the close relationship she has with Chuan. The fact that they are both such naturally selfless people who put the needs of others before their own, makes me think that this shared characteristic is why they are so close. They both value other things in life over money which I thought was one of the main hidden messages of the movie. This story was realistic in a way that many of the audience members could probably relate to one thing or another. It made me think a lot about the simple things in life and how even having a “normal” life can be quite beautiful. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and it makes me want to explore more Taiwanese films in the future.

    Word Count: 617

  7. Whale Island Film Reflection

    Whale Island is a documentary film that focuses on the adventures of two people whose lives and work are closely connected to the ocean. The first person, named Liao Hong-ji, is a marine advocate and writer who has dedicated his life to exploring the sea, lecturing people all over Taiwan about the importance of the sea. The second person, named Ray Chin, is an underwater photographer who specializes in images of sea creatures, specifically whales. Despite coming from different generations, both of them have a special link to the sea, which is their big passion for it. At first the two may seem different as they are doing unrelated things but viewers begin to see their connections, specifically this one. Both of them want Taiwan to appreciate the sea, and if more people experienced the sea and what lies under then they would be less fearful of it. At the beginning of the film, the lack of oceanic culture that Taiwan has is brought up, which is a significant point adding up to what Liao and Ray are both trying to do in their love for the sea. In my opinion, the two men don’t own the ocean but it belongs to them in an immensely personal way that drives their entire purpose and existence.

    Liao is on a drifting voyage through the Kuroshio current, while Ray is photographing whales in Tonga. The shots of whales throughout the film are from different angles in order to emphasize their size, dimensions and freedom, and this is exactly what attracts people like Liao and Ray. The film’s pace is slow, going in between the shots of whales and the sea and home life of the two men. The lives of the two men are shown to be somewhat chaotic, which could be meant to make the audience feel something; both of them are torn between their passion for the sea and their families being unable to understand it. The family element of this film helps connect the two different storylines and makes the subjects more relatable. In Liao’s case, he chose the ocean over his family, and even though he doesn’t regret it he is shown trying to reconnect with his daughter throughout. For Ray, he tries to spend as much time as he can with his children whenever he is in Taiwan. He even admits that bringing up children is not easy. The family interactions shown at in the film set the stage for Ray’s eventual departure to Tonga. Despite both Liuao and Ray pursuing their desires, there is always an aspect of sacrifice and or regret stemming from it, and I can see this from them deciding between family and passions. When Liao and Ray pursue their dedication to the ocean, I can see how much they desire to accomplish their goals and I can relate to how I follow my own goals in my life.

    Overall, this film was thought-provoking and made me understand certain aspects about the ocean more. I thought the slow pace was a weak spot because instead of finding out what happens next I had to wait longer. I understood the passions of the two men for the sea and what lies beneath. The vast ocean and its many creatures are emphasized throughout the documentary’s duration, Ray’s cinematography contributed a lot to this. In my opinion this shows his true dedication to the sea. This could all help me put more attention on the sea and acknowledge what it has to offer out there.

    Word count: 589

  8. Film: Whale Island
    As I was watching the film, the first mention of the relationship between Taiwanese people and the sea shocked and confused me. Since most major cities are often built near water for reasons such as transportation and trade, I was taken aback when I saw Taiwan’s coasts almost barren and sometimes even trashed. I wanted to better understand why an island such as Taiwan has an almost fearful relationship with the ocean, arguably its most valuable resource. Although the film briefly touched on some possible reasons such as political tensions with China and a longstanding cultural fear of the ocean passed on from ancestors, the film mainly focused on the complex relationship between Taiwanese society and the seas. It did this using its cinematography and touching storytelling of two men struggling to balance their love of the ocean and familial duties.

    The documentary follows writer and marine advocate Liao Hung-chi and Taiwan’s first underwater whale photographer Ray Chin on their distinct journeys, diving deep not only into the ocean’s depths but into their own souls. The stunning cinematography captures the beauty of the sea and its creatures, providing a stark contrast to the prevalent disconnect between Taiwan and its coastal treasures. Liao Hung-chi’s narrative emphasizes the societal neglect of the ocean, attributing it to a range of social and political factors. Concrete tetrapods and coastal industrial zones have created barriers, physically and metaphorically, preventing the Taiwanese from fully understanding and appreciating their maritime heritage. The film weaves together Liao and Chin’s passionate pursuits, highlighting their personal connections to the vast blue expanse. While the initial disconnection between the two men’s stories may seem apparent, the film masterfully reveals the parallels in their struggles. Liao, on a drifting voyage through the Kuroshio current, and Chin, photographing whales in the Kingdom of Tonga, both grapple with the challenge of balancing their profound love for the ocean with their familial responsibilities. The film’s pivot towards exploring their relationships with family adds a profound layer, making the characters more relatable and the narrative more emotionally resonant.

    Chin’s sincere interactions with his children before departing for Tonga showcase the raw and genuine nature of familial bonds, underscoring the difficulties of balancing a passionate pursuit with parenting. Liao’s attempt to reconnect with his grown daughter, who harbors resentment for his choice of the ocean over family, adds a poignant dimension to the film. The sacrifices and regrets inherent in pursuing one’s ideals are portrayed authentically, challenging the simplistic notion of chasing one’s dreams. The film’s title, “Whale Island,” encapsulates not just the physical island of Taiwan but the metaphorical isolation and alienation felt by its people from the ocean. Through intimate confessions and introspective moments, the documentary encourages reflection on the societal disconnect with the sea. Huang Chia-chun’s decision to shift focus during the editing process, incorporating the theme of family, elevates “Whale Island” beyond a mere exploration of marine beauty to a compelling narrative about the delicate balance between personal passion and familial bonds. As the film unfolds, it becomes apparent that “Whale Island” is not just about the ocean; it’s a call to action for Taiwan to confront its historical fears, political tensions, and cultural inhibitions, urging its people to embrace and understand the seas that surround them.

    word count: 547

  9. Day Off Movie Reflection

    Watching Day Off last week at Blue Mouse Theater was wonderful. The evening began with a presentation from a Taiwanese Film expert who gave a brief history of Taiwanese film in order to help us understand how Day Off fits into the larger historical film culture of Taiwan. I am thrilled to have a bit of background that will inform my own explorations in the seemingly very diverse world of Taiwanese film. Both this introduction and the movie itself taught me many things I never knew about Taiwan.

    Day Off was a beautiful movie that at first appears to be a simple film about a hairdresser and her three kids. The movie quickly becomes an emotionally complex story about purpose, family, connection and love.

    My favorite part of Day Off is the ways the film interrogates parent-child relationships. The movie begins with the main character worried about her three children; one is an unemployed entrepreneur, the next is a mother and divorcee and the last is a fashion designer whose boyfriend is cheating on her. We see the hairdresser talking with her children about the various complications of their lives. When the hairdresser goes on a trip by herself to visit an old client who is now sick, her children begin to worry when they can’t get a hold of her. Witnessing this role reversal as the hair dressers kids gather at the barber shop to worry in community and wait for their mother reminded me of my own family. My sister and I are both in our early twenties and have caused our parents their share of worry over the years. Now we sit around and discuss all the ways we worry about our parents. When my mom is undervalued at her job we groan about how she deserves more, how we wish she didn’t have to work so hard just to get by financially. When my dads mother passed we worried that he wouldn’t ever be okay. We worried that our own grief would cloud our ability to support him through his. These worries we take on as we get older change our understanding of our parents as individuals; complex and full of emotion and struggling just as we are. I thought this film illustrated the tenderness and intimacy of these familial relationships honestly and beautifully.

    As the movie ends we are left with a picture of a happy ending, though much change has occurred. One child is divorced but has opened her own salon, one is by herself trying to make it as a stylist, and the last is still coming up with inventions and schemes to get rich. While not all of these are perfectly happy endings, they are reminders of the ways in which our families get us by, supporting us if we are so lucky, through all of the tumultuous times. Day Off built slowly into a familiar story of connection and communication that pictures all the ways we find ourselves in community with one another.

    word count: 506

  10. Day Off Reflection

    I had the chance to see Day Off at the Blue Mouse Theater during Taiwan week, which was a really well-made film that I enjoyed. One aspect I appreciated was the introductory presentation about Taiwanese films. The presenter informed us about Taiwan New Cinema, a film movement which occurred from 1982 and 1987. The style of Taiwan New Cinema focused on realism, where the plots often revolved around the lives of the common people. This put Day Off in more context, as this film was grounded in reality and its characters were pretty normal people. It’s clear to see that Day Off was influenced by the style of Taiwan New Cinema. I also agree with the presenter that going into a film without any prior expectations is one of the best ways to experience a film. I didn’t know much about the film before seeing it, and I think that made my experience more enjoyable.
    Although the pacing of this film is slower than others, I enjoyed the intimate and deep exploration of each of the characters, especially the hairdresser played by Lu Hsiao-fen, named A-Rui. The film explores different themes like community, family, and love. The story revolves around A-Rui’s salon and family. While her kids hassle her about changing her persistent ways, the hairdresser sticks to her routine, which is more important to her because of the relationships she has with her clients. She doesn’t stick to this job because she likes hairdressing alone, but because it allows her to care for others with her services and develop strong relationships within her community. She even travels to a regular customer’s home when he is sick to give him a haircut. It really shows how a simple act like giving a haircut can mean so much to a person and the people around them.
    One of the best parts about the film is the editing choices. Shots in this movie are often long and use silence and space to give the viewer time to think. Compared to western blockbusters and action movies, things aren’t happening very fast. But I think that this lack of action and slow pace is something that more movies need. Sometimes less is more when it comes to what is on screen. Silence can speak louder than words and convey different emotions from the characters. It also allows time to appreciate the beauty of the small things that we sometimes take for granted or skip over day to day. We all too often get stuck in routines that we think are boring, but all we have to do is slow down and enjoy what we are doing. This is something that I think the film conveys very well with its pacing and slice-of-life style.
    Overall, I had a good experience with this film and enjoyed the story it told. It was different from many other films I’ve seen, but it was cool seeing something new and interesting from another culture. Watching this and learning about the history of Taiwan cinema has made me want to see more Taiwanese films, especially some of the Taiwan New Cinema films from the 80s.

    Word Count: 525

  11. Reflection on a Film – The Farewell

    Lulu Wang’s film The Farewell tells a story of a family reuniting in China to supposedly attend a family wedding. However, the real reason they are there is to see (and say goodby to) Nai Nai, a family member who has cancer but doesn’t know it. Through a near constant comparison of Chinese and American cultural norms, viewed from the perspective of Nai nai’s granddaughter Billi Wang, Wang is able to create a story that poses the question of whether lying is right when it benefits the person being lied to.

    I found this film to be very engaging, as the differences between Chinese and American culture interest me. It was also an emotional film, with Billi seeming sad throughout the film (until the end, when she let out her emotion through the Tai Chi taught to her by her grandmother). The film was composed from a series of long and specific scenes of Billi and her family in the lead up to them saying goodbye to Nai nai. These scenes were tied together by a minor song that repeated throughout the movie. The way this movie is composed makes viewers feel more connected to it, as they are able to emphasize better with characters as they are focussed on in specific scenes.

    From the beginning of the movie to the end, American culture is being compared side-by-side with Chinese culture. The main character (Billi), was born in China but moved to America at a young age. She speaks both English and Chinese, but is more familiar with American culture. As soon as Billi lands in China, the camera pans to views of the massive construction projects that are a hallmark of modern-day China. These construction projects become personal to Billi once she realizes that the house she used to play at as a kid has been destroyed to make way for new construction. The main focus of the culture clash, however, centers around whether Nai nai’s family should tell her about her cancer or not. Some members of the family side with the Chinese perspective that your life is shared with everyone (as opposed to just for you). This perspective suggests that Nai nai’s family should take on the emotional toll of her cancer by not telling her. On the other hand, some of the family agrees with the American perspective that people should (legally) be allowed to know about their own medical conditions, and that lying is wrong despite the benefits. These two perspectives mark a significant difference between Chinese and American culture, and seem to separate the family that moved to America from the family that didn’t.

    Ultimately, Nai nai’s family doesn’t tell her that she has cancer, although there are many moments at which the truth almost comes out. An important factor in Billi not telling her grandmother about her cancer is the fact that she learns her grandmother lied to her grandfather about his cancer as well. Billi does, however, eventually tell her grandma about the fellowship she didn’t win, before saying a final, emotional goodbye.

    Word Count: 515


    Google Film Box resources/study-guide-lulu-wangs-the-farewell/,developed%20by%20ancient%20Chinese%20people

  12. Whale Island review

    While watching Whale Island (2020) I was entranced by the beautiful cinematography and careful dialogue. Personally, I love narrative films that really show what the characters are thinking, so this sort of film-making really worked for me. I love how the camera followed the two main characters- Liao and Ray- through their lives. I love the shots of them doing things, spending time with people, combined with the voiceovers explaining their thoughts and motivations. Ultimately, I love how the film gives us the ability to look into the minds of these men, and see what they have risked to follow their artistic passions- why they choose to do what they do.

    One of the most impactful parts of the film is in a line from one of Liao’s narrations. He says that it has been tradition in Taiwan to turn away from the sea, due to past trauma and associations with it. There is a fear surrounding the ocean in Taiwan. But, Liao says, the only way to get through a tsunami is to face it. These words stuck out in the film, and even came up in a class discussion about the movie. We can understand that the men got through fear and uncertainty in life by investing in their passions, going through the wave. However, in turning towards the sea, both of the men turned their backs towards their families. It makes you wonder if, like Liao’s daughter, Ray’s kids will one day join him at sea, and have a special connection with their dad, exploring the place that he loves.

    I think one of the weak points of the film is the lack of explanation of what Liao is doing throughout the film. I understand why they did not explain it. Part of the artfulness of the film comes from the watching of the activity, instead of having someone explain it. But I feel like the confusion that came from the lack of understanding as to why he was building a raft and putting it in the ocean made me focus on my confusion for much of the movie instead of appreciating the message. But this weak point does not take away from what I got from the movie in terms of message and meaning. I think that the main themes do a great job at connecting to the human experience that most can relate to. As we grow into adulthood we have to think about ways to lead a fulfilling life, and the sacrifices that have to be made for that. I like that this film explores that in a way that is atypical to most- through following their passions and subsequently being ‘different’ than accepted Taiwanese culture, these men have made a huge sacrifice. But, in the end, they love what they do and they love making a living in artistic fields. Both the artistic premise of the film, which follows two artists, and the creativity and thoughtfulness of the film-making was reminiscent of one other Taiwanese arthouse film that I have seen, and has motivated me to seek out more in the future.

    Word count: 519

  13. Day Off Reflection

    During University of Puget Sound’s Taiwan week, I had the opportunity to learn about several different aspects of Taiwanese culture and the different cultural opportunities the Chinese program provides for students. The first event I attended was the film showing of the movie Day Off at the historic Blue Mouse Theatre. This was the first Taiwanese film that I have watched, and I definitely enjoyed it. Although I don’t have much experience learning about Taiwanese culture, I believe that watching this film was a nice introduction to many different aspects of Taiwanese culture.
    After watching the movie, I did a bit of research to learn more about the film’s production. Day Off is a Taiwanese film produced by Wu Nien-jen, an acclaimed New Cinema screenwriter-director, and stars Lu Hsiao-fen, a veteran actress who has performed in a variety of other films such as A Flower in the Raining Night and Osmanthus Alley, as A-Rui, a mother who has been running a small barber shop for over forty years. The story revolves around A-Rui and her journey to give a haircut to a client who is too ill to come back for his regular appointment. However, she also deals with criticism from her two daughters for her lax attitude towards making money from her job. Because I had gone into the theater not knowing anything about the film nor its production team, I had no expectations, but I left feeling emotionally full and refreshed.
    Although I am certainly no film critic, there are certain aspects of the film that I really liked and parts that I felt were weaker. Overall, I thought the film was beautiful and really showcased the emotional impact of a melodramatic film. Initially, I felt as if the movie was just a regular slice-of-life film that only really became interesting when A-Rui’s daughters were causing some kind of drama. However, I found myself crying my eyes out when A-Rui was talking to Dr. Ko while cutting his hair even though he couldn’t hear her. The little lines that she says about “knowing exactly what he likes” were so impactful and really made me feel like she cared about him more than as just a client. In this sense, I felt that the movie’s strongest points were its dialogue and character development. Admittedly, I didn’t love every character, but their actions and attitudes towards one another made sense to me and made me reconsider my own personal values when it comes to business endeavors. My one complaint would be that the beginning of the film felt a little long and uneventful.
    Watching this film reminded me of my own mom and grandma (who are both Chinese) and their attitude towards the value of connections. That is a value that I have witnessed first hand working at my mom’s optometry office and have been fortunate enough to experience through working at that office for several years. However, watching this film has made me even more excited to be able to experience that patient-provider relationship first-hand as I eventually enter that next step in my life as well.
    Although I knew nothing about Taiwanese cinematography before watching this film, I thought that it was an amazingly heartwarming piece that was a great introduction to Taiwanese family dynamics and cultural values. Not only was I able to learn more about Taiwanese culture, but I also had the opportunity to reflect upon my own understanding of the value of personal connections and the strength that they can provide.

    Word Count: 586

  14. Film- Whale Island
    Word Count- 541

    I think the movie was executed well. I think that the creativity used by the director such as different camera angles, and the way it was filmed was very inspiring. I also feel that the way this movie was filmed represented the story well, and it also represented the emotions of the characters well. I really loved the way they used the technology of drones too, to really put the surrounding area into perspective of the main character. I feel that the drone shots of the ocean reflected how dangerous being out in the ocean can be. Some of the shots showing how far away the land was, also showed how isolating the ocean can be, but it also showed that there was hope to find the whales and dolphins in the ocean. One of the most memorable shots of the movie was when the drone pulled away from the boat to show the orcas next to them, towards the end of the movie. One other drone shot that I loved was of the whales swimming next to the fishing boat, and the sun was setting ( this shot was towards the end of the film.)
    One of the parts that I really liked about the movie was when the main character was on the phone with his children. This particular scene really stuck out ot me because I felt bad for the kids because they do not get to see their dad all of the time. The line that he said to also stood out to me. He said he gets to see his kids when he wants through the phone and he is happy because he sees hi kids and when he hung up he was happy. However his kids were sad because they did not know when their dad would call back.
    The movie also was very touching because he is not afraid to show his sadness in all of the happiness going on. Throughout the movie you really do feel the emotion of the character in many of the shots done by the director. The character does show his emotion himself, by talking about how much he misses his family, and how much he misses his wife. I also like how we got to hear from his wife, and her perspective. She says how he had the decision of either choosing his family and staying or him leaving his family to pursue his passion of ocean photography.
    Overall, I loved seeing the emotion anc connection between humans and the ocean. I loved seeing the beauty of film in a new way of the majority being filmed on the ocean. I also loved seeing the emotion of the main character and his children, and how he was fortunate enough to still be with them, even though he was not physically there. Even though there was all this love and connection for these characters in the movie, there were people throughout the movie where, they did not have this bond or connection with the ocean. I feel that the characters not only showed this, but the film and shots showed it clearly. To conclude, I would re-watch this film to dive deeper (no pun intended) to see things I missed.

  15. Day Off Reflection

    In the movie, Day Off, directed by Fu Sola Tien-Yu, we are presented with the journey of a woman who owns a barbershop and is going to cut an old client’s hair. We are able to see her relationship with her two daughters and her son as well as their lifestyles. In my reflection, I want to explore family ties and how there is a disconnect, yet also a great connection between the members of the family.

    This movie is slower-paced than most films typically are, which allows the audience to really get to know the characters and how they interact with one another. The mom is clearly facing a lot of stress and worry over her three children, who are still finding their way in the world. One of her daughters is a hairdresser who is divorced and has a young son. Her other daughter is a fashion designer who has a cheating boyfriend. Her son is an entrepreneur who has yet to find very much success. They all take their mother for granted as they are selfishly working to find themselves and pursue their own goals. The mom checks in on them often, trying to help them, but they are not very appreciative. There is a disconnect here, in their relationship with one another. It’s clear that the kids have gotten to the age where they do not feel like they need to be reliant on their mom and are distancing themselves to some degree. They do not always listen to her suggestions, and they think she is old-fashioned and inexperienced. When she takes a day off to go cut her old client’s hair, her children become aware of this disconnect. She has driven all by herself, without informing anyone except her daughter’s ex-husband where she is going. When none of her kids know where she is, they realize that they do not check in enough with her. She is getting older, and to drive all that way by herself is likely not the best idea, yet she felt she didn’t have anyone to go with her. Through the realization that they are disconnected from their mother, the kids actually start to realize the importance of connection and communication. They don’t want their mother to feel like she cannot ask them for help or let them know where she is going. They also all end up waiting in her barber shop, likely the first time they have all been together in the same room for a long time. They bonded and got together to try to figure out what was going on with their mom. When the mom returns home, it is nearly night, but all her kids are still worried waiting for her. They return to their previous lives, but it’s clear that they are all going to be okay and that they are starting to become more of a family again.

    Overall, I think that the movie Day Off provides a very realistic depiction of a family and how they have grown apart with age and distance. Yet, through this mother’s journey, we can see that her children still care very deeply for her and they are working and becoming less self-centered. The ending is not perfect, yet it shows that the kids have started to find themselves and foster some of their mother’s beliefs.

    Word Count: 562

  16. The Farewell: Family and Togetherness

    The Farewell is an American film about a family who travels to China for a wedding as an excuse to see their grandmother who unknowingly has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The plot is based on the true story of the director and her family. The movie has a wide-ranging cast. It stars Awkwafina, a famous Asian-American actress known for movies such as Crazy Rich Asians, and also stars Lu Hong, who plays herself as the grandmother’s younger sister.

    A main theme in this movie is the difference in culture between the United States and China. The main character, Billi, has spent the majority of her life in the U.S. and does not know much about Chinese culture, customs, and has limited knowledge of the Chinese language. This gap is mostly expressed through family relations. The first time that we see this is when she discovers that her grandmother, Nai Nai, has cancer and is unaware. Billi’s parents tell her that it is a common belief in China that it is better to not tell people that they are dying, since there is nothing that anyone can do to prevent it. Her mother says that there is a saying in China that “when people get cancer, they die. It’s not the cancer that kills them. It’s the fear”. Billi struggles to understand this custom and its reasoning, but by the end of the film, she begins to help her family hide the cancer from Nai Nai, by changing hospital documents to say that Nai Nai is healthy. This shows Billi’s adjustment to Chinese culture as she spends more time in China and begins to understand her family’s choice, especially when she learns that Nai Nai herself hid her husband’s sickness from him until he died.

    This movie affected me deeply, as it relates to my personal experience. Several years ago, my aunt died of pancreatic cancer. When she was diagnosed, it was already Stage 4, which was essentially a death sentence. However, her diagnosis was May 2020, in the beginning of the pandemic, and she lived across the country from me and my family, so traveling was very difficult. Therefore, I wasn’t able to see her before she died in March 2021. I think that this movie, at its core, is about family and the necessity of being together, despite the imperfect moments. Through my aunt’s cancer treatment, my family was not able to physically be together, which made it all the more difficult to handle. However, my extended family deeply bonded during this time, through zoom calls and texts, making the most of the time we had left with my aunt. This movie made me wonder if it would have been easier if my aunt did not know her diagnosis. I think it was important that our knowledge of the situation bonded us and made us keep in contact more, but every moment was bittersweet, because we all knew it could be the last. This movie brought back those feelings and led me to reflect on that question. I’m not sure I will ever have the answer, but I enjoyed the reflection that the movie pulled me through.

    In conclusion, this movie centered around family and the value of togetherness, knowing that it may be the last moment of togetherness. For me, these themes brought up a lot of deep personal reflection into my own life, which made the movie extremely impactful and thought-provoking. I would highly recommend watching this movie.

    Word count: 583

  17. “Day Off”: A Glimpse into a Life and Family

    In A Rui’s world as a barber, the backs of heads are the focal points of her landscape. However, in “Day Off”, director Fu Tien-Yu redirects our gaze to unveil the deeper themes of community and family that permeate everyday life by shifting the focus to the many smiles and tears expressed while sitting in a salon chair. This “slice-of-life” film captures the quiet intimacy of the everyday, highlighting the connections we share and the relationships that shape our lives. A Rui (played by renowned actress Lu Hsiao-Fen) has not only spent her years snipping away behind the salon chair but has also established deep roots in her community and fostered multi-generational connections that extend far beyond the walls of her little shop. Fu Tien-Yu reminds us that it is the connections and stories we share daily that define what it means to be human.

    “Day Off” stands as a testament to Fu Tien-Yu’s artistry, characterised by several portrait shots that capture the subtle expressions illustrating the everyday lives of Taiwanese people. The scenes are often close, quiet, and prolonged—a distinct style that immediately immerses me within the family and community dynamics, allowing me to see and feel along with the characters of the film. As presenter Ellen Chang pointed out, this style is a distinguishing characteristic of Taiwan’s New Cinema (TNC). TNC emerged as part of a movement by young Taiwanese filmmakers in the 1980s. This movement shifted the focus of the big-screen to introspection and gave a voice to the experiences of everyday life. This voice is spoken through many people and many generations, expressed in both Mandarin and Taiwanese, and through smiles and tears. Stories are told and created within and outside of A Rui’s shop, especially when she ventures out into the wider world on her “day off” to cut the hair of a long-time customer now bed-bound by illness. While the events of the film may seem to lack the grand conflicts or intricate storylines I am accustomed to seeing in theatre, the sounds of everyday Taiwanese life leave an impression just as, if not more, powerful. The meticulous attention to detail in the aspects of the everyday and the masterful capturing of each nuanced expression allow the emotions that accompany family and community to resonate and speak for themselves. In addition to this, “Day Off” provides valuable social commentary on the generational divide that runs through a rapidly modernising Taiwan, where connection is exchanged for convenience—a change that separates the workings of A Rui from her daughters.

    “Day Off” is an ode to human connection, and life long and well-lived. The routine haircut is an act that Fu Tien-Yu elevates from the ordinary and re-establishes as a symbol of shared experiences and memories. I smiled, cried, and felt as though I had lived through a different set of eyes upon finishing “Day Off”. Hung Pei-Yu’s gentle and melodic “The Usual,” the main theme that plays throughout the film, left me with a bittersweet feeling as the screen fades to black and I let the melancholic lyrics wash over me. This film has opened a door, urging me to explore more of what TNC has to offer, and leaving me with the question of how commentaries and the cornerstone values of community and family have evolved and will continue to evolve from TNC’s inception to the rapid changes witnessed in modernity.

    Word Count: 568

  18. Analysis of “Day Off” (Age and Generations)

    When watching this Taiwan Cinema I was overwhelmed with emotions that I don’t remember the names of certain characters because of the scenes and emotions that the actors portray in the film. The use of cinematography and the background context I was given (thank you to Prof. Chang) before watching this film highlighted how the director and actors wanted this movie to play out. I highly recommend before watching this film watch a short 2 min video called “Flowers of Taipei: Taiwan New Cinema”. The short video is not a trailer for “Day Off”, but offers insight into how the movie plays out. There were two themes I picked up when watching this film and for me, it was ‘Generational differences in mindset’ and the ‘realization of age’. The way these two themes, although quite similar, have huge differences. We see the difference in ‘generation mindset’ when the mother (our main character) interacts with her sons and daughters. We can also see the theme of realization of age when the mother goes to give a haircut to one of her longtime customers.
    In the movie, there is a scene where we see a small example of a difference in ‘generational mindset’ when the son tells her mother about a different way to broom. Although this might be overlooked it offers us one of the best examples as the son says that the Roomba (the small robot cleaning the floor) can do the job instead of her mother brooming. However, the mother prefers a traditional way and kicks the robot out of the way so she can broom faster, and easier. I can personally relate to this as I always tell my mother to do other ways that don’t require much work. An example I could give is buying my mother a Swiffer, so she doesn’t have to use a mop, but she still doesn’t use the Swiffer, and says to me that the mop is better and cleans more efficiently. I feel that many sons and daughters can take some sort of reflection from this movie as I did because I always question myself “Why does my mother or father prefer it that way when there could be an easier way to do it? especially with the use of technology?” With this film, I sort of had an answer because our parents look at it differently. As the movie says the mother has been doing it for 40 years doing the same action of running her store and cutting hair, and our mothers and fathers have been doing the same task for many years. As I see it many mothers and fathers do not want to work less because it makes them feel less and doing tasks even if it’s harder or repetitive makes them feel a sense of continuing in life.
    Another theme I saw later on in the film is the ‘realization of age’ because as the mother (our main character) goes to cut hair for one of her longtime customers (dentist) she sees the dentist on his bed not very active. The sudden pauses and realization when she walks in and sees the family of the dentist all surrounding him makes her rethink her age a bit. Some people ask “Why would she think that?”, but the answer is that she has been doing it for 40 years so to her it may not seem like it’s been a long time, or she’s been used to it that it doesn’t phase her. We see after she is done cutting the dentist’s hair and leaves she tries to run while her knees are weak and crying because it’s an emotional shock to her. After all, she used to look after his customers for so long and now she sees her customers not being able to walk. A personal example I could give is when I was a teacher assistant at 13 years old and over 5 years I saw many of my students grow to other grades. I felt that emotional shock (as the mother did) because when I graduated (18 years old) I was so used to helping out students that I didn’t realize that 5 years of my life had gone by so quickly and the messages I received from my students saying “good luck in college”, “enjoy your life”, and “have fun in life” all came to me like a hurricane.
    In summary, this movie was a perfect combination of joy, sadness, comedy, and drama. My analysis is just touching the tip of the iceberg of this movie and I highly recommend giving this movie a watch because it’s so worth the 2 hours of film. There are certainly more themes to this movie but I chose the two themes as if I wrote more I could have written an essay on this. Once again my themes of ‘generational differences’ and ‘realization of age’ are just a small sample of what this movie offers and if you look at other reviews you can see the diverse observations about this movie. Then again this movie touched me personally because as the examples I provided earlier, it made me realize why parents want to do things their way, and how we don’t think much about our age until we see something so shocking (examples: graduations, retirement, birthdays to name a few). I can see from this film why it’s part of the “Post-new cinema” because it sheds light on the growing (film) industry in Taiwan. If you would like to read more about the eras and the “Post-new cinema” I recommend reading the article “From Taiwan New Cinema to Post-New Cinema: The Transition of Identity in Cape No. 7 and the Naming Issue of Post-New Cinema” because it talks about the history, the problems, and what could be done.

    10/10 Film, would watch it again 👍

  19. My Reflection

    While watching Whale Island, I couldn’t help but be immediately captured by the beautiful scenic views of the documentary, from how the videographer shot the see to how they were able to capture the pure emotions of the people the documentary surrounds. What really left an impression on me was how the people within the documentary had this shared view and shared dream, even when they seemingly did not have anything in common with each other. Their passion for this want to reach out to the sea was so strong that it inspired others to want to join in the fight to open up the ocean to the Taiwanese people. Another point that I want to touch on was the idea of old and new and how time has fixed certain misconceptions, and wounds of the people.
    Going more into detail, I thought that the videographer were truly able to capture the people’s dream. They were able to capture how they saw the ocean, not as something scary or dangerous, but as something that is beautiful, something that is yearning to be explored and be a part of the world again. It was calm and tranquil and felt inviting.I vividly remember Lau talking about how the older generation is scared due to the myth of ghosts on the shore. Still, younger people are willing to take the risk and venture into the sea, turning towards it rather than away. It was further reinforced by te people willing to be there to help Lau achieve his dream of being in the sea. From that point on you could see how powerful a community is, how the time has in some way healed a wound that was placed by the military bases that were built on the shores of Taiwan. A shared dream is truly one that is strong, and I believe it also brings strength to the people.
    Another point I would like to touch on is the idea of family within the documentary. From my experience Taiwanese and Chinese people seem to have the same familial ideals. What you do affects the family and impacts how people view the family as a whole. It is a very community-based culture. Which helped to reinforce Lau and Ray’s dream within the documentary. They were willing to put their family on the line for their shared dreams. Lau has left for the ocean in exchange for his relationship with his daughter, and Ray is willing to take a few months away from his family in order to live his true calling. With Ray, it was beautiful because knowing the background of his strained relationship with his daughter. Even when she was reluctant to go back, she did and was finally able to see his vision, his dream, and it really does show that Lau’s dream was so pure and so powerful that he was able to share the vision not only to others but to his daughter as well, strengthening their relationship with each other. With Ray, it was clear that he loved his children, but he had a dream, he had a yearning to follow his passion for photographing whales and sea life. Despite his getting hurt and his father even shaming him and asking him to stop, he kept moving, he couldn’t give up. In the end, you could see that this was his calling. The beauty he was able to capture within just one photograph of the whales, how pure it was.
    All in all, I really enjoyed the documentary. It was beautiful to see their dream come true, to see what they had to give up helped to envision how strongly they believed in their dreams, and how it was so strong it inspired the people around them to follow suit.

    Word count: 632

  20. The Depths of Whale Island
    Word Count: 669

    On Tuesday, I watched “Whale Island,” directed by Chia-chun Huang. The film follows the lives of two men; writer Liao Hung-Chi and underwater photographer Ray Chin whose lives are deeply intertwined with the ocean. They both have a deep but complex relationship with the sea as it reminds them to reflect on their own lives and relationships with their family. The film shows Liao’s strained relationship with his daughter and how he navigates his love for the ocean and the effect of it on his family relationships. Ray’s story was a bit more different in how it highlights his children and the sacrifices he makes with pursuing his art of photography.

    The cinematography of this film beautifully captures Taiwan’s deep link to the sea and the life of the whales that inhabit the ocean around the island. The high and close angles of the whales opens the story of these beautiful and intricate creatures. The title, “Whale Island” makes the audience think it’s about whales on an island, but the film goes much deeper than that. There are whales featured in the film and both Liao and Ray’s work are featured with the ocean and whales, but the connection to the sea is what’s prominent in this film. Their quest to answer questions of the sea further pushes their longing and curiosity of the unknown. We also see what price a deep obsession may come at and the regret and loss that comes with it.

    The film also highlights Taiwan’s painful past with the ocean and how the people have a very small understanding of the ocean due to the many social and political aspects of their history. The many layers of this relationship are seen through Liao and Ray’s life. We see how they find joy and freedom with the ocean and with that comes the tense and uncomfortable reality that they face when on land. This connection transfers over to their personal lives and also the feelings of the Taiwanese people who feel stuck just to the land because of the trauma built from the past that have been passed on to generations.

    Growing up in Hawai’i surrounded by the ocean my whole life, I’ve always felt connected to the ocean. As kids, we all grew up in the ocean as it’s deeply rooted in Hawaiian culture in how it connects us to the land. The sea’s integral identity to us is prevalent in how it’s a source of life and has helped our ancestors navigate the Pacific Ocean with the stars. Due to overpopulation and tourism, we’ve had a lot of pressure on water resources and especially contamination and pollution. Similarly, one of Taiwan’s indigenous people, the Tao inhabit Lanyu (Orchid Island. Their traditional culture of many fishing practices and unique art forms are special to the island. But, there’s been a nuclear waste issue on the island that has impacted their cultural activities and reflects the indigenous people’s struggle for autonomy of their land.

    Before watching “Whale Island,” I wasn’t aware of the painful relationship that there was with the Taiwanese and the ocean. It makes me feel for the generations of kids and people that couldn’t connect with the ocean and the freedom and life that it comes with due to the long and uncomfortable past. Also the lack of beaches for swimming and places that have been built like the nuclear waste site in Lanyu that contributed to the rising cancer rates and health effects to the indigenous people have further impacted this cultural pain. These environmental challenges have further pushed the Taiwanese away from the ocean as the layered issues have expressed concern with indigenous rights and challenges related to their ancestral land. The storytelling and blending of themes in this film helped further my understanding of Taiwan and the intricate understanding of the ocean. I enjoyed the ways that the story connects with the symbolism of the whales and how these animals are a reflection of what lies beneath the ocean.


  21. The cultural differences behind death in “The Farewell”

    Firstly, very few films ever leave me feeling and accepting a form of vulnerability. The Farewell did this, very well. This film was a cinematic masterpiece, no wonder why it got so many awards and nominations. One of these such awards being a Golden Globe for Best Actress given to Awkwafina. Another area that this film did amazingly well in was delivering a central and yet complex overarching theme. This theme of course being the differences between cultures, in this case specifically between America and China (or as the movie also refers to it as, the West and East). The movie illustrates this theme through the story line, where a Chinese woman who has grown up in America visits her relatives in China because her grandmother does not have much time left to live. The theme comes in through the family not telling the grandmother that she is expected to die within a couple months, the reasoning behind that is because in Chinese society if a relative is dying you do not tell them so they do not worry about their imminent death. Whereas in American society the proper thing is to tell the relative, because otherwise it is dishonesty.

    To continue, this movie dives deep into the difference between western culture and eastern culture through many ways. One of which is of course the difference of how they treat their elderly, what’s interesting though is the reasoning behind this. In the movie it is said to Billi that they treat their elderly (the Chinese society) how they do to avoid suffering. But more specifically they view family as a whole, if one person suffers it is seen as they all suffer. Therefore they keep this secret from the dying individual, because if the individual is suffering or worried, the whole family is. This view is called “collectivism”, where family and communal values outweigh near any individual desire. The same character then elaborates on this cultural difference by explaining to Billi that in America it is much more individual based. Through individualism and personal expression. The film uses these cultural differences to explore the different characters’ understanding of familial understanding especially in this context of the impending loss of a life.

    In conclusion, the emotional impact this movie has left on me is incredible. However this movie didn’t just touch my heart, it changed how I view cultures. It is somewhat rare that I consume media that isn’t based in America with very American views. For that reason I am beyond happy I chose this movie to watch. I knew that western cultures are often more individualistic as compared to eastern culture’s collectivism. What I did not know is just how significant this difference was, I would have never guessed it would have impacted how societies other than my own treat their elderly. Long story short this is one of the best movies I have ever watched, regardless of genre. I can not wait to talk about this movie with more of my friends!

    Word count: 504

  22. “Whale Island”- How two men find meditative practice via there work in the sea

    The documentary, Whale Island by Huang Chia-chun is quite a perplexing film because it explores the complex dichotomy of the water and its relationship to the peoples of Taiwan. Historically the people of Taiwan as a nation have been surrounded by water however the symbol of the ocean that surrounds them exudes fear and is often associated with hard times, politics, and ever-changing cultural influences. The purpose of this film was to show how these two unlikely men dismantled this dichotomy by pursuing their passion for ocean culture, in which both of their passions involved the exploration of the expansive sea that surrounds Taiwan. Additionally, these men are also dismantling negative connotations and misconceptions about the sea. Both actors go against cultural normality that persuades Taiwanese people to avoid water travel and instead, they embrace their life on boats and are able to capture the ocean’s beauty through photography literature, and other forms of documentation.

    A common theme I found between both main characters in the film is that they treat their passions for the ocean (in both of their unique respects) as meditative practices and outlets to find purpose in their lives. They both have intimacy issues and struggle to maintain strong connections to their family because their line of work interferes with quality time, but in turn they regain that intimacy via their interactions with the ocean. For instance Liao Hung-chi (one of the main characters) who was previously a fisherman writes ‘oceanic literature’ and has fulfilled himself by going on solo ventures across to sea to analyze these aquatic creatures. Unfortunately his passion for solo expeditions has distanced him from his daughter. However Liao Hung-chi has dedicated his time to such ventures as a mode of coping with his mental health, his own company is his meditative practice and being within a serene environment like the ocean is where he’s found his peace. Liao Hung-chi also dedicates his work towards gaining insight and knowledge on the ocean’s inner workings and has given lectures to the public as to why Taiwanese people need to gain more insight on the ocean to nurture a better connection with an element that surrounds them. He mentions how important it is for people to regain that personal link to the sea, which I personally find interesting considering that his relationship with his daughter was partially repaired once he showed her his kindled love for the ocean and was able to have that shared experience with her. Simultaneously the film also depicts Ray Chin’s problems with intimacy issues and balance within his family life as a result of his passion for the ocean. Ray Chin is a wildlife photographer who is particularly interested in documenting Whales via photojournalism. However a big dilemma that arises in the film is how his work conflicts with him spending time with his two young sons. In the film we see Ray Chin frequently having to choose between continuing to fulfill his passion at the expense of his sons, or limiting his creative potential in order to be a proper father figure. Ultimately Ray consistently has to make the choice as to whether or not he follows the migration patterns of the whales and where they are located or if he stays home to spend time with his kids. In general, both Liao and Ray have very special connections to the ocean that not only occupy their time but give them purpose and insight as well as the ability to overcome internal turmoil, however, both of their obsessions have come with a price of being close to their families.

    Word Count: 601

  23. My viewing of “Day Off” was my first exposure to Taiwanese cinema, and one of only a handful of experiences with non-American films across the board, so I went in with very little expectations as to what this film would have to offer. During my initial reflections, I found myself contrasting the film mostly with the typical American Hollywood blockbusters we see in theaters nowadays, with which this film shares very little. It was a different type of storytelling, one I felt might be more akin to something that would be found in a novel or short story rather than something originally written for the screen. It was also not something that I felt could be immediately defined by a genre such as “romance”, “comedy” or “action”. The fact that the characters and events of the film were seemingly something someone could easily find in real life leads me to believe that “Day Off” offers something more similar to what people look for in American sitcoms or TV Dramas, that is; relatable characters that allow them to reflect on their own lives by seeing things from the third person. However, “Day Off” does this more directly, by putting the characters’ thoughts and feelings at the forefront rather than hiding them within a mainly plot focused story.

    While I can certainly see the value of connecting with these characters and viewing a potentially familiar situation through the medium of film, I struggled at first to form this immediate connection, in part I think due to the language and cultural barrier. I could tell from viewing and further discussion that certain characters and elements of the film reflect some common and important parts of taiwanese culture, such as Rui’s loyalty, generosity, and care for her clients and family, and how that is reflected back on her when her car breaks down and is helped by a former client. I can see how this and the other elements of Taiwanese culture featured throughout the film could help those who have experienced that culture first hand form faster and stronger understandings of the characters. While I may not be familiar with many aspects of Taiwanese culture, the element of realism throughout the film still made it very relatable even to someone without a lot of background with Taiwan specifically.

    Ultimately I think “Day Off” was a great introduction to Taiwanese cinema, as it told a story focused around family, the journey of life and finding oneself. The familiarity and close resemblance to real life Taiwanese people and culture also made it a great way to become more familiar with Taiwan. The simplicity and realism of the story also allowed me to learn and focus on things such as the language and culture, rather than these things being a blockade to understanding the plot. Learning more about the kindness and welcoming nature of taiwanese culture that is displayed in this film was a great way to develop an understanding and make connections to these characters who reminded me of the importance of family and loyalty.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *