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Harvard University Screening of “Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above” Highlights Environmental Protection Issues in Taiwan

Harvard University Screening of “Beyond Beauty: Taiwan From Above” Highlights Environmental Protection Issues in Taiwan
Chi Po-Lin (齊柏林), the director of a documentary film “Beyond Beauty: Taiwan from Above” and the producer Tseng Chiung-Yao (曾瓊瑤) visited Boston for a screening and post-screening workshop at Harvard University on December 10, 2014. This event was organized by the New England Association of Chinese Professionals and co-sponsored by the Education Division of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Boston. The film features an aerial perspective on Taiwan’s natural environment to remind viewers about the serious impact that human exploitation and urbanization is having on the planet. The film set a new box office sales record for a documentary in Taiwan in 2013, earning NT$200 million (nearly US$60.5 million).

Chi Po-Lin spent five years and NT$90 million (almost US$3 million) on this spectacular project to call attention to Taiwan’s natural environment, and to raise environmental protection awareness in Taiwan society. The film shows the devastating consequences of human activities, such as building towering housing complexes on hillsides, sprawling tourism hotels at Cingjing Farm, a popular tourism spot in the middle of Taiwan, and numerous cement material exploitation spots in the mountains of Taiwan. These led to massive destructive landslides during typhoons which struck Taiwan in the past decade or so, such as Typhoon Morakot in 2009 that cost many lives.

The film also shows the “orange river” in Kaohsiung. Its water is seriously polluted by a chemical factory, and this in turn pollutes the soil, and then the crops that people plant and eat. It shows how the beautiful ocean coastline is facing erosion due to expanding beachside infrastructure and it also highlights the rapid land subsidence that causes serious flooding in southwestern Taiwan.

The film shocks audiences with its graphic pictures and stark warnings, but it ends with the sound of beautiful voices of aboriginal children atop Yushan (Jade Mountain) in Taiwan singing, as the message “Let us work together to make our home a better place” appears across the screen. This aptly reflects Chi’s sincere hopes that we can protect the environment.

After the screening, Chi shared his thoughts about the filming process and the difficulties. Viewers in Boston share his concerns: during the Q&A session they mentioned the Kuokuang Petrochemical Project in Taiwan as another critical environmental issue, and they expressed their interest and pride in the film. Chi also told them about the heart-touching feedback received from viewers around the world after the film’s success and that he plans to film in a broader geographical area for his next film: in mainland China and Taiwan’s neighboring countries, including Japan. They showed their appreciation with a huge round of applause for the director, the producer, and the film at the end of the workshop.