Interpreting Social Movement with Our Youth in Taiwan (2018)

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Our Youth in Taiwan (Yue Fu, 2018) reminds us of the sunflower movement in Taiwan, the notable social movement back in 2014. Led by mostly students, the movement opposed state media, law (Service Trade Agreement between Taiwan and China), and social injustice.

Our Youth in Taiwan focuses on three subjects: Chen Wei-ting, Taiwanese activist who is struggling against China; Cai Bo-yi, Chinese student who loves Taiwan; and Yue Fu, Taiwanese documentary filmmaker passionate about politics. There is some uncertainty on Yue Fu’s dual role: as the subject as well as the director of this film. Fu positioned herself as the narrator and made it as though it was the voice of God.

The plot of Our Youth in Taiwan invites you to travel through time. It begins in the year 2017, when two of the characters were watching footages of the year 2012 to commemorate the June 4th, 1989 incident. Afterwards, you will be brought back to the year 2011, in which Chen was leading a small nonviolent resistance against the monopoly of Taiwanese media. Fu completes the explanation in the film with narration, starting with her process of becoming a part of Chen’s social movement to her friendship with Chen and Cai.

Moving on to the year 2013, Fu and Chen went to China to meet Cai. Later, the trio participated Hong Kong’s social movement. Over time, in 2014 the sunflower movement, now a lot bigger, successfully occupied the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s government building. It was not until the 21st day that the sunflower movement decided to leave Legislative Yuan.

After the end of sunflower movement, Chen and Cai became involved in democratic institutions. Cai ran for President of the Student Union at her university. Chen sought for council elections in his hometown and had a team to control his image. But their goals weren’t easy to realize; Cai who was of Chinese nationality received rejection from Taiwanese student, she earned very few votes. Meanwhile, Chen stumbled on a sexual harassment case which caused him to withdraw from the campaign.

Almost throughout the film, Our Youth in Taiwan utilizes handheld camera to show Chen and Cai in closeup. The proximity depicts that Fu followed Chen and Cai in a typical frantic, blurry, turbulent social movement. However, you will find something different at the end of the film in which Fu decided to shoot on a tripod.

2019_film_Our Youth in Taiwan 1

The plot concluded in the year 2017, where both Chen and Cai had quite different appearances and emotional expressions when they were telling stories on the screen. The idealism of youths was shown along with the harsh reality of transition from adolescence to adulthood. Change is formed through the experiences during youth and lessons learned from failure.

It could be concluded that Our Youth in Taiwan is a well-made film that shows the spirit of youths struggling for their idealism. As students who typically identified by their burning passion, their spirit burned through social movements.

Our Youth in Taiwan (2018) will be screened at Festival Film Dokumenter 2019 in the program Screening Violence on December 5th, 2019 at 7 p.m. at Amphitheatre TBY. The complete agenda of FFD 2019 can be seen here.

Written by Dinda Agita Dewi

Translated by Shiela M. Larasati