HKIDF2020 - Jurors Notes for Chinese Doc Competition

Yimin Chen, Jury of Chinese Doc Competition

 

The year 2020 has seen the world turn into a disaster movie because of the pandemic, and it is during this challenging time that the value of documentaries becomes apparent. The fourteen films I watched this year cover a wide variety of topics, including the lives of ordinary individuals, medical issues, clashes between police and civilians, family relationships, and face masks shortage.

The films that touched me the most are those that present a unique interpretation of the state of the world and life philosophy. For example, in the highly humanistic entry from Taiwan, A Decision, the director’s delicate lens bears witness to the struggles and predicaments faced by doctors, patients and their families. “It is not much different from death” - a young patient suffering from full-body paralysis has spent the past seven years surviving on a ventilator. “Is there anything in daily life that makes you feel better?” asked the doctor, who tries his best to bring the patient outside for some sun. How does a doctor administer the right treatment without compromising the integrity of the patient? How does a patient manage his expectations and assess the risks behind experimental treatment? How do family members decide between holding onto their loved ones and letting them naturally pass away? There is a thin line between choosing to stay and choosing to leave.

The fate of every ordinary individual is, in a way, a reflection of society. The films Đặng Tú Trinh and Ah Ying: the Extraordinary Ordinary are portraits of women defending their integrity in the face of overwhelming hardship: Sister Trinh came to Taiwan as a foreign bride from Vietnam and ended up raising two children and supporting the family all by herself, while Sister Ying, a merchant entangled in a hit-and-run case, has spent a decade studying law and dedicated her whole life to finding justice. The Old Barber tells in smooth visual language the story of an old barber trying unsuccessfully to teach his mentally challenged son the skills he will need to take over the family business. Worried that his son will have trouble supporting himself, the old man is still determined to spend as long as it takes to teach him. Things take a turn for the worst when the barber shop that has been operating for forty years is shut down...

Reality is often stranger, sometimes even more incredible, than fiction, and that is also why documentaries are so fascinating.

 

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Yimin Chen is a veteran media professional and university lecturer. She spent years reporting on social issues and telling stories with words and images. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Chinese University Journalism Award, the Human Rights Press Award, The Society of Publishers in Asia’s Excellence in Reporting on the Environment Award, Excellence in Reporting on Women's Issues Award, Excellence in Feature Writing Award, Excellence in Lifestyle Coverage Award, etc. She was awarded the Crossing Borders Scholarship by the Robert Bosch Stiftung to conduct research on ageing society in Germany. Her new book “Sparks of Life: The German Experience with Ageing” was selected as a Book of the Year in 2019 by Commercial Press, included in the library collection of the Hong Kong Goethe Institut and received the Media Award by the Renaissance Foundation in 2020.